Bears position breakdown: The outside linebackers

SHARE Bears position breakdown: The outside linebackers

Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (94, tackling the Panthers’ Cam Newton in a Bears victory last season), has 11.5 sacks in 22 NFL games in two seasons. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Sixth in a position-by-position series of training-camp capsules on every player on the Bears’ 90-man roster. The Bears open training camp Friday at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.



Outside linebacker Third year

6-6, 251 Georgia

Acquired: First-round draft pick (ninth overall) in 2016.

Age: 26

NFL experience: 22 games (22 starts) in two seasons.

Background: With seven sacks in 12 games — including a strip-sack, forced fumble and recovery for a touchdown vs. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and a safety vs. the 49ers — Floyd was named to the Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team in 2016 despite missing four games with a series of injuries. Flashed his difference-making potential again in 2017 — 4.5 sacks, nine tackles-for-loss — but missed the final six games with a sprained knee on a friendly fire hit from teammate Kyle Fuller against the Lions.

Notable: Floyd missed most of the offseason program practices as he continued to recover from the knee injury.

The skinny: No doubt Floyd has the potential to be a havoc-wreaking player who has to be accounted for on every play — especially in an emerging defense that should create more opportunities for him. But he’s got to get off to a fast start in camp after a quiet offseason and — most of all — he’s got to stay healthy.




Outside linebacker Eighth year

6-3, 259 Texas

Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2015.

Age: 30

NFL experience: 98 games (57 starts) in seven season with the Cardinals and the Bears.

Background: A fourth-round draft pick (103rd overall) by the Cardinals in 2011, Acho started 26 games in his first two seasons, with seven sacks as a rookie and four in 2012. He played only three games in 2013 because of a broken leg and was primarily a back-up after that. The Cardinals let him go in free agency and he signed with the Bears. He’s started 25 games in three seasons, including 12 last year after Willie Young and Leonard Floyd suffered season-ending injuries.

Notable: Acho three sacks last season – as many as he had in the previous four seasons — including 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the final three games of the season.

The skinny: Acho is a dependable, experienced part-time player who makes an impact on defense even if it doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. He’s a good locker-room guy and a valued special-teamer. But the Bears surely are looking for a bigger-impact starter at outside linebacker.




Outside linebacker Fifth year

6-5, 245 South Florida

Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2018.

Age: 25

NFL experience: 44 games (19 starts) in four seasons with the 49ers.

Background: A fifth-round draft pick (150th overall) by the 49ers in 2014, Lynch had six sacks in Vic Fangio’s defense as a rookie and 6.5 sacks the following year after Fangio left for the Bears. Injuries and personal issues — including a four-game suspension in 2016 for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy limited him to 14 games (three starts) in 2016 and 2017. He was benched in four of the final six games last season and jettisoned by the 49ers in free agency.

Notable: Lynch, who has a history of injury issues, suffered a hamstring in the Bears’ veteran mini-camp. He expects to be ready to go in training camp.

The skinny: Arguably the most intriguing roll of the dice in Bears’ camp. From his freshman year at Notre Dame, Lynch has been a devastating play-maker with an infectious impact on a defense when he’s right. But staying right and maintaining focus has been problematic. The Bears hope a little maturity and a re-connection with Fangio can make a difference.




Outside linebacker Second year

6-2, 225 San Jose State

Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017

Age: 24

NFL experience: Seven games (no starts) in one year with the Bears.

Background: A late-blooming defensive end at San Jose State who ran a 4.81 40 with a 36-inch vertical at his pro day, Irving made the Bears practice squad after getting three sacks and a forced fumble in the preseason and was activated in Week 5. Played in seven games — including 36 snaps on defense vs. the Eagles after Leonard Floyd’s knee injury. But he suffered a knee injury himself — that did not require surgery — and was put on IR.

Notable: Irving had three sacks and a forced fumble in the preseason; three tackles on special teams vs. the Lions; and two tackles and a fumble recovery vs. the Eagles.

The skinny: With a quick first step and a knack for getting to the quarterback, Irving was making progress last season before his injury. The Bears didn’t really make a big play to fortify the OLB position after letting Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Lamar Houston go — to some degree a sign of their faith in Irving’s potential.




