The news from the Bears-Redskins game was disastrous in Chicago, and since the loss, the headline has almost always been about the team losing Jay Cutler for at least four weeks to a groin injury.
A serious loss and huge disappointment, no doubt.
But I’ve actually read entire stories at three highly respected sports sites that went in depth about Cutler, his future in Chicago and the remaining Bears playoff hopes for this season without him, without ever mentioning that the team’s quarterback on defense, Lance Briggs, was also lost in the Redskins game and is out for as long as six weeks.
I understand the NFL has become a passing league and a quarterback’s game, but as they relate to the Bears’ chances of remaining competitive and making the playoffs this year, the loss of Briggs is far more damaging and problematic than the loss of Cutler.
The offense is not as good with Josh McCown at quarterback as it is with Cutler. But McCown can be effective, and with Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, the offense has plenty of other front-line talents to rely on.
Conversely, the Bears’ defense was one of the weakest in the league with Briggs, and it was him alone keeping them above water.
Briggs’ production as a perennial Pro Bowler will be sorely missed. In addition to his outstanding physical abilities, he has developed an understanding of the Bears’ defense, instincts and an innate feel for the game that is matched by no more than a handful of players in the league.
For now, it appears Khaseem Greene, an untested rookie who is clearly not ready for prime time, will be asked to fill his shoes. He will not and cannot play with the confidence and ability to read and react of Briggs.
But Greene is a nice athlete who, while he will miss plays because of inexperience, will also make some plays because of his athletic ability and youthful aggression.
Greene for Briggs as the “Will” backer will hurt, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence.
Where the Bears lose much more is trying to fill Briggs’ role as the quarterback of the defense. It’s not just that Briggs gets the defensive calls from the sidelines and tells his 10 teammates what to do. He is also responsible for getting everyone lined up properly and then making adjustments.
As you watch the game, and you see linemen jumping around and linebackers and safeties popping in and out of holes, much if not all of that is being orchestrated by Briggs.
Marc Trestman has said he is considering either “Sam” backer James Anderson or “Mike” backer Jon Bostic for that role. While most are assuming it will fall to Bostic, my money is on Anderson.
Like Greene, Bostic is a rookie who is probably not ready for the starting role he inherited when D.J. Williams went down for the season against the Giants, let alone quarterbacking the defense. He graded out very poorly against the Redskins in his first start.
Physically, Bostic may be able, experience wise he clearly is not.
Finally there are the Bears deficiencies at other positions. The fact that Briggs may have been having his best season prior to the injury was helping at least a little to overcome the lack of production from the defensive line and safeties.
Asking Greene and Bostic to make plays is one thing. Asking them to cover for others as well is folly.
Here’s what has to happen for the Bears to stay above water until Briggs returns.
Chris Conte and Major Wright absolutely must figure out their responsibilities in coverage. Bostic and Greene have to at least resemble the players Phil Emery hoped they will be when he drafted them. And Julius Peppers, who’s been missing in action most of the season, absolutely must become Julius Peppers again.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at email@example.com.