The Bears are crying out for the defense of an inside linebacker who can cover passing situations like Roquan Smith does, or at least somewhere near his level.
This is because Danny Trevathan has reached a point in his NFL career where there are real questions about his overall abilities.
Trevathan is now 31 years old and has just had the worst season he has seen in the league, in terms of Pro Football Focus player ratings, but also in most stat categories in general.
PFF ranked him 76th out of 78 linebackers, but that doesn’t mean Trevathan is too old or unable to bounce back. The 30-year-old age for linebackers isn’t quite a death knell, and PFF stats prove it.
Five of last year’s top nine linebackers were in their 30s at the start of the season. Trevathan was the only one in his 30s to make the bottom 10.
The inability of the new defensive coaches to take a look at Trevathan on the pitch so far due to the lack of defensive starters from the voluntary practices at Halas Hall has made the assessment difficult.
“It’s great to see him on the Zoom call and we see each other a bit and talk about different things,” Bears inside linebacker coach Bill McGovern said. “But being on the pitch and executing a defense with what’s going on is what I can’t wait to do.
“And Danny can really show you he can make plays when he’s able to bounce really well on the court.”
They’ll get a closer look at how much Trevathan has left when full defense reports for a three-day minicamp next week.
What the Bears need to determine is how much more Trevathan can contribute to pass coverage and how much better he really is as a run defenseman than he showed last year.
There were never any questions about Trevathan against the run, but the loss of nose tackle Eddie Goldman last year has left inside linebackers exposed at times. Normally the nose eats blockers, often a pair. And Goldman did it right so Trevathan and Smith could sink to make the tackle.
Last year, 35-year-old fullback Adrian Peterson ran for 93 yards in Game 1 and the defense didn’t look the same against the run. Too often linebackers seemed in the wrong gap to make a save. No doubt the absence of Goldman explains part of the difference, but to what extent? The Bears have never placed higher than 14th against the run after Week 2 and finished 15th, their worst result since 2016.
Trevathan found himself on the field for 352 running snaps and 480 defensive passing snaps. It might be time to cut back on those pass cover clichés with staff packages more often using an additional defensive back, but the Bears will have to study it.
As the undisputed general of the defense since 2016, he owes him at least this courtesy.
Danny Trevathan in brief
Career: 10th season, 722 tackles, 29 for losses, 39 assists defended, seven forced fumbles and 10 sacks.
2020: 113 tackles, three for loss, five defended, one forced fumble, one sack.
The number: 46. Although Trevathan had his second-highest sack total at 113, 46 of them were assists. The total was the highest of his career.
2021 projection: 104 tackles, 4 for loss, five defended passes, two forced fumbles, two sacks.