The Chicago Bears have something on the roster they’ve been missing for quite a while — good options.
A talented crop of free agents and a handful of quality picks in the upcoming NFL Draft is allowing general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus to construct the team in their own collective image, with specific fits at specific positions that match with specific schemes. This is particularly true on defense, where Eberflus made his name as a coordinator with the Indianapolis Colts and where Chicago will try to assert its organizational identity in the years to come.
A huge piece of all that was the signing earlier this month of former Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to a four-year deal worth a whopping $72 million in total. There was some argument as to how Eberflus would deploy the defense’s newest weapon, though the head coach settled those debates with an announcement on Tuesday, March 28, in which he stated definitively that Edmunds will serve in the role of MIKE linebacker and patrol the middle of the field for the Bears defense.
“Just that big body presence in the middle between the hashes,” Eberflus said, per Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune. “That’s where a lot of the throws go, and it really deters that. With his size and length, he has tremendous range as a pass defender.”
Bears Looking to Force Turnovers From Linebacker Position
Edmunds will engage in what he does best from the MIKE spot, fly all over the field and make a boatload of tackles. However, the linebacker will need to leverage his physical gifts to improve his pass defense if he is to play the position in an ideal way for Eberflus.
The signs are pointing in the right direction for Edmunds, as the two-time Pro Bowler produced his best year in coverage in 2022, allowing 4.9 yards per target and an opposing completion rate of 65%, per Pro Football Reference. He did not surrender a touchdown in pass coverage last season.
Chicago will also being looking for turnover production from Edmunds, which Eberflus addressed during his media session Tuesday.
“When you put it on a player’s mind and really start to train a player to take the ball away and then he has the physical attributes [that Edmunds] has, the length and the size and the range, that’s going to come for him,” Eberflus said.
Edmunds has intercepted five passes and forced two fumbles over the course of his five-year NFL career.
T.J. Edwards Top Candidate as Starting WILL Linebacker For Bears
With Edmunds locked into the MIKE spot, the most relevant question left at the position group is who will occupy the WILL linebacker position? The defense will rely heavily on whoever that player is to produce turnovers for a squad that was tied for fourth in the NFL last season with 25 takeaways, per StatMuse.
A leading candidate for the role is fellow newcomer T.J. Edwards, who the Bears signed away from the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason on a three-year deal worth $19.5 million.
Edwards is currently listed as the starting weak side linebacker on the Bears’ depth chart, via ESPN. In four years with the Eagles, Edwards has intercepted two passes and forced two fumbles.