Everybody’s watching left tackle, especially against the Giants’ Super Bowl-devastating pass rush and fearing for Jay Cutler’s life in New York this Friday when the Bears play their one moderately important practice game.
Left tackle is the position that many believe is the position that will determine whether the Bears fly or die in this Super Bowl-contending season.
You know how it works: Cutler can’t hit Brandon Marshall, Devin Hester, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett or Lovie Smith’s fantasy tight end Kellen Davis if he’s a chalk outline.
But guess what? Maybe not.
Or at least, maybe not left tackle in a rout in ranking Bears potential season-killing issues, and here’s why:
There’s reason to question whether the Bears can stop the run without Brian Urlacher.
Heck, there’s reason to question it even with the future Hall-of-Famer until we see the 34-year-old, post-op middle linebacker return to something close to his freakish ways.
What’s more, because there’s also reason to question Urlacher’s regular attendance during the regular season, no matter how many times he says, “Sept. 9,’’ this could get messy.
Most of the time, you can’t use raw stats from practice games with a lot of confidence, but still, giving up an average of about 4.0 yards per carry is August is not attractive.
The Bears’ starting defense was better after giving up 40 yards rushing on Washington’s first series Saturday, but still, the Bears’ starting defense gave up 40 yards rushing on Washington’s first series Saturday.
That’s why the Bears’ run defense is worth a conversation.
Fact is, the Bears lose about two of every three games that Urlacher misses, and when he misses games, the Bears miss a lot of gaps.
That might not mean a thing against the dogbreath Colts in the opener, but do the Bears really want to give up another 180-something rushing yards to the infuriating Cedric Benson in addition to whatever it is that Aaron Rodgers might feel like doing in that second game?
If you’re an opponent who wants to mitigate the Bears’ weapon of pass destruction Julius Peppers, then you scheme to run the ball and make Peppers fight through the trash without the payoff of finding a vulnerable quarterback.
The Bears want to play as much Tampa-2 as they can, but that doesn’t happen unless the defensive tackles blow up everything. My kingdom for a Pro Bowler, but for now, the first guy to slow the run gets a roster spot and the first guy to stop a tailback for no gain gets to start.
In concert with the scheme is Urlacher’s incredible athleticism. From the offensive backfield to the secondary and sideline to sideline, Urlacher has fixed a lot of issues. Nick Roach is a nice player in Urlacher’s stead, but he can’t fix those issues.
Truth is, I’m not sure Urlacher could fix the Bears’ latest attempt to forfeit the safety position, but you get the point.
Interestingly, if J’Marcus Webb can play the left tackle position he was given, or if Chris Williams can play the position Webb was given, then the Bears’ run defense will get a lot better. Do the math:
Cutler gets protection, it’s all you can eat with jump balls down the field, the big targets get a lovely parting gift in the red zone, the Bears run up big leads, and the opponent gives up trying to run the ball as it fights to come back from a big deficit.
OK, so maybe left tackle indeed is THE issue for this week’s Friday night lights.