The Monsters of the Midway are excited about all the big names they've brought in to jumpstart the offense, and rightfully so, but don't forget it's the defense that's really let down this team since Super Bowl XLI.
If there is one position in particular that is a question mark on the defensive side of the ball heading into 2009, it's strong-side linebacker. Neither Hunter Hillenmeyer nor Nick Roach inspires very much confidence next to Pro Bowlers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, with Hillenmeyer limited athletically and Roach undersized to play that spot. Head coach Lovie Smith said at the Scouting Combine that fourth-year pro Jamar Williams will also be in the mix to start come training camp, plus the front office has talked to a bunch of Day 2-type prospects leading up to the NFL Draft.
One of those prospects is Wisconsin's DeAndre Levy, but does he have what it takes to play the strong side and enhance the Windy City linebacking corps in the next year or two?
To help answer that question, Bear Report called on the opinion of Ben Worgull, who is the Publisher of BadgerNation.com on the Scout.com network.
Strengths: Against a traditional offense, there was nobody better than Levy, who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. He finished fourth, second and first on the team in tackles during his last three years, respectively. His biggest honor came his senior year when he was named Big Ten and National Defensive Player of the Week after nine tackles, including four tackles for loss, a 5-yard sack and his second career interception in UW's win at Fresno State. Levy has solid strength and is extremely smart at his position, enabling him to recognize the play as it develops and make the stop at the line of scrimmage by using his speed to his advantage.
Weaknesses: Much like the rest of his teammates, Levy often struggled facing more athletic players and against the spread offense. Levy does have a good dose of athleticism on his 235-pound frame, but often he seemed a step behind in the open field against some of the quickest in the Big Ten.
Worgull Says: Combined with fellow senior Jonathan Casillas over the last three seasons, Levy provided half of a powerful one-two linebacker punch that made the duo one of the best in the Big Ten. Levy's numbers, along with his leadership, increased every year, which was evidenced by his peers selecting him as a team captain. He's a reliable player with a top work ethic, two traits that should make him a solid player at the next level.
JC's Take: In Smith's version of the Cover 2, the linebacker on the strong side needs to hold the point of attack on running plays and also cover tights ends on passing plays, but Hillenmeyer has been torched through the air a great deal and Roach is too easily brushed aside on the ground by bigger and stronger blockers.
The Midway Monsters could very well address the position in the draft at the end of this month, although it will be much harder to do so after having to surrender so much in the Jay Cutler trade. No longer possessing a first-round pick means Jerry Angelo and Co. have to wait until Round 2 before bringing in that desperately needed wide receiver, and now the team only has one third-rounder instead of two – that might have been a good place to take California's Zack Follett, who the team likes a lot. Since the Bears currently have two fifth-rounders after the Cutler deal, one of them could be earmarked for Levy.
Angelo has targeted a linebacker late in most every draft since coming to Chicago, although he's yet to hit on one that can be more than a special-teams contributor.
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Insider Analysis: LB DeAndre Levy
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