Philadelphia Eagles Could Be Without 3 Defensive Starters Sunday
The Chicago Bears offense has been incredibly disappointing all season long. The team is winning, but Mike Martz's presence has not produced the type of firepower everyone was expecting with Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Johnny Knox and Devin Hester.
The biggest problem has been the offensive line. It's not an overly impressive group to begin with, and Martz has never been known for his great blocking schemes. This has left Cutler open to hits and sacks.
Overall the Bears are 30th in the league in quarterback hits allowed (64) and are dead last in sacks allowed (37).
Those numbers are the only thing that give me hope the Eagles can improve to 8-3 this Sunday.
Cornerback Asante Samuel and defensive end Juqua Parker have not practiced all week long. Then in Thursday's practice, starting defensive tackle Antonio Dixon was forced to leave practice and took only mental reps on Friday.
Usually players missing practice on Friday means they're not going to play. All three guys have been listed as questionable (which means a 50-50 chance of playing), but head coach Andy Reid has said missing practice Friday does not necessarily mean they won't play. (UPDATE: Samuel has been officially ruled out and did not travel with the team to Chicago.)
Reid said during his Friday press conference that because Samuel and Parker are veteran guys, the mental reps don't mean as much for them. If they get to a point where they feel like they can play, even as late as Sunday afternoon, he would have no problem playing them.
As for Dixon, he only missed part of Thursday and did at least watch practice on Friday. Because of that, it's possible that Dixon could dress.
All three, according to Reid, are scheduled to make the trip to Chicago.
But even though they're all listed as questionable, the feeling is that Parker is probably more doubtful. No one seems to think he's going to play. In his place, rookie Brandon Graham becomes the starter once again.
Graham hasn't been overly impressive, but he has made some plays to show that he is coming along. Perhaps against a bad offensive line he can get his season on track and gain some momentum heading into the home stretch.
But if I'm Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, I'm praying to any god I can that Samuel plays. Without Samuel, Joselio Hanson and Dimitri Patterson become the starters.
Hanson has played well as the nickel corner, but he's just too small to play on the outside. The Bears don't have great receivers, but they're probably good enough to give Hanson fits.
That would also mean that rookie Trevard Lindley, who has been a healthy scratch more often than not, would see a lot of playing time in the nickel.
And for those who don't pay close enough attention, the Eagles probably run the nickel more than 50 percent of the time.
Jorrick Calvin and Brandon Hughes would be next in line should the Eagles play in a dime package, but it's likely the team would call on third safety Kurt Coleman before they resort to either of those guys.
If Dixon can't go, Brodrick Bunkley would step in and become the starter once again. Bunkley has seen a lot of time in a rotation and has been the starter for a few years now, so there's not too much cause for concern there.
That would just leave Bunkley and Mike Patterson as the starters, with Trevor Laws rotating in on passing situations or to give either guy a break.
With Parker and Dixon out, it's also possible that third-round pick Daniel Te'o-Nesheim could be active for only the third time this season and the first time since facing Tennessee in Week 7.
The replacements should be good enough to slow down an already-weak offense. The problem is that the Bears defense has shown they're more than capable of slowing down a good offense, so Chicago's offense might not need to do a whole lot of scoring to pull out a win.
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