Top 5 Players the Chicago Bears Could Least Afford to Lose This Season


With recent news that Brian Urlacher missed his 4th straight practice with a sore knee, I’ve been giving thought to the notion of what might happen if Urlacher misses any significant time this season.  We’ve seen that show before, back in ’09 when Urlacher suffered a season-ending wrist injury and it wasn’t pretty.  Expectations for the 2012 Bears are sky high and one of the only things that could derail this season would be injuries, God forbid!  So this got me to thinking about this latest Top 5 list – the Top 5 Players the Chicago Bears could afford to lose this season.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Jul 26, 2012; Bourbonnais, IL, USA; Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman walks to the practice field during the opening day of training camp on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

#5 – Charles Tillman

The Bears secondary could be a primary concern for the Bears this season, but we’re mostly concerned about the revolving doors at safety.  Peanut is coming off his first Pro Bowl season and usually draws the opposing team’s top wide receiver.  Tim Jennings has had a great camp and plays the Cover-2 well opposite Tillman, but he’s not ready to go against the Calvin and Andre Johnson’s of the world.

The Bears brought in Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite via free agency and drafted a couple of cornerbacks in the 6th and 7th round of last April’s draft.  Those are some nice depth pieces, but they’re not the Pro Bowl caliber player that Tillman is.  If Peanut goes down, the dropoff is serious and could cost us a few games if he misses any time.

#4 – Brandon Marshall

May 23, 2012; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall (15) during organized team activities at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

It’s strange to have a guy on the list who hasn’t played a single snap for the Bears, but Marshall is no ordinary offseason acquisition.  The addition of a legit wide receiver and a Pro Bowl caliber one at that is the source of the optimism surrounding this Bears team.  Marshall will change the Bears offense in a way we cannot imagine.  He will make those around him better; Cutler, Bennett, Hester, Forte, et al.

If Marshall were to go down, the Bears wide receiver group looks a lot like it did last year.  Rookie Alshon Jeffery would be thrust into a bigger role than the Bears had intended for him this early on.  Hester and Bennett would return to familiar roles and the Bears offense would probably end up a middling unit and not a group with Super Bowl dreams.

#3 – Jay Cutler

Jul 26, 2012; Bourbonnais, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws a pass during the opening day of training camp on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

When Jay went down after Week 10, the 2011 season went up in flames.  All the Bears had to do was go .500 in their last 6 games and a playoff berth was all but assured.  But the Caleb Hanie Project went so horribly awry, so the Bears invested in some veteran depth behind Jay Cutler, bringing in Jason Campbell as the backup.

You might be surprised that I have Cutler so far down the list, but Campbell is a legit NFL quarterback and many have argued that he could start for more than a few teams in the league.  If the unthinkable were to happen and Cutler went down again, it would be a big blow to the Bears, but I don’t think it is a season-ender.  Campbell has enough to keep this team afloat and win a few games.

June 12, 2012; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) runs during Bears-Minicamp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-US PRESSWIRE

#2 – Brian Urlacher

Urlacher is the quarterback of the defense and what he brings is unequaled.  In the Cover-2, the Mike linebacker has to have tremendous range and enough speed to cover the deep middle of the field.  You would think that the Bears would have invested in the position given Urlacher’s age and the fact that he’s coming off a knee injury in Week 17 to close last season.  The only addition to the linebacker group was Geno Hayes, a veteran outside linebacker.

If Urlacher were to go down, Nick Roach would take over in the middle linebacker and Hayes would most likely take over for Roach at the strong side linebacker.   I guess we’ll find out, since Urlacher will most likely miss the preseason opener against the Broncos.  If ‘Lach were to miss any significant time, I don’t think it would be the disaster that ’09 was, but it would be damaging because the Bears still haven’t really addressed the depth at linebacker, unless you’re in the camp that first round draft pick Shea McClellin is Urlacher’s heir apparent.  That might be, but not this season anyway.

Jul 26, 2012; Bourbonnais, IL, USA; Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers walks to the practice field during the opening day of training camp at Olivet Nazarene University. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

#1 – Julius Peppers

Lovie Smith’s defense relies on creating pressure with the front four.  As much as I like Izzy Idonije, Henry Melton and Stephen Paea, the Bears defensive line is nothing without Peppers.   The opportunities that the other D-linemen get are largely created because Peppers is drawing double teams.  He’s a freak of nature and his stat line rarely reflects his impact on the field.  That’s why Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo were knocking on his door at the stroke of midnight when Free Agency opened a couple of years ago.

If Peppers went down, the Bears’ entire scheme and defensive mindset would change.  Izzy would hold down one end and either McClellin or Corey Wooten might anchor the other side.  That doesn’t exactly strike fear into the opposing offenses, does it?

What do you think?  Who is the player the Bears could least afford to lose this season?  If they lost any one of these guys for a significant amount of time, (Papa Bears forbid!), could the Bears live up to the playoff expectations for this season?  Let’s hear your thoughts in the Comments.

BEAR DOWN!!!

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  • WindyCityZ

    Just reading this makes me nervous.

    • BearGogglesOn

      How do you think I felt writing and researching this? It’s crazy to think how an injury to a key player could derail your season, but we’ve seen this before, as recently as last season. It’s why depth is such a huge key on any Super Bowl contender.

  • John Mack

    I’ll make an argument for one of the hardest working men in the NFL…Lance Briggs. Correct me if I’m wrong (and I probably am) but Briggs being the Will LB lines up in the backfield with corner opposite Peanut (usually Jennings) and the safety covering the zone(s) that direction. While Peppers will anchor that side of the ball in the front, no Briggs in the middle and questions at the safety covering the exposed lanes would also put Briggs in a necessary personnel category, right?

    I think next draft (certainly depending on deficiencies exhibited this season) we choose specifically substantial players on the defensive side of the ball. By “specifically substantial” I mean 2 defensive players drafted in the first 3 rounds. But we’ll see.

    • BearGogglesOn

      Briggs gets an honorable mention but when he missed a game a couple of years ago, I think Jamar Williams made like 18 tackles in his place. The Will linebacker spot is a key in the Cover-2, but the defense is kind of designed for this linebacker to make a ton of tackles. Briggs, being exceptionally talented, makes huge plays and has gotten multiple trips to the Pro Bowl for his efforts. If Briggs were to miss any significant time, I think it would hurt the Bears but not as much as one of these other guys.