Bears linebacker corps one of the best in the NFL again in 2020

9th in a series

The linebacker position took the Bears to some of the highest and lowest points of the 2020 season, but overall there is no arguing the Bears linebackers corps is one of the strongest position groups in the NFL.

Ten linebackers were named first or second team All Pro this year. Two of them were Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith.

The NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers also have two All Pro linebackers in Devin White and Lavonte David, six other clubs had one, and 24 teams had none.

The Bears are dangerously thin at inside linebacker and heading into the 2021 season they currently have $46.5 million - approximately 25% of the projected cap - allocated to just three players: Mack and fellow linebackers Robert Quinn and Danny Trevathan.

Positives: Mack has failed to match the sack total he posted his first year as a Bear (12½) or his average for his four years in Oakland plus 2018 (10½) in either of the last two seasons, but he did have half a sack more and two more tackles for loss in 2020 than 2019. He always demands the attention of multiple blockers and was once again one of the best defensive players in the game last season.

Smith emerged as a tackling machine in 2020, playing the best football of his career. While he was knocked out of the finale vs. the Packers and missed the wild-card game, he did start all 16 games this season after missing four starts last year.

Trevathan started slow but worked back to 100% and played some of his best football as a Bear during the final third of the season.

Barkevious Mingo added excellent depth behind Quinn.

Negatives: Quinn wasn't nearly as disappointing as many made him out to be, but he also didn't come close to playing up to the free agent contract he got as the Bears biggest addition of the offseason.

Quinn was often disruptive and commanded double teams, freeing up teammates to make plays, but he's being paid to be a double-digit sack guy and didn't get close. There was some concern that an ankle injury suffered just prior to the season opener lingered all season long.

Trevathan struggled big time most of the first half of the season, but fortunately it was overshadowed by the team's 5-1 start. Nonetheless, his slow start did strain the defense at times and was particularly noticeable in losses to the Colts and Rams.

Joel Iyiegbuniwe appears to be no more than a special teams guy and may have been a wasted fourth-round pick.

Defining moments: Smith had an otherworldly three game stretch against the Saints, Titans and Vikings - albeit all losses - in which he piled up 36 tackles, 26 solos, two sacks and five tackles for loss.

In the loss to the Packers at Lambeau, Trevathan ended up in man-to-man coverage on both Aaron Jones and Davante Adams multiple times, not his fault but the results were crippling to the defense.

Contract status: While the Mack, Quinn and Trevathan deals are cap stranglers, Smith has one year left on his rookie deal. The Bears are certain to either exercise their fifth-year option for 2022 or negotiate an extension this offseason that will tie him up longer, while making his deal more cap favorable the next two or three seasons.

Mingo is a free agent.

Hub's grade: B+. As well as Mack and Smith played all year and Trevathan the second half of the season, a great deal more was expected from Quinn bringing this grade down just a notch.

The window is open for the Bears to have a top five defense again at least one more season, mainly because of this group, but the pass rush has to be more consistent and more dynamic with all eyes on Quinn early next season.

Hub's plan: If at all possible I would re-sign Mingo as a key fifth wheel on this group and devote the offseason to making sure Quinn and Mack are healthy going into 2021.

Chuck Pagano dropped Mack and Quinn into coverage more than I would like. While it is a nice option and change of pace, I'd focus them both more on rushing the passer. The Bears should look for inside linebacker depth in both the draft and free agency.

• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush

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