The Chicago Bears have dealt with injuries on the defensive side of the ball for the past few years, especially in the secondary. This year has proved to be no exception.
Starting cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher are both becoming question marks week-by-week for their availability on Sundays. Vasher has a wrist injury and Tillman appeared at Halas Hall today with his arm in a black sling after a shoulder injury that took him out of Sundays game. Tillman’s replacement, Trumaine McBride, injured his shoulder later in the game and had to come out. Safety Danieal Manning suffered hamstring troubles and will also miss practice time this week. Oh, and don’t forget safety Brandon McGowan has already been put on injured reserve earlier in the season.
The Bears are a leg injury to Mike Brown away from complete disaster at the secondary. This is not a good way to go into a game against the Vikings and former teammate Bernard Berrian. The Bears could be forced to put second year corner Corey Graham and Marcus Hamilton, just signed from the Tampa Bay Bucs a few weeks ago as their starting corners.
Tillman and Vasher are still holding on to hopes of playing this Sunday, but neither are 100% and would have to play through the pain. This Sunday could be a repeat on last Sunday when the Bears did a great job of stopping the run but appeared helpless stopping the pass. The front four on defense will have to work twice as hard to get at the quarterback and create havoc. If the Vikings pass the ball a lot, they may force the Bears to take linebackers of the field (their strength) and put an extra corner on the field (their weakness).
The more I see of this Bears defense, the more I think we need to start talking about talented safeties coming out of college and entering next year’s draft. Coaches are making due with safeties and corners selected in fifth and sixth rounds of the past few drafts. Some have some talent but none are particularly ready to take on a starting role on their own. As good as the Bears defense may be, it lacks an intimidating presence at safety to put next to Mike Brown. Kevin Payne has emerged as a solid starter with his solid tackling and good coverage, but he cannot take on the load himself. After a couple injuries this defense gets thin very fast in the secondary.
The one bright spot is the Vikings commitment to the run and Adrian Peterson may force them to stick with the run and keep a more balance attack. The Bears defense can handle stopping the run and will certainly look for payback after Peterson torched them last season. However, at some point the Vikings will have to go to the air and if the Bears cannot find a way to put pressure on either the quarterback or the receiver, this could be an ugly game.