Positional Analysis: Linebackers

While big plays by Brian Urlacher and Warrick were few and far between, the emergence of Lance Briggs made a lot of people forget about Roosevelt Colvin.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SLB Lance Briggs, MLB Brian Urlacher, WLB Warrick Holdman. Backups: Joe Odom, Bryan Knight, Hunter Hillenmeyer.

Urlacher made it 4-for-4 in Pro Bowls, but this year he went more on reputation than performance. Not that he was bad, but Urlacher made very few impact plays and was not involved in a single turnover for the first time in his career. He would never admit it, but he missed Ted Washington's blocker-occupying presence.

Holdman was a disappointment that didn't live up to his contract. He can still run and hit, but he doesn't look like the same player as he was a couple seasons ago. In some cases the first year back from a knee injury is a wash and the true judge if a player can return to form is the second season. The Bears and Holdman hope that's the case because the linebacker is in the middle of a four-year $12 million contract.

Briggs was a huge hit because of his huge hits. Despite lighting up opposing players in the preseason and looking like the best option on the strongside Briggs did not begin the season as the starter. However when Knight struggled, the coaching staff finally admitted they made a mistake and inserted Briggs. Once he learned the defense, which included his share of rookie mistakes, Briggs was a physical presence, especially against the run.

Odom, a sixth-round pick, started three games when Holdman was hurt, and there wasn't much of a drop-off in performance. But he finished the season on I.R. after suffering a groin pull.

Knight started the season on the strong side but was too light to hold the point. He still could figure as a situational pass rusher, and he does well on teams.

Hillenmeyer made an impact on special teams and could stick as an extra backer in some situations.

Linebacker is not a position the Bears will think much about adding talent to in the off-season, but rather finding players that will help the group make more big plays. Mainly what Jerry Angelo decides to do with the front four will greatly impact the trio.

Whether it's adding talent via free agency or the draft, the acquisition of interior defensive line talent would benefit an athletic linebacking core that needs to stay away from blockers.

The Insiders contributed to this report.


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