The Bears figured linebacker to be their deepest position after unpacking their bags in Bourbonnais for training camp, and a starting trio of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Pisa Tinoisamoa threatened to be the best 4-3 LBs in the league.
But that plan was blown up a long time ago, as Urlacher was lost for the season in Week 1 because of a dislocated wrist, Tinoisamoa only played two games thanks to a knee injury and Briggs couldn't finish Sunday's contest in Minnesota with a knee problem of his own. Backups Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach have played well at times, alternating between the middle and strong-side positions, but they were considered backups at the beginning of the year for a reason. Jamar Williams was forced into action against the Vikings after Briggs exited, as the only other linebackers available were special teamers Darrell McClover and Tim Shaw.
It is unclear if Briggs will be able to play in Week 13 at Soldier Field against the 1-10 Rams, so Tuesday the Bears signed veteran Cato June to a one-year deal.
For an insider's perspective on June and what he brings to the linebacking corps for the Monsters of the Midway, Bear Report consulted with Matthew Postins, who is the publisher of BucsBlitz.com on the Scout.com network. ...
Strengths: With stops in Indianapolis and Tampa Bay, June is well-versed in the Cover-2 system the Bears employ on defense, meaning he can step in and play immediately. Additionally, he's versatile enough to play on the strong or weak side.
Weaknesses: Injuries have dogged him the past two seasons, and they may have sapped some of the speed that made June so productive in Indianapolis. His total tackles, according to NFL.com, dropped from 102 and 142 his last two years in Indianapolis to 69 and 67 his two years in Tampa Bay. Houston, which needed help on defense, didn't think enough of him to keep him after the preseason, cutting him.
Postins Says: I'm not sure why June wasn't more productive in Tampa Bay. He made some splash plays, but he turned out to be an inconsistent player. I think he may have been a bit miscast playing on the strong side, and his tackle totals probably reflect that. Still, given what the Bucs had behind him, I was surprised they cut him. I see him being a nice fill-in player for the Bears. He knows the system, he still has good burst and anticipation and he has experience that some of the younger Bears linebackers lack. He's probably not in shape to play a full game right now, but in a platoon situation he can be effective. At age 30, don't expect him to come in and set the world on fire.
JC's Take: The Bears have to think that the injury to Briggs is serious enough to keep him out of the lineup for at least a game, if not the rest of the season, or else they probably would have just scraped by with Williams on the weak side.
June said in the Halas Hall locker room Wednesday that he does not expect to start right away, not after being out of football since the Texans set him free back in August. Look for Williams to get the starting nod Sunday against the Rams, with June rotating in from time to time in addition to picking up a phase or two on special teams. But Williams is a fourth-year player and still yet to be a full-time starter, so June's mere presence is yet another indication that the Bears don't believe Williams is starting material in this league.
In terms of his future in Chicago, this smells more like a quick fix than an audition for 2010, as June certainly isn't going to unseat Briggs at weak-side linebacker any time soon, and his play on the strong side has never been exemplary.
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Scout Analysis: LB Cato June
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