Bears Roster Breakdown: Linebackers Efficiency Established

The Bears own a huge edge at linebacker over last year and it's something they believe can carry them to even more big plays from those positions.
Oct 29, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Jack Sanborn (57) tackles Los
Oct 29, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Jack Sanborn (57) tackles Los / Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports
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There are a few reasons to have concern over the Bears defense.

The reasons are not playing linebacker.

With T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds back at weakside and middle respectively, the Bears have their two play-making linebackers established. They're no less confident in strongside Jack Sanborn because of his experience in the base defense or backing up either of the two who always are on the field. As linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi noted with a pun he took full responsibility for, Sanborn is a "Jack-of-all-trades."

As cornerback Jaylon Johnson put it: "Linebackers, I feel like are stacked between T.J., Tremaine, Jack. We’ve got some depth at backer."

While there are concerns in the back about the impact of a new safety in Kevin Byard and up front with a different starting 3-technique in Gervon Dexter, the linebackers are completely ahead of one year ago as they already know how to play this scheme.

"You think about it, we played 17 games, about over 1,100 game reps, thousands of practice reps," Borgonzi said. "Compared to last year when we were going into it with no reps, you have everything to teach off of, to learning experiences, they understand the system.

"So it's been awesome just to have that consistency in the (linebackers) room and they feel like we can really hit the ground running."

This is a huge asset for their defense overall, especially when there are possible issues yet to face at defensive tackle and safety. 





Time together within the scheme puts the Bears so much farther ahead as they start OTAs than last year at the same time that it's not even comparable.

It's an advantage Green Bay will not have this year on defense because of a new system and coordinator, but one the Lions and Vikings both enjoy within the NFC North just like the Bears.

There are still aspects of the game Borgonzi wants his linebackers to achieve, particularly Edmunds and Edwards because they are not leaving the field in the nickel defense like Sanborn will. 

"I think individual goals, I think they both would say just taking the ball away more, creating more big plays for the defense, putting the offense in favorable positions," Borgonzi said.

It seems entirely realistic because all three of Edwards' three interceptions, a forced fumble and two recoveries, and three of Edmunds' four interceptions came in the season's second half, after the two had worked more in the scheme -- and also after Sweat arrived to apply pass rush pressure.

"So (it's) something that we're gonna work on in the offseason, whether it's punching the ball, catching the ball for interceptions," Borgonzi said. "They did a nice job of it last year, so I feel like it's just something that they both want to improve on."

If there is anything they lack at linebacker it's this experience factor within the scheme that they now have with the starters.

However, that's a big ask for even Super Bowl teams because they'd need to play without their starters to actually have it.

Bringing in Amen Ogbongbemiga from the Chargers in free agency does give them a different asset even if it's an unfamiliar task for him.

"He's got a ton of energy, he's fast, he's athletic, he loves football," Borgonzi said. "He really gels well with the other guys. He's played three years, going into his fourth year, so he's got a good amount of pro experience."

Ogbongbemiga is a bit like second-year backup Noah Sewell, as a high-energy guy who can fit at special teams but hasn't had the chance to prove much with starters.

"He plays really hard and he works at it," Borgonzi said of Ogbongbemiga. "He's a guy that I feel like once he gets in our system he's going to improve."

They've already seen what time on task within the system can do.

Bears Linebacker Roster Rundown

Starters: Middle Tremaine Edmunds, Weakside T.J. Edwards, Strongside Jack Sanborn.

Backups:  Amen Ogbongbemiga*, Noah Sewell,

Fighting for Roster:  Micah Baskerville, Carl Jones Jr.*, Paul Moala*

*First year with Bears

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.