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Durkin: Linebacker Shuffle Continues For Bears

By Dan Durkin-

(CBS) The Bears' revolving door at linebacker took another spin Thursday when D.J. Williams was placed on injured reserve due to a neck injury.

With the Bears eliminated from playoff contention and back-to-back matchups against two teams still alive in the NFC playoff hunt looming (New Orleans and Detroit), they can potentially play the spoiler role. And while they won't come out and admit it, it also affords Chicago the opportunity to evaluate personnel, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

On the surface, it seems as if Jon Bostic's best alignment in the league would be at weak-side linebacker, where he can use his quickness in space to keep his pads clean and read and react downhill. But against the Saints, he'll be manning the middle, marking the third different position he's started a game at this season.

The Bears have maintained that their linebacker roles are interchangeable. Coach Marc Trestman points back to training camp, when the Bears lined up Bostic at all three spots as a contingency plan, but it was also likely to get a better idea of where he's best suited to play.

"Part of the reason we moved him around during the course of training camp and early in the season is because if we did get in this position, he'd be able to handle it," Trestman said. "And if we decide that it's in the best interest of the team for him to go to that position, that's what we have to do. And Jon certainly understands that."

Bostic will be flanked by Shea McClellin on the strong side and rookie Christian Jones on the weak side.

"We've got Christian Jones, who's really come out of the free agent market – rookie free agent – comes in, has continued to progress, getting more reps and more playing time," Trestman said. "It's part of the developmental process of our football team right now. We're trying to develop players and play at a high level at the same time."

With jobs on the line -- both on the field and sideline -- the focus remains narrowed down to what the team's best configuration is to beat the Saints on Monday Night Football.

However, widening the lens a bit, it appears the Bears are playing their young players out of position. Not only does Bostic seem like a fit on the weak side, Jones seems like the team's most natural strong-side linebacker, as he has the athleticism to flip his hips and get to his zone drop or mirror a receiver in man coverage.

Looking ahead, inevitable changes will take place on the defensive side of the football, where the Bears may need as many as six new starters in 2015. While the last three games will provide an evaluation period about where they're at with the younger talent on the roster to help shape off-season priorities, like many of the Bears' decisions this season, it seems like they're going about it the wrong way.

Dan Durkin covers the Bears for and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.

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