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Bears boast talented group of linebackers

The following is the seventh of nine position previews in advance of training camp.

As the Bears prepare to head to Training Camp, take a look at the fifteen linebackers currently on the 90-man roster.

When the Bears begin practicing next week in Bourbonnais, it should be evident that there isn't a deeper or more experienced position on their roster than outside linebacker.

Veterans Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston, Sam Acho and promising 2016 first-round draft pick Leonard Floyd all return this season.

"We've got a wide range of guys who can play this position," Young said in June. "And when you're able to do that, when you're that versatile at one position alone, [opponents] can't just prepare for who [they're] going to see that week. You don't know who is going to be where, who is going to be on which side."

Further complicating matters for opponents is that the Bears outside linebackers possess different skill sets and range in weight from 240 pounds (Floyd) to 274 (Houston).

"We've got a power guy, a speed guy, a finesse guy," Young said. "We have a guy who can run through your face, guys who can get to the quarterback."

Young led the Bears with 7.5 sacks last year, though he recorded six of those in the first six games and didn't make much of an impact over the second half of the season.

Floyd had an impressive rookie campaign after the Bears traded up two spots to select him with the ninth pick in last year's draft. The Georgia product recorded seven sacks, recovered a fumble for a touchdown following a strip/sack of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and produced a safety with a sack of the 49ers' Blaine Gabbert.

Floyd was limited to 12 games, however. He was plagued by nagging injuries in training camp and then suffered two concussions in a five-week span late in the year.

In addition to Floyd's continued development, another huge key at the outside linebacker position this season will be McPhee's health. The seven-year veteran missed the first six games last year while recovering from knee surgery and then suffered a shoulder injury in a Week 16 loss to the Redskins that ended his season.

McPhee expects big things from himself and his fellow outside linebackers, telling reporters in June that they intend to "dominate, destroy every opponent that we face."

"Just showing the world why they actually got these guys in the room: Me, Leonard, Willie, Lamarr, Sam," McPhee said. "Just dominate in the NFL. That's my focus. That's what I want us to do and that's what I think we're going to do."

At inside linebacker, veteran Jerrell Freeman returns to anchor the defense after leading the Bears with 127 tackles and seven tackles-for-loss last season despite serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.

Fellow inside linebacker Danny Trevathan ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee in a Week 12 loss to the Titans, sidelining him for final five games. Bears general manager Ryan Pace said during the offseason that Trevathan could open training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

With Trevathan out last year, Nick Kwiatkoski showed promise as a rookie, recording 43 tackles, one sack and five tackles-for-loss while starting the final six games. The 2016 fourth-round pick will be counted on to continue to develop this season.

Veteran returnees Jonathan Anderson, Christian Jones and John Timu will also battle for roster spots at linebacker, as will free-agent acquisition Dan Skuta. The 6-2, 252-pounder has appeared in 112 games with 32 starts over eight NFL seasons with the Bengals (2009-12), 49ers (2013-14) and Jaguars (2015-16), compiling 200 tackles, seven sacks and six forced fumbles.

Skuta had his best season with San Francisco in 2014, registering 33 tackles and a career-high five sacks while playing for Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

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