Outside linebacker First year

6-4, 260 Utah

Acquired: Sixth-round draft pick (181st overall) in 2018.

Age: 23

NFL experience: None.

Background: A four-star recruit in high school who started at UCLA in 2013, but transferred to Utah after his freshman season. Had seven sacks, four forced fumbles and 10 pass break-ups at defensive end for Utah in 2015, but struggled with injuries in 2016 (1.5 sacks in two games) and 2017 (23 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, one pass break-up in 10 games) as a medical red-shirt.

Notable: Fitts suffered a broken right foot in 2016 and was hampered by injuries to his right ankle and shoulder in 2017.

The skinny: Like Aaron Lynch, Fitts is easy to fall in love with because of how productive he is when healthy. Definitely a player to watch in camp, especially if he can stay healthy. Fitts has a lot to learn in Vic Fangio’s defense, but he has the potential to be an effective third-down closer if the Bears’ defense takes the next step and creates advantageous situations.




Outside linebacker Fifth year

6-2, 253 Boston College

Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2018.

Age: 29

NFL experience: 61 games (two starts) in four seasons with the Saints, Broncos and Lions.

Background: Hamburg, Germany native who didn’t come to the U.S. until he was 18, Edebali was a three-year starter at Boston College and signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Made his mark on special teams, but also as a situational pass rusher — he had five sacks in spot duty in 2015. Signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the Broncos last year but was cut in Week 11. Signed by the Lions, Rams and Saints in 2017 before signing with the Bears after a tryout at the veteran mini-camp in June.

Notable: In the Bears’ preseason opener last year, Edebali beat Charles Leno for a pressure on Mike Glennon that led to Chris Harris’ interception and 50-yard return for a touchdown on the third play of the game.

The skinny: Edebali is a journeyman, but with niche value — a hard-working, relentless pass rusher with proven NFL special-teams prowess. Considering the Bears’ need of edge-rushing depth, anyone with his resume is a candidate to stick, and maybe even produce.




Inside linebacker Rookie year

6-4, 220 Shepherd

Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018.

Age: 23

NFL experience: None.

Background: Two-star recruit as a tight end who chose UConn over Georgia Tech, Rutgers, Kansas State and Syracuse among others. Played defensive end as a freshman and switched to tight end as a sophomore. Transferred to Division II Shepherd and had six tackles-for-loss (three sacks) as a part-time starter at defensive end in 2015; academically ineligible in 2016; had 11 tackles-for-loss (6.5 sacks), two pass break-ups, a forced fumble, an interception and a blocked kick and was a second-team all-conference pick on a 10-1 team.

Notable: Norris averaged 20 yard a catch as a wide receiver and averaged 39.8 yards per punt at Archbishop Carroll high school in Washington, D.C. He had three sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal vs. Urbana last season.

The skinny: Norris was listed as a 6-4, 270-pound defensive end at Shepherd last year but heads into camp at 220 pounds. An excellent all-around athlete with football skills, but he’s a long shot to be in the right place at the right time in the NFL.




Outside linebacker Rookie year

6-4, 263 Shepherd

Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018.

Age: 22

NFL experience: None.

Background: Three-star recruit who made an impact as a freshman reserve defensive lineman at Notre Dame (5.5 tackles-for-loss) and started in the Irish’s 31-28 victory over LSU in the Music City Bowl. Had 2.5 tackles-for-loss and returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown vs. Wake Forest as a sophomore and a half TFL as a junior. He started one game in 2017 but had his best production — 28 tackles and four tackles-for-loss. Finished his college career with 12.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks.

Notable: As a sophomore, Trumbetti returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown against Wake Forest and had a sack, two TFLs and a two quarterback hurries in the Fiesta Bowl vs. Ohio State.

The skinny: Trumbetti is a good athlete — he threw the shot in track and returned kicks in football in high school — but he’ll have to make a quick first impression to get much of a shot here. Still, at outside linebacker in this camp, everyone is going to get a look.


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