Briggs Stepping his Game

Lake Forest - 2004 has been a very good year for Lance Briggs. With a team leading 122 tackles so far this season, the second year LB has come a long way since joining the Bears.

Briggs first made his mark in 2003's training camp after coaches noticed his speed, technique, and agility. He played all 16 games as a rookie and started at SLB for the last 13 games of the season. Briggs' had 81 tackles last year, and flown by that total this year.

Despite a position change from strong to weak-side linebacker, he's on pace to become the first player to lead the team in tackles that isn't named Urlacher since Barry Minter in 1999.

There is talk of a Pro Bowl bid, but he hasn't been involved in a turnover or sack this season, which is often what makes the difference in voting.

"I think those are the things people are looking for, but when you've look at what he's done for us defensively I think he's done a lot of good things," said defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. "We're not having the success we'd love to have, but in the same respect he's having the results and doing the positive things that you hope each individual would do."

Early on, Briggs seemed to be a perfect fit for the Bears. At 6-1 and 238 lbs, he is not an overwhelming physical presence, but he more than makes up for that with his intelligence and high level of aggression on the field. Briggs is the prototypical linebacker under Lovie Smith's system, a fact that Briggs readily recognizes.

"I was excited when I found out that he was coming here," Briggs said. "I had good preparation for this type of football when I was at Arizona. That helped me make the transition both physically and mentally. This year, Coach Smith has put in a system that fits me well. He emphasizes conditioning and quickness which plays to my strengths."

Briggs is exactly where he feels he belongs and he is enjoying every minute of his on field time.

"The Bears have always had the reputation as a hard hitting defense oriented team," Briggs said. "What LB wouldn't want to be part of an organization like that? The change in coaching staff has been helpful for me personally. The new system was fairly simple to learn and it has proven to be very effective. It is something that all are able to execute on a consistently high level."

The one drawback that Briggs has noticed in Smith's gap control defense is that mistakes are hard to conceal.

"Under this system, if you have made a mistake, whatever you did wrong is up there for everybody to see. There's no place to hide, which is probably a good thing. It makes all of us play that much harder."

When asked if the continued success of the defense has put added pressure on the players, Briggs agreed but with some reservations.

"There are two ways to look at that. One is that from week to week you want to be noticeably better both individually and as a unit. That raises the bar for everybody so in that sense, yes, there is pressure. On the other hand, we are having so much fun that there isn't much pressure at all. Everybody is doing well because they enjoy the job. What could be better than being a defensive player for the Chicago Bears?"

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