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Predicting the Bears opening day roster by position: Linebackers

No where in the NFL is there a position on the field tied more to the identity of a franchise than “Linebacker” is to “Chicago.” The names have been associated with the Monsters of the Midway for decades – George, Butkus, Singletary and Urlacher.

In 2010, the final opening day roster at LB will come down to two non-household names that don’t strike fear into the hearts of opponents like their legendary predecessors.

Lock:  Urlacher, Briggs, Pisa, Roach

Limbo: Tim Shaw, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Brian Iwuh, Kevin Malast, Matt Mayberry

Prediction:

Since Jerry didn’t do what I asked and trade Lance Briggs this offseason, I suppose (sarcasm) he’ll be starting on the weakside to flank Urlacher for the 6th straight year. Pisa will open on the strong side, but I think by season’s end, it’ll be Roach manning that position.

Tim Shaw proved to be a special teams demon, and if he has another year like last year, he’ll get some Pro Bowl attention.

If the Bears go with 6 LBs (which they did in ’09), that will leave just one more backup spot for one of two experienced guys.

In this make-or-break year, I’m convinced Lovie will go with a proven commodity at backup – either Hunter Hillenmeyer or offseason pickup and 4-year vet Brian Iwuh. Keeping a vet around will leave young guys Malast and Mayberry looking for work elsewhere

In Hillenmeyer, you have a guy who can play either on the strong side or middle, where he stepped in when Urlacher went down. Let’s face it, until #54 bangs on some bodies in the preseason, no one will know for sure if Lack’s officially back.

Iwuh finished 2nd in special teams tackles for the Jaguars last year and also saw significant time on defense, including two starts. He’s younger and more athletic than Hillenmeyer, and his special teams background makes him a more valuable option.

My pick? Iwuh, by a nose.

In a move that’ll be almost as difficult for coaches to swallow as Dez Clark not making the roster, the Bears will part with another vet in Hillenmeyer. What HH lacks in pure athletic ability, he makes up for in smarts. Remember it was he who poked the ball out from behind Adrian Peterson to cause a fumble and set the Bears up for the winning TD in OT vs. the Vikings.

Like Clark, it won’t take long for Hunter to find work elsewhere.

See my previous position predictions:


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