Chicago Sun-Times

Family ties not only reason Bears eyeing TCU linebacker Stephen Hodge

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Don't overlook the possibility that the Bears will turn their attention to a linebacker at some point in the first five rounds of the draft. It might not be the most pressing need, but general manager Jerry Angelo was very clear Tuesday in discussing the need to make sure the team gets appropriate value at each pick. Angelo has already talked about the position being one of the real strengths of this draft and not just at the top of the board.

That brings us to a college safety most teams are looking to convert into a linebacker--TCU's Stephen Hodge. He's got a Bears' connection. We've known Hodge was a distant relative of coach Lovie Smith. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has cleared up that relationship for us. Smith's sister is also Hodge's mother's stepsister.

The Bears have been looking at Hodge as a possible weak-side linebacker and immediate contributor on special teams. He's 6-foot, 234 pounds, and has been timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.50 seconds. The Bears showed particular interest in Hodge at the Texas vs. The Nation game that was scouted by Angelo.

He might be a little undersized to play on the strong side but one of the things intriguing about him is his ability to blitz. Hodge led defensive backs in the entire nation with eight sacks as a junior in 2007. He added three last season, and impressed most in TCU's victory over Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl with 11 tackles, one interception and one sack.

Hodge is known to have made official visits to Dallas and New Orleans. Keep him in mind.

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6 Comments

The catch phase in all of this is, "the ability to blitz". The Bears are one of the worst blitzing teams in the league, and its not like they don`t try, because they blitz as much or more than any team in the league, they just don`t put the quarterback on the ground. I guess my preference here is, move up and get Larry English, then wait until the 7th round, and grab a bunch of cornerbacks, and let`s play some football. Da Bears!!!

To me, TCU's Stephen Hodge seems more like an in the box strong safety type more than a linebacker. The Bears already have Kevin Payne, who I think is gonna be a very good strong safety for Chicago. I can see taking Hodge later on as a value pick, and he could help out on special teams. But in the end, he might be to much of a tweener to draft early. His measurables are intriguing although.

Linebacker might be more of a need than a lot of people think, especially the strongside position. You have to ask yourself, is Chicago really happy with their current personnel they have at the strongside position? They have Hunter Hillenmeyer, but he basically got beat out by Nick Roach. Roach won the job, but was then rewarded with a one year deal? Thats not a big time boast of confidence to me, more like a show us what you got type deal.

Chicago will draft a linebacker at some point during the draft. Angelo made an interesting comment about the draft on the teams web site, he said, "You determine your needs and the positions you want to create more competition and depth." I think he was talking about free safety and strongside linebacker, especially when he said "create more competition." Both starters at free safety Josh Bullocks, and strongside linebacker Nick Roach, were signed to one year deals. This is why I look for some major competition brought in through the draft at both free safety and strongside linebacker. Both positions could be addressed between rounds 2-5. A player I like that the Bears could bring in at some point in either the 4th or 5th is California's Zack Follett. Follett is a punishing hitter who would add instant competition at strongside linebacker. Follett can make plays behind the line having had 23 tackles for loss to go along with 10 sacks. Also, the Bears need some hard hitters like Follett that can create pressure, especially at strongside linebacker. Adding a player like Follett would make Chicago a better defense, just a thought GO BEARS!!

If the draft falls like I think it will, and all of the top 7 wideouts are gone by the time we are on the board at 49, we might have a shot at Barwin or Johnson there. Defensive end, not linebacker, is where we need to focus. The blitz is not the critical issue here. The critical issue is that our front 4 does not generate the required pressure to make the Cover 2 defense effective. If we can generate consistent pressure from 4 guys, we get to drop 7 into coverage. We don't need the "mug up" front to confuse the offense. We can protect the slant zone with the outside backers, and we can make sure our safeties are able to protect downfield.

Having a linebacker who can blitz is a need that belies our failure to fix the front 4. If we are not going to change the scheme of the defense, then we need to fix the personnel issues that prevent the scheme from working. We aren't going to move up in the draft, so Larry English is not an option for us. He should be gone by 25, but Barwin and Johnson are possibilities for us in the mid second round. We need I think 1 linebacker in the draft, and we need at least 2 DL (1 DE, 1 DT minimum). Then we need the WR, S, and a CB. Then OL depth or DL depth the rest of the way. But that linebacker doesn't need to be a project, or a convert. We need someone who can either line up on the tight end and stop the run, or cover him down the field. Anything else is ignorance of our problems on defense. You can never have too many pass rushers, but when they are standing up and disrupting your scheme, they aren't as helpful as they are when they spend their time with their hand in the dirt.

""To me, TCU's Stephen Hodge seems more like an in the box strong safety type more than a linebacker. The Bears already have Kevin Payne, who I think is gonna be a very good strong safety for Chicago. I can see taking Hodge later on as a value pick, and he could help out on special teams. But in the end, he might be to much of a tweener to draft early. His measurables are intriguing although""


If the kid can play, get him in the mid-rounds and let him bulk up to play LB. It's not that much of a stretch. Urlacher was a Safety in College as well so for the Bears it is not unpressedented. Hodge shows ability in coverage, a nose for the ball, solid tackling skills, good field awareness and has the ability to get to the QB. In time he could make a solid NFL LB.

Current LB's on the Bears roster:

Jamar Williams: 6'0" 237 pounds
Nick Roach: 6'1" 234 pounds
Joey LaRocque: 6'2" 226 pounds
Hunter Hillenmeyer: 6'4" 238 pounds
Lance Briggs: 6'1" 240 pounds
Brian Urlacher 6'4" 258 pounds

If Hodge adds (6) pounds to his frame he will be the same playing weight as Lance Briggs. He is basicaly the same size as Williams and Roach and heavier then LaRocque.


Go Bears !!

By Kevin Cregeen on April 22, 2009 9:58 AM
The catch phase in all of this is, "the ability to blitz". The Bears are one of the worst blitzing teams in the league, and its not like they don`t try, because they blitz as much or more than any team in the league, they just don`t put the quarterback on the ground.

Kevin the Bears system is not a blitz friendly system, in fact if the Bears are doing a lot of blitzing, that means there in a lot of trouble. Thr front four and TEX games is how they are suppose to generate a pass rush in there system. If there blitzing it means there secondary is exposed and they can't stop the pass. A three step drop and inside slants tends tends to shred the Bears defense, counters also kill them.

Joe Felicelli,

What you said is right on. Preach it. I just hope we can identify the players at those positions that can actually have an impact this time.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on April 22, 2009 8:16 AM.

Bears draft preview: Need No. 4 Defensive end was the previous entry in this blog.

If Bears turn to Ballard again for safety, look at Texas Tech's McBath is the next entry in this blog.

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