LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chemistry is critical at inside linebacker. A lack of cohesion at the position can rapidly undermine a defense, resulting in confusion, busted plays and missed assignments. No one understands the need for continuity in the middle more than the Chicago Bears, who started six different inside linebacker combinations in 2015.
With the exception of undrafted rookies John Timu and Jonathan Anderson, Chicago’s group of inside backers contributed a tiny amount of impact plays, which is why Bears management overhauled the spot in free agency, bringing in respected veterans Danny Trevathan ($12 million guaranteed) and Jerrell Freeman ($6 million guaranteed).
In particular, Trevathan understands the need for familiarity inside. The Bears’ top target in free agency, Trevathan played alongside Brandon Marshall for three years in Denver, forming one of the NFL’s most productive inside linebacker tandems. Trevathan and Marshall each had 100-plus tackles on the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 winning defense.
“Marshall and I were hurt together one year, so we worked a whole offseason together and he was just himself and I was myself,” Trevathan said. “We played well together, and he's my brother because we worked together and we went through something together.”
Trevathan thinks he can enjoy similar success with Freeman, who started four years in Indianapolis after a stint up north in the Canadian Football League.
"We can feed off each other,” Trevathan said. “You know, I've seen him around the league, and I'm like, I like the way he plays. I know he played in Canada for a bit, but I like his attitude and the way he hits the linemen, and you know he hits fullbacks and he's just aggressive. You know that's what you want in a Mike (middle) linebacker and a linebacker as well.
"You know he thinks he’s faster than me, but I doubt that. He's quick though, you know, and we're going to feed off that, and we're definitely going to eat out here on this field.”
But Trevathan stresses team-building is important throughout the defense, not just at linebacker. And only when that bond is created can a defense play at a championship level.
“You have to be a family both on and off the field. That’s my thing,” Trevathan said. “I want to get the defense -- I just got a house -- I want them to come to my house. We can go out to eat, build that family atmosphere. At the same time, when we’re out here we’re all working toward that one common goal, and that’s to be great and to win a championship. You have to be hungry.
“I’ve been to the Super Bowl two times; one time I lost, but to win it’s a different feeling. You want that feeling every year. It’s hard work, but after being around some of the guys I was around, like Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware, I know what it takes. The attitude has got to spread like wildfire. These guys have got to be hungry, like I said. They are. I feel like we’ve got a great group of guys. We’ve just got to keep pushing it and keep having great days.”