The following is the seventh of nine position reviews of the 2013 season.*
The Bears offensive line excelled in 2013, thanks in large part to the two free agents and two draft picks that were acquired last offseason. The team also added two free agents and two draft picks at linebacker, but that position didn't experience the same success.
D.J. Williams, who signed with the Bears after spending his first nine NFL seasons with the Broncos, missed the entire preseason with a calf injury. He rebounded to perform well early in the year, but was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle in a Week 6 win over the Giants.
Perennial Pro Bowler Lance Briggs, the only holdover at the position, performed exceptionally well early in the season before suffering a fractured shoulder in a Week 7 loss to the Redskins that forced him to miss seven games.
Briggs returned for the final two contests, but couldn't prevent the Bears from losing to the Eagles and Packers. A win in either game would have given the Bears the NFC North title. Briggs finished the season with 87 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
With Briggs and Williams injured, the Bears turned to rookie draft picks Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene. Both showed promise, but neither performed at a consistent level.
Bostic, a second-round choice from Florida, registered 75.5 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble. Greene, a fourth-round choice from Rutgers, had 38.5 tackles, 0.5 tackles-for-loss, one interception and one forced fumble.
"While watching the tape on both sides of the season, I watched the growth of our two young linebackers," said coach Marc Trestman. "I saw Khaseem do it right and Jon do it right, and I saw them both do it wrong. I did not see a consistency in their play."
"He's a hit-and-run player in terms of the guy can really cover ground," said general manager Phil Emery. "He's very dynamic in his speed and he's very dynamic in his ability to hit and the physicalness and the impact of it.
"He's second in our group in terms of guys that can unload on another player in space and produce an impact tackle or an impact hit. That's best when you're coming from the outside downhill across the field or the backside of a formation.
"Where Jon has struggled this year is in terms of being in the middle is the instantaneous in terms of read and react and searching through blocks in flow. He can improve dramatically in that going into his second season. I just said that from his skill set, some day—that may not be this year, it may be in the future—he might be best on the outside to take advantage of the skill sets that he has."
Looking to get more out of the position moving forward, the Bears replaced linebackers coach Tim Tibesar with Reggie Herring, who spent the last six seasons in the same role with the Cowboys (2008-10) and Texans (2011-13).