Player D-coordinator: If not Nick Roach, then...?

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Player D-coordinator: If not Nick Roach, then...?

During the preseason, the Bears experimented with Blake Costanzo at middle linebacker with Brian Urlacher out while his injured knee healed. If they need to fill for Nick Roach on Sunday, Costanzo is the likely replacement with Dom DeCicco the latest roster addition.

But there are some other options, even if those options dont particularly like them.

One is to move Lance Briggs from his weak-side spot into the middle. Hes having none of that.

This is my 10th year, and Ive never played Mike. Briggs said on Thursday. It would be easier to play Sam. It would be easier for me to play nickel cornerback than it would be for me to play Mike.

It would indeed. Briggs was the starting strong-side linebacker his rookie season (2003) under Dick Jauron and Greg Blache. He has played the dime defensive back in the past because coach Lovie Smith reasoned that Briggs was better in coverage than the No. 4 cornerback or safety.

So why not Briggs to the strong-side spot and Geno Hayes to weak-side linebacker, where he has played his entire career?

Because then the Bears will have shuffled three different positions to fix one. At least with Roach going to the middle and Hayes to the strong side, its only two changes.

Another possible change would be rookie Shea McClellin to strong-side linebacker from defensive end. McClellin is being dropped into short zone coverages occasionally and was a hybrid linebackerpass rusher at Boise State.

The kid will pass, thank you very much.

Coaches want me to play defensive end and thats what Im focusing on right now, McClellin. I just want to get better at defensive end and not worry about another position.

Well see what happens.

Best guess is that McClellin could be used in different alignments against the Minnesota Vikings. He occasionally was even inside at defensive tackle against the Seattle Seahawks and was used to spy on mobile quarterback Russell Wilson.

Christian Ponder lacks Wilsons mobility but the need to flow to Adrian Petersons point of attack is critical, and McClellin may be positioned better to do that from an upright, two-point stance.

Hes athletic enough to drop back and do all those things, Briggs said. But no, were using him the right way. Our game plan and the way we run our defense is effective enough. You dont have to go out and do a bunch of extra things. If we just go out and play our solid defense, well be fine.

Chicago native Brandon McCoy returns home for McDonald's All-American Game

Chicago native Brandon McCoy returns home for McDonald's All-American Game

The 2017 McDonald's All-American Game will be without an Illinois high school basketball player for the second consecutive year.

While the local drought for elite IHSA talent continues, this year's McDonald's game at least has a Chicago native in the mix as 7-foot big man Brandon McCoy is returning home to participate in the game.

A native of the West Side of the city, McCoy moved to San Diego during his middle school years, but he still has a lot of family and friends in Chicago supporting him.

A five-star prospect who is deciding between Arizona, Michigan State, Oregon and UNLV, McCoy has already been back to Chicago once during his high school career to compete at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament as a junior.

McCoy will take the floor with the West Team at the United Center tonight as he's one of six uncommitted prospects in the game.

Ryan Hartman returns for Blackhawks vs. Penguins

Ryan Hartman returns for Blackhawks vs. Penguins

PITTSBURGH — Ryan Hartman has played on the right side of that line for most of this season. Now back in the lineup, he knows he has to stay on it.

Hartman will play after missing Monday's game as a healthy scratch when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. Hartman took a few bad penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct, against the Florida Panthers last weekend, so he sat vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning. The rookie knows he has to get back to the more disciplined hockey he's played most of the season. 

"I don't change my game. I think you take the message and deliver the message," Hartman said. "Obviously, no one likes to not play, everyone wants to play games and no one likes to sit out games. It's definitely something that I took to heart. I'm just going to go out there and just try to play like I've been playing and get on the scoresheet. Just stay off it for the wrong reasons."

Coach Joel Quenneville said Hartman has to stay on the right side of the line.

[VIVID SEATS: Buy Blackhawks tickets]

"Know there are boundaries and sometimes you get watched a little bit more," Quenneville said. "The way they're calling the game, the way it's being officiated, be respectful. You still have to be hard to play against and find that limit, how far you can push it but you get a good feel on that early in games."

The Penguins are on a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) and are dealing with some injuries. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, while Evgeni Malkin (shoulder) is close to returning, he won't play against the Blackhawks.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks lines

Nick Schmaltz-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Tanner Kero-Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
John Hayden-Dennis Rasmussen-Tomas Jurco

Defensive pairs 

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Johnny Oduya-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries 

Artem Anisimov (left leg)

Penguins lines

Conor-Sheary-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
Chris Kunitz-Nick Bonino-Patric Hornqvist
Scott Wilson-Carter Rowney-Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl-Oskar Sundqvist-Josh Archibald

Defensive pairs

Brian Dumoulin-Justin Schultz
Ian Cole-Chad Ruhwedel
Cameron Gaunce-Mark Streit

Goaltender

Marc-Andre Fleury

Injuries

Evgeni Malkin (shoulder), Trevor Daley (knee), Daniel Sprong (shoulder), Jake Guentzel (concussion), Olli Maatta (hand), Kris Letang (upper body), Carl Hagelin (foot), Ron Hainsey (upper body)