Judging from remarks on Monday by coach Marc Trestman, the task of replacing Lance Briggs looms as more challenging than subbing for Jay Cutler. It has nothing to do with either player or their positions, but rather with what the Bears have for replacements.
Put another way, the Bears’ backup quarterback is better at his position than the Bears’ backup linebackers are at theirs.
Judge Trestman’s level of belief in his available relief for Cutler:
“We’re confident that Josh [McCown] can come in and run the team and why would anybody say, ‘Why not?’ after [the Washington game],” Trestman said. “The guys have confidence that he can take control of the huddle and move the football team.”
Now compare that to the difficulty of replacing the best player on the defense:
“We’re losing a great leader in Lance,” Trestman said. “Arguably we’re going to have to work very, very hard to recover but that doesn’t say we can’t.”
The Bears couldn’t against the Washington Redskins. The defense essentially collapsed when Briggs went out with his shoulder injury.
Who is tasked with preventing a repeat of that now is expected to resolve by a competition between Blake Costanzo and rookie Khaseem Greene, although the Bears were looking early this week at available veteran linebackers. Costanzo is listed on the depth chart as the backup strong-side linebacker; Greene is shown as Briggs’ backup. Jerry Franklin was active, listed at strong-side.
Costanzo has been “next man up” for the past two weeks, with five snaps against the New York Giants and 18 in Washington before leaving with leg cramps.
The Bears invested a fourth-round draft choice on Greene, a weak-side linebacker who projects as the heir to Briggs at some point. Greene was in for one snap last Sunday and drew an unnecessary roughness penalty.
One factor is that Costanzo is the Bears’ best special-teams player, second to Eric Weems in tackles and providing the final key block for Devin Hester’s TD punt return vs. Washington. Special teams assumes even greater significance with the Bears’ vulnerabilities elsewhere, and starters are typically not employed on “teams.”
As to who becomes the starting next-man-up, “We’ll sit down and get a plan together,” Trestman said. “That’s a great question and I can’t answer it right now but I’ll be able to answer it in the next few days as we proceed with putting this thing together.”
Next: CSNChicago.com assesses what changes could be coming at safety.