For the first time in recent memory, the Monsters of the Midway are in the market for a linebacker this offseason.
Everything is just fine at the weak-side position, were Lance Briggs was selected to his fourth straight Pro Bowl and continues to be one of the elite players in the NFL. While Brian Urlacher might not be everything he once was back in his glory days, he's still a solid player in the middle and could be great once again if he gets some more help from the defensive tackles in front of him. But over on the strong side, neither veteran Hunter Hillenmeyer nor youngster Nick Roach played very well and may need to be replaced with more of a playmaker.
One prospect Bears officials appeared to scout closely at the Senior Bowl in Mobile was Zack Follett, a 6-2, 231-pounder from California.
According to Mario Gomez, the Publisher of CalSportsDigest.com on the Scout.com network, Follett is an all-effort player but may ultimately fit best in a 3-4 system.
Gomez Says: Follett is versatile, so he can play inside and outside linebacker. He is explosive off the snap, has superb quickness, and shows a good nose for the ball. But he lacks the size and ability to shed blockers if a prospective team strictly wants to play him inside. While he is better suited for the outside, he lacks the pure speed that most elite prospects tend to have. He is an ideal outside linebacker for the 3-4 scheme, as he is a relentless defender that can create havoc in the backfield. He also has the ability to rush the passer and can play inside if needed.
JC's Take: The Bears have some holes to fill on D before 2009, most notably a pass-rushing end and a hard-hitter of a safety, but a strong-side linebacker can't be overlooked.
Hillenmeyer has long been a favorite of the coaching staff because he does what he needs to do in order to make Briggs and Urlacher more successful, but he couldn't get his job back after going down once or twice with relatively minor injuries. Roach leapfrogged backup and special-teams ace Jamar Williams on the depth chart, although he got run over more often than not and is built much better for the weak side. And since 2007 third-round draft pick Michael Okwo turned out to be a complete bust and was cut before last season, there is nobody else on the roster really ready to emerge.
While it doesn't appear Follett would be a good fit in Chicago if he is engineered to play in the 3-4, don't be surprised if general manager Jerry Angelo takes a shot at one of the USC 'backers – maybe not Brian Cushing in the first round, but perhaps Clay Matthews in the second.
Insider Analysis: LB Zack Follett
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