The first two plays of Thursday’s preseason opener gave Bears fans the full Nick Kwiatkoski experience. On the first play, the fourth-year linebacker pushed an offensive lineman back as he made a tackle near the line of scrimmage.
On the second, he got lost in space and allowed a big gain off of a dump off. He later overran a screen pass for another big gain.
Those plays look all too familiar, as it was Kwiatkoski regularly burned in the loss to Green Bay in the 2018 opener. It took less than one full game for Kwiatkoski to lose his job to Smith, despite the then-rookie missing almost all of the preseason. Ten years ago, Kwiatkoski would’ve been a star, but his failures in coverage make him unplayable against good offenses.
Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith are both among the 20 or so best inside linebackers in the league, with the latter likely cementing himself inside the top five this season. But health has always been an issue with Trevathan and last Thursday’s preseason game showed that the Bears simply can’t be without the veteran.
The Bears got 16 games out of Trevathan last year, but that was the first time he’s managed to play a full slate since his second season in the league. He missed four games in 2017, half the season in 2016, and all but three in 2014. He’s good enough that he’s worth having even if he misses a few games, but the Bears don’t have enough depth behind him.
The Bears must have known what Kwiatkoski was or they wouldn’t have drafted Joel Iyiegbuniwe, an athletic linebacker who, in theory, could replicate some of the sideline-to-sideline ability they get from Trevathan and Smith. But it was Kwiatkoski who proved to be the team’s top reserve linebacker, starting in place of Trevathan in the preseason opener. And Iggy wasn’t even next up as Kevin Pierre-Louis, a journeyman with one career start, came in when Smith left the lineup. At this point, is Iggy fighting for a roster spot?
Hopefully the Bears can keep their starting inside linebackers on the field in 2019.