The Chicago Bears Offseason Analysis: The Linebackers
For the younger generations, many fans think of Briggs or Brian Urlacher, the face of the Bears franchise, as the new "Monsters of the Midway."
In our next session of the Bears offseason analysis, we will take a look at the linebacker position.
Chicago is a running back/linebacker city that will look to carry that tradition into the 2009 season.
In 2008, the Bears defense ranked 16th in Points allowed per game, 30th in passing yards, 21st in total yards and fifth against the rush.
2009 will no longer be under the defensive play calling of Babich, but instead, under head coach, Lovie Smith.
Lovie will be looking to stick to his Tampa cover-2 scheme, but it is not yet determined if the linebackers will be more aggressive with any added blitz packages or if he will continue to backpedal the linebackers into zone far from the line of scrimmage.
With all the players at the linebacker position coming back for next season, the Bears will possibly draft a linebacker in the later rounds to add depth to the strong side.
Starting on the WLB is four-time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs. Briggs was a third-round pick for the Bears in the 2003 NFL draft.
Lance is a two-time All-Pro selection and has proved to be a solid linebacker for the Bears.
Lance is a player not afraid of contact, delivering some of the hardest hits all season and forcing many fumbles while stuffing the run with the best of them.
His three interceptions in 2008 proves that he also has a nose for the ball in not only running plays, but passing plays as well.
Briggs has 685 total tackles with six sacks and nine interceptions.
At only 28, Briggs will look to contribute his abilities in a Bears uniform for years to come and be the new face of the franchise when Urlacher retires.
Despite his past complaints towards the Bears organization and saying "I'll never play another down for Chicago again," Briggs signed a six-year contract in 2008, making him a Bear throughout the 2013 season.
Barring any injury, Briggs will continue to have success in 2009 and will be looking to make the pro bowl for the fifth year in a row.
Moving onto the MLB of the linebacker corps is none other then the anchor of the defense, Brian Urlacher.
Urlacher is a defensive captain and will be entering his 10th season as a Chicago Bear.
Urlacher quickly made a name for himself with the defensive rookie of the year and earning the defensive player of the year in 2005.
Urlacher is coming off a lackluster year in 2008 with a career low 93 total tackles while playing a full season.
Urlacher has battled back problems and neck surgery in recent years and has received criticism from fans for not looking like his "old self" again.
2009 will look to be a bounce-back year for Brian.
He has been seen frequently in the weight room in the early off season and will return with a clean bill of health.
Brian will definitely have numbers in the sack column next year and should prove to be back to a dominant force in the middle again.
Finally, on the strong side are a couple of players that could possibly be fighting for a starting spot in training camp.
First is SLB linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer.
Hillenmeyer will be looking for the starting job at the Strong side position for the 09 season.
Hillenmeyer played 13 games in 2008 with only one sack and 18 total tackles.
Hillenmeyer was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL draft.
He was picked up by the Bears at the end of the 2003 preseason after he was cut by the Packers.
Hillenmeyer became the starter for the Bears at the strong side position in 2004 after registering 76 tackles and a career high 2.5 sacks.
Hillenmeyer's abilities have been overshadowed with names like Briggs and Urlacher, but all three have combined to be one of the best linebacker tandems in the league.
Hillenmeyer spent most of last season contributing on special teams and will look to solidify his starting role for 09.
Hunter can prove to be the starter, but his lack of speed in the man coverage has been his downfall. Hillenmeyer has played his best when he covers the zone or blitzes free from the outside.
The player he will be battling for the staring position is SLB Nick Roach.
Roach was an undrafted player who had a career high 38 tackles in 2008 filling in for Hillenmeyer.
If Nick shows promise in the offseason training camps and pre-season games, he could easily find himself in the starting position lining up with Urlacher and Briggs.
Most likely, Hillenmeyer will end up at the SLB, but whoever does will contribute to a linebacker corps that looks to be re-energized in 2009.
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