Everyone knows that any hopes of making the playoffs and in turn making a playoff run rely on the core players of the Chicago Bears to stay healthy. There were plenty of stories coming into camp that surfaced around often injured players and there are plenty of instances that have occurred that justify us doing some catching up as we wait for practice this evening...
The Good: Offensive Line, Running Backs - Orlando Pace was a major acquisition but a big question mark when he was signed this off-season. Chris Williams was another big question mark after having back surgery last year and not getting on the field. Both appear to be in top shape early on in camp and have been performing excellent. As a result expect the entire offense to benefit from a quarterback having considerably more time and a running game with even a higher ceiling this year.
Matt Forte had some trouble with his hamstring in OTA's and took it a bit easy the first days of camp this year. From what I have seen I don't see any signs that this injury ever even occurred as he has had an outstanding summer. Kevin Jones could play a pivotal roll in the running game as well, he appears to be his healthiest in the his best shape since his early days with the Detroit Lions.
The Bad: Defensive Line - For the most part the defensive line has stayed healthy in preparation for the 2009 campaign with the only exception being its most important cog, Tommie Harris. When he is on, Harris is perhaps the best defensive tackle in the NFL. You can debate that but there is no question he is in the conversation.
The problem is that as of right now, he is behind schedule in where Bears fans would like to see Harris be after word came out that he underwent knee surgery again this past spring. As of now the Bears claim he will be ready to go on time and certain Chicago reporters (David Haugh) actually believe them. If Harris isn't 100 percent then the entire defensive front suffers. It takes away a double down on a tackle and allows there to be a double team elsewhere.
I understand he may be ready to play and be used a few downs against the Packers in week one but he's not on pace to be ready the way the Bears need him to be ready until at least week four or five. The rest of the defensive line being healthy helps a ton but the fact that Harris alone is injured makes this a bad situation a brewing for the Bears.
The Ugly: Defensive Backfield - This is a bad situation if all members are 100 percent and ready to go for week one but the fact that this is the most injured unit on the team is a scary thought. We all know that Charles Tillman had back surgery just before camp opened. He has been running and conditioning but is not ready to return to the field just yet.
I understand he may be in game shape come week one but do you really expect him to be at the top of the game if he hasn't practiced more than a week? Unlikely for even the best players in any sport, let alone a slightly above average corner back.
When it comes to everything physical with Nathan Vasher he appears healthy, just bad. Zack Bowman was supposed to be the saviour for the backfield in a safety position but he continues to fight the injury bug as he has a hamstring injury. Danaiel Manning has missed some time this pre-season but seems like he should be ready to go barring any major news. What does this all mean?
Potentially the starting defensive backfield could look something like this week one in Packerland: CB: Nathan Vasher
CB: Trumaine McBride/Corey Graham
Safeties: Kevin Payne/Danaiel Manning
Tell me that opposing quarterbacks won't look at that and just think to themselves, "time to eat".
With Tillman back they are still a weak group but he has the potential to be a pro bowler when healthy. We'll see how long it takes for Peanut to return to the field but as of now this is a very weak, weakest unit on the team. Due to what is left here this gets filed under "The Ugly."