With 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.