By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) — The Bears have maintained all week that a final decision on whether or not Lance Briggs plays against the Eagles won’t be made until Friday at the earliest.
So fans shouldn’t be worried that Briggs still has not been medically cleared to play and has yet to go through a full practice.
“It looks like we’re moving in the right direction,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said Thursday. “I stand by being optimistic. You’ve always got to be cautiously optimistic because you don’t know what the next day is going to bring, but based on the first two days of practice, we’re really hopeful that he’ll be able to play on Sunday night.”
Briggs has been limited in practice the last two days, but sounds like a guy who will be playing Sunday.
“It’s going to be strap it on and see what happens,” he said when asked about his conditioning level. “I’ve been playing football for a long time and it just so happens that we’re going against a team that runs 80 plays a game offensively so that’ll be interesting.”
Because of the matchup, there’s a chance Briggs will be limited, although that could be complicated because he makes the defensive calls when he is in the game. Changing the signal callers back-and-forth could be difficult and cause some confusion.
“I like to think I’m a guy who’s going to get in his gap and when the opportunity’s there, try to make it,” Briggs said. “Hopefully I can help the team. I don’t want to get out there and hurt us. But at this point right now, these last couple games, the defense has been playing better and better. We reached a lot of goals defensively this last game – held them to 17 points, had takeaways, and held them in check rushing the ball. That’s something to continue to build on.”
The Eagles defense doesn’t look all that intimidating if you just look at the numbers. The unit ranks 30th in total defense (402.4 yards/game), 31st in passing defense (291.6) and 16th in rushing defense (110.8).
So why did Bears quarterback Jay Cutler say this week is “a tougher week game plan-wise” than last week when they faced the Browns?
“The whole (Eagles) defense is difficult to get a grasp on,” Cutler said. “It takes some time to really get a feeling for what they’re doing and you still don’t really know exactly what they’re doing. They’re moving around a lot, lot of different front structures, lot of different coverages, a lot of blitzes coming from different places so it’s challenging for us so far.”
Trestman said the Eagles are pretty conventional on first down, but are much different on third down.
“When you get to third down, and third down and longer yardage particularly, they get more unconventional,” he said. “They’ve got a system that enables them to move people around. We’ve got to do everything we can to basically unlock their blitzes and try to get comfortable with the protections because they look different on almost every third down situation.”
The Eagles run a 3-4 defense, but while they have a traditional 30 front, they’re not a “double-bubble” team where they leave the opposing offensive guards uncovered.
“They have reductions to either side, they cover up the guards and the center,” Trestman said.
Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer provided even more detail on how the fronts move around:
“Most teams just sit in their gaps and stuff the run that way. This Philadelphia defense is very athletic and even though they’re in this 3-4 defense, they’re moving, they’re stunting, they’re blitzing, they’re pressuring. It looks on tape like their whole goal is just to get the ball back for the offense. They’re going to try to force turnovers. They’re going to do everything to confuse you. And so everybody has to follow their rules closely in the game and stick with their technique to have success.”
The numbers show that the Eagles have struggled to get the ball back to their offense by simply stopping the opposing offense, but they have caused a lot of turnovers. The Eagles rank seventh in the league with 26 takeaways (16 interceptions and 10 fumbles).
– Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall was limited in practice Thursday with hamstring and quad injuries, but he’s still on track to play Sunday.
– For the Eagles, safeties Colt Anderson (knee) and Kurt Coleman (hamstring) missed practice Thursday. Cornerback Brandon Boykin (concussion) practiced in full after missing Wednesday’s practice.
– Looking ahead to next week, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers still has not been medically cleared to play Sunday against the Steelers. Rodgers will meet with team doctors Friday before the team designates his status for the game.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.