Lance Briggs was named to his fourth Pro Bowl from the weak-side linebacker spot and Brian Urlacher was a second alternate in the middle for another trip to Hawaii, but the Monsters of the Midway have a hole on the strong side right now.
Veteran Hunter Hillenmeyer had been one of the darlings of the defensive coaching staff since being elevated to the starting lineup in 2004, but he got banged up around midseason and was replaced by second-year pro Nick Roach. While Roach didn't necessarily excel alongside Briggs and Urlacher in his eight starts, Hillenmeyer still wasn't able to get his job back even when his name did not appear on the weekly injury report. Hillenmeyer finished the year with 23 tackles and one sack, while Roach registered 40 tackles and two tackles for loss.
Down in Mobile this week for the 2009 Senior Bowl, Chicago is apparently on the lookout for a fresh start at the strong-side linebacker position.
Scout.com is reporting that officials from the Bears spent a great deal of time at Monday's practice with LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith.
Beckwith (6-0, 233) was a productive player for the Tigers and a three-year starter, showing his versatility by playing both weak-side and middle linebacker at one of the nation's elite programs. He is known as a cerebral player with terrific football instincts, and he is particularly effective down in the box because of his tremendous tackling ability. Thickly built on a shorter frame, he lacks elite speed and has never made much of an impact defending the pass – either as a blitzer or in coverage.
Listed as the No. 4 middle linebacker available for the 2009 NFL Draft by the experts at Scout.com, Beckwith should be selected somewhere in Round 2 or 3 and may ultimately be a better fit on the strong side of a 4-3 defensive scheme.
While the Bears have more immediate needs at wide receiver, defensive end, and safety on Day 1 of the draft, Beckwith might make for a quality pick in the third round on Day 2 if he's still on the board.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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