Top 25 most important Bears in 2022: No. 15 Nicholas Morrow
We're counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2022 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That's subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can't play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
No. 15 Nicholas Morrow
NFL experience: Sixth season
Last year's ranking: N/A
Looking back: The Bears released inside linebacker Danny Trevathan over the offseason following six seasons in Chicago. For the past two years, the Bears asked Roquan Smith to carry quite a load. Pairing Smith with a linebacker who is younger and quicker than the aging Trevathan became imperative, especially when new head coach Matt Eberflus was hired and began implementing a new defensive scheme.
Enter Nicholas Morrow. The Bears signed Morrow to a one-year, $3 million contract in March. The 26-year-old linebacker had been with the Las Vegas Raiders. He missed all of the 2021 season with an ankle injury, but is fully healthy now. Morrow, who went undrafted out of Division III Greenville University, had emerged as a starter in Las Vegas prior to his ankle injury. He appeared in 14 games, making 11 starts, during the 2020 season. He totaled 78 combined tackles, 3 sacks, 9 passes defended, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery.
Looking forward: Bears linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi is optimistic that Morrow will be the perfect fit alongside Smith at linebacker. Morrow possesses similar size and speed to Smith's.
"When they're out there, they're going to be fast, we're going to play fast and we want to be able to run sideline to sideline," Borgonzi said.
While the Bears' new defense under Eberflus is a 4-3 scheme that uses three linebackers in the base defense, the Bears are going to spend a lot of time in sub-packages with five defensive backs and two linebackers. The majority of the time, Smith and Morrow will be the only linebackers on the field for the Bears.
The Bears are going back in time, running a defense that is a direct descendant of the scheme the team ran under former head coach Lovie Smith. That defense thrived with a duo of linebackers in Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. It would be a surprise if Morrow plays to the level of one those guys, but signing Morrow was a low-risk, high-reward move. He could prove to be a steal for what the Bears are paying him.