Chicago Bears fans, let the Manti Te’o watch begin!
According to CBSSports.com, the former Heisman candidate from Notre Dame is the second best inside linebacker prospect in this year’s NFL draft. Since the first round will be all about linemen, we may see him get drafted as high as 19th overall. The Giants might try to draft an offensive lineman first to improve their run blocking, which gives the Bears (with the 20th overall pick) a better shot at drafting Te’o. LSU inside linebacker Kevin Minter may be the most explosive and athletic ILB in this year’s draft, but Te’o is the best fit for the Bears’ defensive scheme.
Head coach Marc Trestman plans on keeping the Cover 2, the same defense that made the team a top-five defensive unit (as far as total yards given up) last year. Since the Cover 2 relies on linebackers to drop into zone coverage, and Notre Dame utilized it in the national championship run last year, Te’o will be a perfect fit. He was accustomed to playing in a zone coverage defense.
Note that in his last season in South Bend, he accumulated 113 total tackles and 7 interceptions; he had 128 total tackles, 5 sacks, and a forced fumble in 2011. A Bears’ middle linebacker in the Cover 2 must be able to cover the middle of the field to defend the pass while doing what legendary Bears’ linebackers do best (stuff runners and quarterbacks). Based on the stats alone, Te’o is capable of leading and excelling in their defensive unit for years to come. Add the fact that he has the tools to be an emotional leaders, Te’o may be become the new face of the Bears, just like Brian Urlacher once was that recognizable figure.
Yes, the Bears still have Pro Bowler Lance Briggs, who can still give them 2-3 more years of solid production. I won’t be surprised if Briggs will be the starting middle linebacker this season, considering that he has been exposed to the Cover 2 scheme for 10 seasons. Meanwhile, the recent signings of D.J. Williams and James Anderson adds more experience and productivity to the linebacker group.
Even with Briggs returning for another season and the recent signings of Williams and Anderson, the new linebacker corps is only a quick fix. They need more youth in that position. They should get someone that will be a long-term, future leader for the franchise. Drafting an inside linebacker in the 2013 NFL draft is the best bet for the Bears. They should focus getting a middle linebacker that not only lead the defense for years to come, but they should also get one that will continue the tradition of fierce legendary linebackers (e.g., Urlacher, Butkus, Singletary, Buffone, etc.). Thus I make the case for the Bears to take Te’o before the Ravens, Patriots, or Packers can get a hold of him.