By Adam Hoge-
A panel of 14 Score hosts, reporters and producers ranked their top 10 players in terms of how important they will be in determining the success or failure of the 2013 Chicago Bears. We compiled the rankings into one master list and will unveil one of the 10 most important Bears each weekday as we countdown to training camp.
(CBS) While some are simply assuming the Bears defense will take a step backwards with Lovie Smith and Brian Urlacher gone, it’s important to remember that nine starters from a solid group return this season.
That said, without No. 54, the defense certainly will have a different feel this season.
Stepping in for Urlacher in the middle is newcomer D.J. Williams, who is a proven NFL linebacker, but comes in with his fair share of baggage. Williams has two DUIs on his record and was suspended for six games last season after failing a league drug test. The Denver Broncos released Williams in March and the Bears hope a change of scenery will pay off.
Given the physical state Urlacher was in last season, Williams is almost certainly an upgrade in the middle athletically, but that doesn’t mean the Bears won’t miss Urlacher. Lance Briggs will take over the play-calling on the defensive side, so that should take some of the pressure off Williams, but he still needs to deliver with a big season. For as much criticism as Urlacher took last year, the season went downhill after he was lost for the season. Williams should be an upgrade over Nick Roach (who filled in for Urlacher in the middle), but he needs to prove he’s able to be a consisten sponge against the run while also dropping back in coverage when necessary.
Simply put: this is the biggest question mark on the defense and while there’s optimism Williams will be able to fill the void in the middle, it’s far from a guarantee.
The 10 Most Important Bears Panel: Dan Hampton, Hub Arkush, Zach Zaidman, Laurence Holmes, Matt Spiegel, Adam Hoge, Matt Abbatacola, Ben Finfer, Nick Shepkowski, Herb Lawrence, Joe Ostrowski, Chris Tannehill, Adam Harris and Dan Durkin.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.