Chicago Sun-Times

Bears draft preview: Need No. 9 Outside linebacker

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Need No. 9--Outside linebacker

Players on roster

WLB Lance Briggs (signed through 2013)
SLB Nick Roach (2009*)
SLB Hunter Hillenmeyer (2011)
OLB Jamar Williams (2009)
OLB Joey LaRocque (2011)

* Roach will be a restricted free agent after 2009 so the Bears will still have rights to sign him.

Need

The Bears have arguably the best weak-side linebacker in the game in Briggs and he remains in his prime after being selected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive year. He's the most consistent defender in the front seven and should remain in that role for at least a few seasons. It will be interesting to see what happens on the strong side where Roach and Hillenmeyer figure to compete. There were concerns about Roach's durability and those were only reinforced last season when he missed two games. Hillenmeyer is coming off a season in which he was dinged as well.

Between the two of them they should hold the position down. At some point, a decision will have to be made on Roach, who will be a restricted free agent next offseason. The Bears will need to decide whether to pursue him for an extension or decide what level they would want to tender him at. So it's an important season for his future. Williams and LaRocque were steady special teams performers last season, nothing special, and they will have to work to retain their spots on the roster. Williams was the heir apparent to Briggs and how if he's going to start he'll likely have to do it in another uniform. We listed outside linebacker in the top 10 as far as needs because this is one of the positions that special teams coordinator Dave Toub uses to stock his depth chart. Lovie Smith looks for undersized players who can run in his defensive scheme and those traits serve Toub well also.

Who the Bears have been looking at

The Bears went to Wisconsin to take a look at Badgers linebacker DeAndre Levy, who would fit in well and projects as a mid-round selection. They also like TCU's Stephen Hodge, who is a distant relative of Smith. Hodge played safety in school but many teams, including the Bears, project him as a will linebacker. Cincinnati's Corey Smith is an undersized guy who might be on the radar. The team has had private workouts or brought the following players in: Notre Dame's Maurice Crum Jr., Murray State's Nathan Williams and San Diego State's Russell Allen. They project as late-round picks or priority free agents.

Coming Saturday: Inside linebacker.

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10 Comments

The worst thing that any team can do is simply accept mediocrity at a position. The QB situation, although recently remedied, is evidence enough but you could also point to the Guard position or Wide Reciever. SLB is moving toward this category. It has regularly been argued that the 'third' linebacker is being overshadowed by Urlacher and Briggs but the issue at SLB all on its own has been building for two seasons.
Hillenmeyer cannot keep up in pass coverage and Roach is an inadequate run defender; if you stick with these two then you are susceptible to play action on every play as each player tries to overcompensate for their short-comings. Hillenmeyer is a great 4th linebacker and Roach is a great special teams player...but that's about it.
This position is a bigger weakness that Biggs is suggesting.

Brad: I think 10 is a little low for need as far as the BEARS are concerned due to our need on the Strongside, which should actually be the Blitzing position in the BEARS defense. Still with the other obvious needs on the defensive side of the ball I do not see us getting an impact player in the draft here. FS, WR and even DE are more critical, especially since Angelo is targeting two more starters from this draft, Cutler being one of them for sure. Saw something intriguing by one poster who indicated Johnson from GA Tech would be available at 49, although I'd much rather get our safety here, we'd have to seriously consider taking this guy who has the intangibles to set our d-line up for years if he produces. He reminds me of Justin Tuck when he came out a lot of questions about performance but none on his athletic ability and look at what he's done for the Giants.

Hillenmeyer is to TE's, what John St. Clair was to Jarred Allen.

So Brad with Needs 8-1 remaining, I kind of noticed that you have not mentioned the Defense until just now.

Needs remaining.
SS, FS, CB, DE, DT, WR, OT, and NT. Wow looks like you believe the defense needs some major help. I agree.

Hmmm..I dont see strong saftey as a higher need than G.

I think selecting a young guard would be smarter than taking another SS. We have 3 on the roster now, we need FS not SS.

Lovie Smith is in love with Kevin Payne..and he used to be in love with Brandon McGowan too...

and then of course we have slow footed Craig Steltz who JA tabbed in the 4th round last year...those 3 guys will compete at SS, we dont need anyone else this year. Maybe next year if none of those 3 young SS's work out.

Nick: I agree that the defense should not be satisfied with mediocrity, Hillenmyer has never done anything special. They need to pick up DeAndre Levy or Nic Harris of Oklahoma. Harris played safety most of his career and would do much better in coverage than Hillenmyer, Roach is a little short for the strong side. Either pick would be a good one in the 5th.

Jamar Williams is an excellent linebacker and there is no reason for the Bears to let him go. I remember when Williams came in for Briggs he played very well. Even when Briggs held out for a fatter contract following the Super Bowl, they didn't seem too worried about it because many saw Williams as a more than adequate replacement. He has a lot of upside and JA would be crazy to let him go after this season.

Has anyone watched Sammie Lee Hill out of Stillman play? From the profiles I've read it sounds like he's athletic, big (6'4" 320+lbs), a special teams contributor, has played DE, and just for kicks he rescued some guy out of a burning building with some teamates. Does anyone have more information on this guy? He reminds me of a heavier Idonije.

I agree with Nick we are weak at the strongside I believe the defense is in more need of help now then the offense. Angelo has made his move on offense now I believe he will go defense, Sammie Lee has the potential to be a solid NT he's big and has a good first step. I live in the south and got to see him play he's raw but strong at POA will make the offense account for him and he is closer to 330 than 320, he looks a little like Ted Washington. Chris Baker of Hampton is another 6'3" 330 DT. I beleive NT and SAM LB is the weakness of this defense and it won't matter who is coaching them if they are too small and get beat up.

EQJ: You make a good point about Jamar Williams. I wonder how insane it would be to propose a linebacker switcheroo WLB - Williams MLB - Briggs, and SLB Urlacher...maybe this is a move that is a year or two off but each would bring a lots of strengths to their new positions and combined they might be better than the current contingent.

I almost forgot Middle LB. Wow that or SS have to be next on the list.

Nick I like it!! Still they need to get the NT who would protect Harris and who ever the MLB is. A big body that demands the double-team. Thats why Harris is all beat up he gets double teamed a lot a large NT would solve a three fold problem with the defense [1] protection for Harris and MLB, {2} run defense in the middle with out committing other postions,{3} pass defense not having to commit the secondary to run defense as much and getting push in the middle,gives the passer no where to step up giving the ends a chance for a sack and will improve the pass defense with a extra defender we have not had recently. Thats why we get slanted to death and 3rd and 5-6 is a gimme.

Are Williams and Larocque good enough to replace others in the future? Are they going to be the heir apparents to anyone we have starting now? Or are they more of JA failures?
I don't know myself. I do not get enough Bear games up here in Minnesota.
Do we need to draft another LB?
I would like us to draft a DE, DT, S, WR, OL, with our first 5 picks.
But not necessarily in that order. I would like to concentrate on the D this year. I think we should take the best available athlete. I know we have needs and holes, but I hope we don't draft a REACH. We have had enough of those.

Any thoughts ?

GO BEARS

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on April 17, 2009 1:00 PM.

Bears draft preview: Need No. 10 Guard was the previous entry in this blog.

Four Down Territory, April 17: Does strength of schedule matter? is the next entry in this blog.

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