LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears tacked on even more depth at linebacker in the fourth round Saturday by taking their second consecutive player at the position in Khaseem Greene of Rutgers with the 117th pick overall.
The selection came on the heels of the team taking Florida linebacker Jonathan Bostic on Friday in the second round, and alleviates depth issues for a linebacking corps that had already lacked in that area, even before the departures of future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach. The Bears picked up D.J. Williams and James Anderson in free agency as starters, but signed them to one-year contracts, and stalwart Lance Briggs, who turns 33 in November, has a deal that runs through 2014.
“I’m just ready to get down there and go to work,” Greene said. “I’m just extremely happy and excited to be in this position to come into such a great organization and be able to compete. As far as coming in and starting, I’m just gonna take it one day at a time. I’m just looking to come in, compete and contribute in any way I can.”
So while it’s likely Greene (6-0, 241 pounds) will serve as a reserve in 2013 and a core special teams player, he could potentially become a starter the next season, or in 2014, provided he beats out some of the other players already on the roster. Greene projects as a Tampa-2 weak side linebacker, which makes him a logical candidate to be the heir apparent to Briggs.
Given general manager Phil Emery’s preference for versatility, it’s not a surprise the team chose Greene.
A converted free safety, Greene played 13 games with one start at the position in 2009 before starting all 13 games in 2010. Greene led Rutgers in interceptions in 2010 (three), finished fourth on the team in tackles (77, including 10 touchdown-saving stops), and forced four fumbles, in addition to breaking up three passes.
“I think the most important thing is (playing safety) taught me the value of coverages, covering slots, covering tight ends and covering running backs once I moved to linebacker,” Greene said. “Safety was just great to me as far as the coverage aspect and developing my speed.”
Greene moved from safety to outside linebacker during spring practice prior to the 2011 season, and the transition appeared seamless as the new Bear earned All-Big East honors, in addition to being named the conference’s co-Defensive Player of the Year; marking the first time a Rutgers player won that award. Greene finished that season with 141 tackles, which ranked as No. 5 on Rutgers single-season record list. Greene also posted 3.5 sacks.
Greene’s production dipped as a senior in 2012, but only slightly (136 tackles). A Bednarik Award semifinalist, Greene posted double-digit tackle totals in four consecutive games.
Greene fits the profile of the run-and-hit type of linebacker Chicago typically covets, and as a converted safety, he’s shown an impressive feel for pass coverage that should be an asset for the Bears. Greene broke up six passes and picked off two more as a senior.
Opposing quarterbacks completed just 15 of 99 passes thrown in Greene’s area in 2012 for 88 yards. Greene has also shown a knack for forcing turnovers, which should bode well for him the Bears, who led the NFL in 2012 with 44 takeaways.
“I don’t give up on any play … I’m in front of the guy trying to put my face on the ball to try to cause a fumble,” Greene said. “My mentality is I want to get the ball back to my offense, or it would be even better for the defense to pick it up and score. It’s always instilled in my head.”