No one, not even Brian Iwuh himself, expected much from the former Jacksonville Jaguar heading into minicamps last offseason. The Chicago Bears offered him a camp invite after he was cut by the Jags. The former undrafted free agent didn't show much as a linebacker during his time in Jacksonville, so it was doubtful he could ever be a quality contributor on defense in the Windy City.
Yet Iwuh did enough in those practice sessions to show the coaches he deserved a roster spot. After OTAs, the organization signed him to a one-year deal. One coach in particular, special teams coordinator Dave Toub, saw much potential in the former-Colorado product. Toub inserted Iwuh into his coverage units immediately and the 6-0, 239-pounder responded well. He finished the 2010 season as one of the top special-teams tacklers on the team.
On kickoffs and punts, Iwuh is an ideal coverage player. He has good speed, does well in tracking both the ball and the returner, and is a solid tackler. His 61 special-teams tackles during his four-year stint in Jacksonville rank third in the franchise's history.
LB Brian Iwuh
Currently, the Bears' top six special-teams tacklers from last season are free agents. Garrett Wolfe, Rod Wilson, Corey Graham and Josh Bullocks are not expected to return. The club will most likely attempt to re-sign Rashied Davis, yet that still leaves five open roster spots in which the top coverage players formerly resided.
For this reason, the Bears would be wise to bring Iwuh back in the fold. By re-signing Davis and Iwuh – both to veteran minimum contracts – Toub gets two of his best players back – players that can be the leaders on special teams, a unit in which Chicago places much emphasis. Iwuh and Davis could head up a group that annually finishes near the top of the league.
Yet beyond his value on special team, Iwuh does have some value as a linebacker. Throughout his career, he's been criticized for his lack of awareness in pass coverage. He's a downhill player who looks to stop the run first. Over a 16-game season, that type of play would eventually come to hurt the team, yet as a spot starter, Iwuh is a very good option.
In Week 6 last year against the Seattle Seahawks, Iwuh was named the starter on the weak side due to an injury to Lance Briggs. Not only did he play well, he actually led the team with 10 tackles. The following week, with Briggs back in the lineup, Iwuh racked up three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, all as a backup. He didn't earn another defensive tackle until Week 15, so obviously the coaching staff doesn't feel comfortable enough in him to allow him every down reps, but as a run-stopping backup, the team could do much worse.
Iwuh will be entering his sixth NFL season in 2011. He's only 27 years old, so he should be able to continue playing at a high level for at least three to four more years. He won't cost the Bears much at all, only slightly more than would an undrafted free agent, so it makes sense to lock up his experience for a few more years. In that way, the special teams can hit the ground running, while defensive coordinator Rod Marinellli can sleep well knowing he has a solid backup were injury to befall one of his starters. He's low risk, high reward – no reason not to re-sign him.
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com. To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider.