There are many other names most people would put on top of the list in terms of importance for the Chicago Bears this season, but maybe linebacker Lance Briggs, who has probably seen his best days come and go, deserves to be named the most important player going into the 2014 NFL season.
The Bears missed the playoffs again last season, but actually there was less blamed put on Jay Cutler, the offensive line or the offense in general than in the past. If it wasn’t for a disappointing season from their defense, maybe the outcome and end date for the year would have been different.
The Bears ranked 30th out of the 32 defenses in the league. Maybe it was the departure of Brian Urlacher, and maybe it was simply hitting rock bottom for a defense that has been on a decline for quite some time, becoming known for its ability to score off turnovers, but not so much for stopping teams from getting into their end zone or picking up easy yards against them.
Chicago Sun-Times writer Adam L. Jahns recognizes Briggs as the guy who will play the most important part in this newly formed defense.
The Bears believe a new scheme under coordinator Mel Tucker and several personnel changes will bring dramatic improvement. Making the defense — which was last against the run, last in sacks and second-to-last in scoring — respectable again will require an exceptional season by Briggs. In the final year of his contract and his first in a new scheme, Briggs has to make the calls for a defense with many new faces. Staying on the field is priority No. 1 for Briggs. The defense’s demise intensified last season after Briggs was lost with a fractured shoulder.
Jared Allen is another big name on this defense that is changing heading into the new year. Having Jay Cutler play his second season under Trestman should also have its advantages. Still, the defense has more question marks surrounding it, and it will take the experience and leadership of Briggs, a 7-time Pro Bowler who played only nine games last season, to make it come together in a satisfactory way on the field.