Bears 2021 training camp roster preview: Outside linebackers

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Chicago Bears training camp is less than a month away, which means it’s time to start looking ahead at the roster the team is bringing to Lake Forest.

We’ve covered the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line and inside linebackers. Now we’re moving on to the outside linebackers.

This position group is led by Khalil Mack, who had another impressive season for the Bears in 2020. But his counterpart Robert Quinn did not, which was certainly a concern given Chicago had signed him to a five-year, $70 million deal.

Can Quinn rebound following a rough year? Can reserve Trevis Gipson take a step forward? We’re taking a look at the Bears outside linebackers heading into training camp:

Khalil Mack

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Khalil Mack remains one of the best edge defenders in the NFL, even if his sack total hasn't been in double-digits since 2018. Last season, Mack tallied 47 tackles, nine sacks, 13 quarterback hits, 16 hurries, three forced fumbles, three passes defensed, one interception and one safety. According to Butkus Stats and Analytics, Mack also had five impact plays negated by penalty, including three sacks, one forced fumble, one run stop and one pass stop. Mack was voted to the All-Pro second team and was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded edge rusher. But he was a regular on the injury report, where he dealt with knee, back, ankle and shoulder injuries throughout the year. Assuming Mack can stay healthy, the hope is he can remain one of the NFL's top edge defenders while getting back to what he does best: getting after the quarterback.

Robert Quinn

AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

Robert Quinn was easily the Bears' most disappointing player in 2020, and that includes quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. The Bears gave Quinn a five-year deal worth $70 million, and his first year in Chicago was not worthy of that deal. While Quinn had a strip sack on his first play as a Bear, he only added one more sack for the rest of the season. Although, according to Next Gen Stats, Quinn was a top-10 disruptor in 2020, despite what his disappointing box score indicated. The good news is, Quinn is poised for a rebound, given he likely can't do worse than his two-sack 2020 season.

Jeremiah Attaochu

The Bears chose to move on from Barkevious Mingo this offseason and turned to a stud in Denver to help anchor the edge behind Mack and Quinn, signing Jeremiah Attaochu to a two-year deal. Last season, Attaochu appeared in 13 games with the Broncos, including five starts, and totaled five sacks, nine quarterback hits and 31 tackles. Attaochu filled in for an injured Von Miller with the Broncos last season, also serving as a rotational edge defender. He's a consistent run defender and has found success as a pass rusher, which should bode well for a Bears pass rush that needs to improve in 2021.

Trevis Gipson

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The Bears drafted Trevis Gipson in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL draft, where he was considered a developmental prospect. While he didn't see the field much in his rookie season -- playing in seven games and tallying five tackles -- the expectation is that he'll see an increased role as a reserve pass rusher heading into 2021. But Attaochu might serve as a roadblock to increased playing time, as Attaochu will serve as the top reserve behind Mack and Quinn. But he should slide into that second reserve role.

James Vaughters

AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo

James Vaughters carved out a role for himself as a reserve edge rusher last season with the Bears, where he tallied 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 14 games. Vaughters saw more playing time than Gipson last season, but that should change as Gipson is expected to see an expanded role in Year 2. Depending on how many outside linebackers the Bears decide to carry, Vaughters could find himself the odd man out if he doesn't have a solid camp. But it certainly helps that Vaughters is a key special teams contributor.

Charles Snowden

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Charles Snowden is easily the Bears most intriguing undrafted free agent they're bringing to camp. The former Virginia Cavalier standout was once considered a mid-round pick prior to the 2021 NFL draft, but fell in part due to an ankle injury suffered last season. In eight games last year, Snowden had 44 total tackles and six sacks for the Cavaliers. At 6-foot-6 and over 240 pounds, Snowden has drawn some comparisons to former Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd due to his quickness, length, and thin frame. He could see time at both defensive end and outside linebacker, but Snowden will have many opportunities to show he's worthy of a roster spot. He will be someone to watch in camp and when preseason games begin.

Ledarius Mack

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Khalil Mack's younger brother Ledarius remains part of the Bears organization, where he spent the 2020 season on the practice squad. While we never got to see what the younger Mack brought to the table, that should change with the return of public training camp practices and, most importantly, the preseason. While Mack isn't likely to make the 53-man roster, he's a prime candidate to make the practice squad once again.

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