The Chicago Bears’ first training camp practice open to the public has come and gone. And with training camp underway and the team’s August 2 debut at the Hall of Fame Game around the corner, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
Today: Outside linebackers
The Starters: Leonard Floyd, Sam Acho
The Reserves: Aaron Lynch, Kylie Fits, Isaiah Irving, Jonathan Anderson, Kasim Edebali, Andrew Trumbetti.
Potential Training Camp Star: Isaiah Irving was somewhat of a late bloomer last summer. The undrafted free agent outside linebacker took some significant steps in his development in the third and fourth preseason games to round out the summer. And while he didn’t make the season-opening 53-man roster, he opened enough eyes to land on the practice squad and eventually make his NFL debut. An injury cut his season short, but having additional experience under his belt could put him in a position to make waves during training camp this year. Especially if Aaron Lynch continues to struggle to stay healthy.
We Really Like: The idea of Leonard Floyd breaking out in a big way in his third year under Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio. History is on Floyd’s side, as the likes of Eddie Goldman, Adrian Amos, and Kyle Fuller are proof that the Year 3 Breakout is real … and spectacular. Floyd has started slowly in each of his first two seasons and has unfortunately had both of those years cut short due to injuries. But another year of learning the system, improving his own technique, and growing into his athletic build could really help him turn the tide as a starter. Floyd represents the biggest potential impact pass-rusher on the Bears’ roster, and we’d like to see him live up to the potential that comes with being a top-10 pick.
We Might Be Worried About: Aaron Lynch’s injury issues (whether it’s the ankle or hamstring) have put a damper on what I think the Bears’ pass rush could look like in a best-case scenario. It also serves as a reminder of how quickly things can go south if the injury bug bites once again. Floyd, Irving, Pernell McPhee, and Willie Young were among the Bears pass-rushers who ended the season on injured reserve last season. And even though what was left of Chicago’s edge defenders held their own, it’s going to be difficult to create a pass-rush without talented players on the outside.
2018 Forecast: The Bears were able to put together a top-10 defense despite battling injuries all year. Despite having a knack for doing the most with least, it’s not reasonable to expect Fangio to scheme his way to 16 games (hopefully, more) of pressuring the quarterback. It’s simply not a sustainable way to go about it. No position group gives me more pause than the Bears’ outside linebackers, and with good reason. The only way to shake those feelings will be to see that group healthy and productive early in the season.