Veteran linebacker Lance Briggs has picked up the mantle of directing the defense after the retirement of Brian Urlacher. The mechanics of getting the calls in from the defensive coaches has gone smoothly, perhaps not surprising given Briggs’ Robin role to Urlacher’s Batman for the better part of the last decade.
But it has not been without an occasional hiccup.
Knowing the defense isn’t the problem. Briggs knows that. Besides, he’s got “assistant coach” Charles Tillman helping with the secondary, and Julius Peppers needing next to zero direction up front.
The “problem” for Briggs, however, is simple geography.
Urlacher was in the middle. He could see everything to either side and in front of him. Briggs as a weakside linebacker ever since his 2003 rookie season has lived his career on the outside, frequently with no one in front of him.
So how does he make a tweak, for instance, if it involves the gap defensive tackle Henry Melton is shading toward, or strongside linebacker James Anderson’s spacing or depth, when Briggs is clear on the other side of the defense?
“It can be tough,” Briggs told CSNChicago.com, “but when the offense breaks [the huddle], I’m in the middle of the field and might make certain checks. The only time I’m far removed is if there’s a slot, ‘trips’ or things like that. If that’s the case, I do get help from the other linebackers, the cornerbacks and the safeties.
“As opposed to years past, when you had Brian in the middle of it all, now everybody is helping a little more, everybody taking more ownership and communicating.”