Replacing Lance Briggs is Harder for Bears than Replacing Jay Cutler

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Oct 20, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) carries the ball as Chicago Bears outside linebacker Lance Briggs (55) dives to make the tackle in the first quarter at FedEx Field. Cutler was injured on the play. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest headlines of the day on Monday were reserved for Chicago Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who went down in a heap midway through the second quarter of the Bears’ 45-41 loss to the Redskins.  That’s not surprising; the quarterback is generally regarded as the most important player on the team.  Cutler will be out at least 4 weeks and Josh McCown will be pressed into action.

But what if your defensive quarterback gets hurt in the same game?  That’s what the Bears are faced with over the Bye week; not only replacing Cutler but also replacing linebacker Lance Briggs, who will miss 4-6 weeks with a shoulder.  I would argue that replacing Briggs, the quarterback of the defense, is a bigger challenge for the Bears.

The Bears defense is struggling mightily, en route to a historically bad season.  How bad is it?  According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears rank 31st in overall team defense, just one spot ahead of the train wreck known as the winless Jacksonville Jaguars and the Bears rank DEAD LAST in run defense, scoring a horrible -39.0 for the season so far.

The one player who has been playing at a consistently high level was Briggs.   He ranks among only 7 Bears defenders with a ranking above zero and he’s the top defender against the run with a +3.7 rating.  What happens to the putrid run defense when their top rated player is out?

Briggs is also responsible for getting the calls from the sidelines and getting everyone lined up.  Along with fellow walking wounded Peanut Tillman, Briggs is the most accomplished and tenured Bears defender.  He knows the system better than anyone else.  

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