You know how analysts or pundits will say that “Player X at 80 percent is better than most players at 100 percent” or something like that to tap dance around an injured player suiting up out of necessity?
The Philadelphia Eagles do, and they’re going to need to believe that on Sunday night for the sake of their defense.
And if it doesn’t hold true…the season may just be over.
Right now, the Chicago Bears are a perfect tonic for a bad defense, and an even better one for a potentially potent offense.
They have no offensive identity, Jay Cutler averages two turnovers a game and Matt Forte—who had a breakout rookie season and looked ready to emerge as an elite back—is averaging yards per game and has been fairly pedestrian in seven of nine games.
Defensively, they’re down three starters and can’t stop anyone. Since a hot 3-1 start—which included a win over the Steelers—the Bears are 1-4 (with the win against the Browns) and have given up more than 40 points twice in that span.
And yet, this is the one game where the defense is going to have to have a monster game.
But outside of the front four, it’s a big ol’ mess on Sean McDermott’s side.
At linebacker, the Eagles will most likely trot out their fifth different combination of starters this season. Moving Chris Gocong to the middle didn’t really work out, so with Akeem Jordan still out, it appears as if Joe Mays will become the fourth different man to start at the MIKE.
Gocong moves back to the SAM spot, with usual MIKE Will Witherspoon making his second straight start at the WILL. It will be a patchwork lineup, but even a decent game will be a huge step in the development of Mays, whose stock fell faster and harder than just about anyone not named Reggie Brown.
As rough as the linebacker situation may seem, it’s worse in the secondary…and if it wasn’t for that “80 percent” player, it might be disastrous.
Sheldon Brown, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Chargers, has been limited in practice but is expected to start on Sunday.
That’s a good thing, because Brown at 80 percent probably is, in fact, better than 100 percent of any other active corner on the roster who could play alongside Asante Samuel.
Unfortunately, hamstring injuries are usually nagging and all it takes is one tweak to shoot his season to pieces. That’s a bad thing, because beyond him is Dmitri Patterson—a special teams ace who himself is coming off a pair of injuries—and the recently-signed duo of Ramzee Robinson and Jack Ikegewuonu.
And that’s the strong half.
While both starting safeties, Quentin Mikell and Sean Jones, are healthy and ready to go, the return of Macho Harris will be huge.
Quintin Demps’ ankle has kept him from practicing all week and he is out for Sunday, so Harris is the only depth behind the starters. But he missed practice Wednesday with an eye infection, and while the rookie returned on Thursday, he will have to play with a visor on his helmet.
He’ll also be returning kicks in the absence of Demps and Ellis Hobbs, so if there are any flare-ups of the infection, it could mean huge trouble in paradise.
Good thing the Bears are in flux.
Sean McDermott said when he took over as defensive coordinator that it would be a smooth transition and not much would change from Jim Johnson’s regime.
Surely he meant it, but this Sunday he’s going to have to work magic with his unit that would make even Johnson proud.
If he can manipulate the smoke and mirrors and hold it together, a win over the Bears would give the Birds a huge leg up in the playoff race—especially with games still left against both the Giants and Falcons.
If not, it could mean the season.
Welcome to Chicago.