Injuries taking a real toll on Chicago Bears linebackers
There was bad news for the Bears on Saturday at Halas Hall, and it has absolutely nothing to do with quarterbacks.
Along with wide receiver, quarterback clearly has been the Bears’ weakest position in the first quarter of the 2017 season, and along with the controversial trade the Bears made to move up one spot in the first round of last spring’s draft and that they then used the No. 2 overall pick to draft Mitch Trubisky, it is completely understandable why there is so much focus on him.
But Trubisky won’t be the biggest question mark on the field for the Bears on Monday night; that will be at the position thought to be the club’s strongest entering the 2017 season, which has now become its thinnest.
The Bears were deep enough at inside linebacker that when Jerrell Freeman went down for the year with a torn pectoral muscle it appeared that they had the depth to overcome his loss.
Even when his backup, Nick Kwiatkoski went out indefinitely with a chest injury a week later it was thought to be good news when it was discovered his injury wasn’t season-ending.
But Saturday, Fox confirmed that Kwiatkoski had not been able to practice at all this week, and he said starting outside linebacker Willie Young had missed practice for a second straight day after being limited in practice on Thursday, leaving the Bears dangerously thin in the middle.
While both Kwiatkoski and Young are listed as doubtful for Monday night, it is likely both will be out, leaving Leonard Floyd as the only Bears starting linebacker who will be on the field.
Granted Pernell McPhee is a former starter who will step in first for Young, and Sam Acho provides solid depth, but McPhee still is not 100 percent and it’s unlikely he could go 60 minutes if he had to.
Discussing McPhee’s availability Thursday defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said, “I’m not sure.
“There was some talk about a pitch count early. That [30 snaps in Green Bay] was a little bit higher than the original one, and nobody has said anything, so, you know, I think it’s more or less up to him right now and see how he’s feeling.”
What we’ve seen from McPhee over the past season and a quarter is the more he’s on the field, the less effective he becomes.
Still, that’s not the Bears’ biggest problem.
Christian Jones is the Bears No. 4 inside linebacker, John Timu is five and Jonathan Anderson is six, Timu and Anderson started the year on the practice squad, and Jones and Timu will be starting vs. Minnesota.
I asked Fox today if having so many backups at linebacker causes him to ask more of his D-line and secondary, and he told me, “Well it’s a little bit like Danny Trevathan, you know we’ve lost him this game. It’s not to injury but to suspension, so I know people get tired of hearing it, but it is next man up, you know, you’ve got a guy that might replace him, you’ve got a guy that might share the duty, but we’ve all got to be better.
“You know it’s usually not one guy; it’s how we play all 11 at once, depending on what phase is out there.”
Complicating things further is in addition to filling in for Trevathan, Fangio confirmed Timu will “pretty much” call the signals and lead the defense, but Fangio says he isn’t worried.
“Well we’re confident in John; John knows our defense.
“He’s been here for three years. The game’s not too big for him; he loves to play, and he is instinctive and smart.
“So we think he’ll go in there and do fine.”
Of course adding one more question mark, with Quintin Demps now on injured reserve, Adrian Amos will be one more backup in the middle of the Bears defense.
Trubisky is the story, but it appears the play of the Bears backup linebackers could dictate the outcome of this game.