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Chalk Talk


Chalk Talk: Do Bears have enough depth at OLB?

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on

I think the Bears may have the best pair of starting outside linebackers in the NFL in Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. But I know they like to rotate players at that position and I'm concerned there's not much depth there behind them. What are your thoughts on that?
Sam H.
Bolingbrook, Illinois

I think the Bears actually feel good about the depth at that position, especially after they signed free agent Barkevious Mingo and selected promising edge rusher Trevis Gipson in the fifth round of the draft out of Tulsa. Also in the mix are returning outside linebackers Isaiah Irving and James Vaughters. During a recent video call with the media, outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino revealed that Mingo, Irving and Vaughters are competing for the third spot behind Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. Monachino coached Mingo with the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 and is high on the versatile veteran, saying: "He's a great pro, No. 1. No. 2, football's easy for him. He's a guy that learns well; doesn't require a ton of reps to learn. I have 100 percent confidence that Barkevious can etch himself out a role defensively. We were in a situation in Indy when Erik Walden got hurt that Barkevious had to play a ton of defense and he played winning defense for us. So [I'm] not at all nervous or afraid of putting [Mingo] in the game at any point in any situation and asking him to do anything—coverage, rush, run game. We can do all that with him."

I was surprised the Bears didn't try to upgrade at offensive tackle after Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie didn't perform very well last year. Why do you think the Bears are sticking with Leno and Massie as starters?
Bill W.
Crown Point, Indiana

There's no doubt that tackles Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie both played winning football in 2018 when the Bears captured the NFC North title with a 12-4 record. Leno was even named to the Pro Bowl. The Bears are counting on both players reverting to that form this season under new offensive line coach Juan Castillo. Here's what Castillo recently said about working with Leno and Massie: "Not enough people talk about the consistency in fundamentals; you know the more consistent your fundamentals are, the better football player you are. So those are the things we are working on right now. We're working on our footwork. When it comes to pass protection, we're working on being able to set square, being able to use our hands on time. Those are the things that are going to help them be better by just being more consistent in their fundamentals."

I've heard a lot about Jaylon Johnson competing with Kevin Toliver for a starting cornerback position. But I rarely hear Stephen Denmark's name mentioned. Is he in the mix there?
Ralph K.

Defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend feels that Stephen Denmark, a 2019 seventh-round pick from Valdosta State, is in fact ready to compete for playing time at cornerback this season. Denmark spent his rookie season last year on the Bears practice squad. The 6-3, 220-pounder played receiver his first three years at Valdosta State before switching to cornerback as a senior in 2018. Said Townsend: "Just learning the game was huge for him. Now that he can slow the game down and process it, you should be able to see some of his athletic ability and size that you all see. And if he can transfer that to playing, it should go well for him."

Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.

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