Briggs Still Recovering
"I'm not optimistic," coach Marc Trestman said today. "After today we'll know a little bit more and tomorrow we'll see what the trainers want to do and what he wants to do."
The Bears are just waiting for the bone chip to heal before Briggs can be cleared to practice and play.
"It's just the healing of the bone and where that is right now," said Trestman.
Khaeeme Greene will start for the seventh straight week. The Bears could really use Briggs' ability on the field, as both Greene and fellow rookie Jon Bostic have struggled mightily against the run.
"I think [Greene] is progressing," coordinator Mel Tucker said. "He's playing more and he's seeing more plays live and he's getting closer and closer to making more plays. And so he does show up in the games and he does make some plays. There are more plays that he can make and we feel like he'll make those plays when presented those opportunities. But it's a work in progress."
Anderson, What Happened?
According to Pro Football Focus, amongst all 4-3 outside linebackers in the league, no one is worse at stopping the run than Chicago strong-side linebacker James Anderson – and it's not even close. Anderson's -20 grade against the run is 7.5 points lower than the second worst run stopping OLB (Minnesota's Chad Greenway).
A lot of folks have pointed to the injuries at defensive tackle – as well as the inexperience of Bostic and Greene – as the main culprits for Chicago's 32nd ranked run defense. Yet Anderson deserves his fair share of the blame. A seven-year veteran who has played in 4-3 defenses his entire career, Anderson has been nonexistent against the run and is far too easily blocked on every rushing play. He's been good in coverage, so Anderson has value there, but against the run, he's been a total bust this season.
On the Verge of Infamy
Chicago's defense has allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of the past six contents. One more 100-yard runner and the Bears will set a new NFL record in futility against the run.
The coaching staff is aware of the problem, although they haven't yet found any sort of solution.
"Improving our run defense will help quite a bit," Tucker said. "I think shoring up our run defense, getting more guys to the ball, shedding blocks, tackling better will just help us improve as an overall defense and that's what we have to do with the guys that we have.
"When we meet here within the next hour, I'm going to go into that meeting and our coaching staff with tremendous confidence that we can improve in areas where we need to improve through coaching and through learning and through practice reps and things like that in order to be better in the next outing. That's where our focus is. We don't spend a whole heck of a lot of time talking about getting guys back because that's not the deal. The deal is who do we have right now, getting those guys up and running as best we can and then preparing them to play, and we feel confident that we can get that done."
"You always have primary and secondary support in the secondary, and if you're a primary support guy you make sure that if the ball attacks your gap that you're there to make the play or if the ball goes away make sure you leverage the ball and keep it inside and in front," said Tucker. "If you're a secondary run-force guy, you play pass first and if a run shows you fill the lanes based upon where the ball carrier is and then keep the ball inside and make sure it doesn't get through. That's what you have to do on the back end."
Paea Still Dealing with Toe
Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea is one of the team's best run stoppers when healthy. Unfortunately for the Bears, Paea has been dealing with a nagging turf toe injury since before the bye. He played last week but sparingly, on the field for just 18 snaps. As is the case with Briggs, if Paea can somehow get healthy soon, Chicago may have a chance at returning to respectability.
"We rolled [Paea] a bit and that was the plan to make sure we rolled the guys in there and based upon the flow of the game and things like that. We're going to need him to play well for us moving forward," Tucker said. "And we'll continue to roll those guys and sometimes the flow of the game or things like that kind of dictate who plays and who doesn't. I feel good about him in there inside at the nose spot."
Bracing for Gordon
The Bears will face Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon this week, who has been outstanding of late. Over the past four games, Gordon has 774 receiving yards, which is an NFL record. He has seven 100-yard games this year and five touchdowns in his last four games.
Right now, Gordon is playing on Megatron's level, which will pose major problems for Chicago's secondary on Sunday.
"[He has] big-play ability," said Tucker. "He has a large catch radius. He's fast. He can take a 5-yard slant and turn it into a 60-yard touchdown. Just really he's playing with a lot of confidence. The quarterbacks have confidence in him to go up and make plays. He can catch the ball in a crowd and win the contested one-on-one battle. He's a really good player. Really good."
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