Chicago Sun-Times

Why is Lance Briggs not an option to replace Urlacher?

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Briggs-Urlacher.jpgWith Brian Urlacher out because of a hamstring injury, the Bears' Plan B is set in stone: Nick Roach moves from the strong side to replace Urlacher in the middle and reserve Geno Hayes replaces Roach at the strong side.

Lance Briggs stays at the weak side. He always does.

But the question still stands: Would the Bears be better off if Briggs replaced Urlacher in the middle and Hayes replaced Briggs at the weak side?

Briggs is a seven-time Pro Bowl player at weak-side linebacker. But he's certainly qualiified to play the middle. He's a great athlete who played safety and running back in high school and fullback at Arizona before moving to inside linebacker as a sophomore. He has the experience and intelligence and is vocal enough to play the ''quarterback'' role in the defense.

And maybe more importantly, moving Briggs to the middle would allow Hayes to play his best position at weak-side linebacker. Hayes is a speed/flow player whose strength is getting to the ball. He played weak-side linebacker at Florida State and made 42 starts at the weak side with the Buccaneeers from 2009-11.

The strong side is not Hayes' best position. He fell out of favor in Tampa Bay last year after the Bears consistently blocked him to spring Matt Forte (25 carries, 145 yards, one touchdown) and Marion Barber (6-39, one touchdown) for long runs in the Bears' 24-18 victory in London. Hayes did not start the next three games and was not re-signed after the season.

And as productive as Briggs is at weak-side linebacker, the drop-off when he's out is not insurmountable. Jamar Williams was more than good enough in three of the four games he replaced Briggs -- including 12 tackles in the second half against Dallas in 2007 and 20 tackles and two pass-breakups against the Rams in 2009. Brian Iwuh had a team-high 12 tackles in place of Briggs against the Seahawks in 2010.

Maybe that's why Briggs plays through pain so well and has missed only four starts in 10 years. The Bears need his durability more than his versatility. But when Urlacher is hurting, it just seems odd that on a defense that thrives on versatile players -- safeties playing strong or free; ends playing tackle; and tackles who can play the nose or three-technique -- an athletic seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker plays only one position.

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2 Comments

Depite popular the belief that Briggs can play the middle, that belief is unfounded. Briggs is not only a will LB but he is really a Will LB meant to be in a Tampa two. Though he does not only play the weak side. The Bears move him between strong and weak side depending on where the defense wants to funnel the play. But that is was Briggs does well he plays pursuit well and he is really good at it. But if there is one weakness in his game, it's his coverage skill. He is only mediocre to average in coverage for a Will T2. To play the Mike in this scheme you need to be exceptional in coverage, you need to cover and read passiing plays better than any other Mike in any other scheme. That's not what Briggs does well, he plays the run well. It can be easily argued that Brian Urlacher is the Best coverage LB of all time. Brian was a former roving safety in college, this was the most ideal defense he could of been in.

But all you really need to know is what Briggs says whenever he is asked the question about playing the Mike. "I'm a will LB" He would know better than anyone if he should or should not play the position. In truth the question should be why isn't McClelling being moved. He more than anyone else on the team resembles Urlachers skill set and his time at End has been failure thus far. The only reason he is not being considered is because Lovie pulled his usual "Shea is an End and is only going to play end" BS. Much like his claim that Hester is a number 1 or even a receiver in general. He can never believe he is wrong. Just look at last week "I made the wrong call" "I would make that call again."

I think Shea will eventually replace Urlacher ...I think the bears do not acknowledge publicly because they don't want the kid to suffer a ton of media scrutiny his rookie year..plus I think the are trying to truly improve his pass rush skills...Urlacher has always been a very mediocre pass rusher...so they are taking the first year for that plus that was an area of need...probably next year he plays strong side and backs up Urlacher ..

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on December 5, 2012 11:06 AM.

Earl Bennett status for Sunday in doubt after concussion was the previous entry in this blog.

Jay Cutler says offense will continue to run through Brandon Marshall is the next entry in this blog.

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