The Bears lost quarterback Rex Grossman for the season to a knee injury that occurred in a noncontact scramble for a touchdown. Let's take a closer look at all the injuries, and their impact on the matchups.
Quarterback Rex Grossman will be replaced by Jonathan Quinn. Quinn has been a backup for most of his NFL career, but is well-versed in Terry Shea's offense from their days together in Kansas City. He's a bigger, stronger quarterback than Grossman, but has a slower release and doesn't move as intuitively in the pocket. Right guard Mike Gandy has missed most of the last two games to a hamstring injury. Steve Edwards, last year's surprise starter at guard, has played well in his place. Gandy returned to practice on Wednesday and the team is hopeful he will return for this game. Whoever lines up there will see a major challenge against tackle Corey Simon. Tight end Desmond Clark (ankle) was injured late last week in practice, and played sparingly in the Vikings' game. If he isn't ready to play, Dustin Lyman will be the main target, and John Gilmore will see more action when two tight end sets are utilized. Since the Bears will be facing a big challenge to protect Quinn from the Eagles' rush, and only have four wideouts on the roster, expect to see two tight end formations with great regularity.
The Eagles lost pass rusher N.D. Kalu for the season to a knee injury. They are still stacked at the position with Derrick Burgess, Hugh Douglas and Jerome McDougle to provide pressure opposite elite pass rusher Jevon Kearse. Darwin Walker is probable, but nicked up with multiple leg injuries at right defensive tackle. If he isn't in top form, his matchup with veteran Ruben Brown could be one the Bears choose to exploit.
Look for the Bears to use a game plan similar to the one employed against Green Bay, where they focused on the running attack. They'll run heavily into the teeth of a run blitzing 8-man front for the opportunity to find a crease and break off a long run. The Eagles' main weakness is the 5.4 yards per carry they are allowing this season. In the passing game, maximum protection will be the order of the day. The Eagles are known for sending everyone from anyplace on the field to apply suffocating pressure on the quarterback (14 sacks). It will be no different on Sunday. Defensive end Jevon Kearse (3 sacks) is one example of a team's best pass rusher playing over the offense's right tackle. It will provide an excellent opportunity for Bear fans to see why John Tait is paid big money and remains on the right side.
The Eagles lost guard Shawn Andrews and have filled in with Artis Hicks at left guard and moved Jermane Newberry to right guard. The loss of fullback Jon Ritchie is especially painful to the Eagles. He'll be missed in all phases of the offense. Rookie Thomas Tapeh might be called upon to take over, or the recently re-signed Dorsey Levens could be tried at the position. Tight end L.J. Smith is questionable with a shoulder injury. He and Chad Lewis have combined for a very potent and underrated portion of the Eagles' passing game. If he cannot play, it will minimize some of the mismatches the Eagles like to exploit. Strong side linebacker Marcus Reese is close to full strength. He and Joe Odom will continue to split time at that position until one of them steps up and stakes a claim to the position. Injuries at fullback and tight end will make things a little easier on the inexperienced strong side linebackers of the Bears.
Brian Urlacher is questionable after aggravating a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined through the preseason. His status may change negatively by game time because the Bears have a bye week after this game that they may use to give him an extra week to heal. Hunter Hillenmeyer is Urlacher's replacement. The Bears' secondary is down to one regular starter, strong safety Mike Green. R.W. McQuarters starts at one cornerback. He was originally third on the depth chart behind Charles Tillman and Jerry Azumah. Rookie Nathan Vasher will get the start at the other corner for Todd McMillon, who started last week. Todd Johnson is again expected to get the nod at free safety for Mike Brown (Achilles). Strong safety Bobby Gray (stinger) saw his status improved to probable during the week. His return to regular sub packages will give stability to a group ravaged by injuries. Johnson and Vasher will need to be ready to face an Eagles' passing attack which is led by Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens. McNabb hasn't thrown an interception, has thrown for 8 touchdowns, and is averaging close to 290 yards per game.
Bears' Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera was on the Eagles' coaching staff last season. Between studying and scheming for opponents, he must have had some time to understand what was happening on the other side of the ball. Perhaps Rivera knows a thing or two about his former team's tendencies that he can impart to the Bears. Maybe he can find schemes that will work against their potent attack, and even account for all of the losses in personnel on the Bear defense. It's not likely it will make a difference, but then who thought they had a chance to beat Green Bay?