Bob Babich certainly didn't distinguish himself in two years as Chicago's defensive coordinator, but after a demotion back to linebackers coach in 2009, he was dealt a difficult hand and played it as well as anyone could.
With Pisa Tinoisamoa signing on the cheap in free agency and lining up alongside multiple Pro Bowlers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, the Monsters of the Midway threatened to have the best trio of 4-3 linebackers in the NFL. But that notion was crushed after the first series of the opener when Tinoisamoa sprained a knee and only played one more game the rest of the way, plus Urlacher dislocated his wrist in that same Week-1 matchup and spent the balance of the schedule on injured reserve. Suddenly, Babich was having to juggle Hunter Hillenmeyer, Nick Roach and even Jamar Williams in the starting lineup, and despite the Bears only finishing 17th in the league in total defense, it wasn't the linebackers' fault.
Tinoisamoa is now an injury risk, Roach has always been undersized and Hillenmeyer proved to be a better player in the middle, so it may be time for Angelo to find another starter on the strong side.
Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon confirmed Tuesday to Scout.com that the Bears have shown a good deal of interest in him so far at the Senior Bowl in Mobile.
Possessing an enviable combination of size and speed, Weatherspoon played through his fair share of injuries as a collegian and developed into a respected team leader. He tends to depend on his athleticism a little too much and doesn't appear to be one of the more instinctual linebackers, but he covers a ton of ground and gets to the ball carrier in a hurry because he knows how to take the proper angle. He has also shown to be quite capable dropping into coverage, and although he's not an accomplished pass rusher, he has enough moves near the line of scrimmage to be an adequate blitzer at the next level.
The 6-1, 245-pound Weatherspoon is currently the No. 4 outside linebacker in Scout.com's rankings heading into the 2010 NFL Draft.
JC's Take: Just like they did before last year's draft with Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith and Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who both ended up going in the top 10, the Midway Monsters are at least doing their due diligence when it comes to some of the elite prospects.
While the odds are long Weatherspoon falls all the way to No. 75 in Round 3, which is presently Chicago's primary selection, the fact that they're exploring linebackers at the Senior Bowl is telling to some degree. Weatherspoon is the kind of physical presence capable of holding his ground on the strong side and banging with taller tight ends, something both Hillenmeyer and Roach have struggled with at times. By kicking the tires on Weatherspoon down in Mobile, Bears brass is suggesting that an upgrade at the strong-side position could be on their mind.
It most likely won't be Weatherspoon because his stock is too high right now, but a bigger and sturdier linebacker would be a smart choice instead of yet another smaller and quicker guy.
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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.
Prospect Watch: Senior Bowl LB
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