On The Mend: The Return of the Wounded

Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (92) reacts after he sacks Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) (not pictured) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Chicago Bears 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

You can bet that the Bear’s coaching staff is happy to finally have almost all their players back and somewhat healthy. This past couple of weeks saw the return of several key players return from the trainer’s table.  How will the return of these players affect the team?  Can the Bears win more games with more guys back?

There will be updates on injuries suffered in the Bears game against the Buccaneers this past Sunday.

One thing has been certain for the Bears this season and that is someone is going to get hurt.  The first few games saw many players fall to injuries leaving gaping holes in Chicago’s lineup.  Some of the guys were key players, such as Eddie Goldman and Kyle Long.  Other players weren’t starters, like Deiondre Hall, but were important for the team’s depth.

The Bears lost quite a few of their players to injury in their game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week Two.  The sidelines looked like a MASH unit in that game.  Some of the players injured in that contest are just now coming back.

The Week nine injury report wasn’t looking too bad heading into the Bear’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Have the “walking wounded” finally returned?  What does this mean for the Bears going forward?

Let’s take a look at the injured players who returned to practice over the last couple of weeks and see what it means getting them back and how they might have an impact on the team going forward.  can the return of these players help boost the Bears through the rest of the season and give them a chance to win more games?

Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) runs off the field after Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Robert Ayers (91) gets a safety during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Chicago Bears 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Cutler

Cutler returned to the lineup just in time for the Bear’s game against the Minnesota Vikings and helped save the day for the offense.  He injured his thumb in the Eagles game and was replaced by backup Brian Hoyer.  Hoyer was a fine game manager but he didn’t have the “gambler” mentality that Cutler has.  Granted, that mentality has gotten Cutler and the offense in trouble before but it has also helped them win games.

A few fans called for Hoyer to remain the starter when Cutler got healthy (this coming before Cutler was to come back).  But Cutler was not going to go away and soon Hoyer was hurt and out for the season. Cutler was ushered back into the lineup to save the day for the Bears.

Hoyer went down with an injury against the Packers and suddenly, as if by magic, Cutler was ready to come back for Chicago’s next game against the Vikings.  There were people thought of him as a savior and the one that would help the Bears finish the season strong.  If his game against the Vikings wasn’t a fluke, then it would appear as if those that guessed Cutler would help save the season may be right.

But Cutler struggled greatly in the Bears game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday.  He was responsible for three turnovers and a safety in the game.  It was one of his worst performances in a long time.  So the “bad” Jay showed up.  Just how much can the team rely on him to win games?

Cutler will need to redeem himself in the coming games.

Eddie Goldman

You wouldn’t think that one player on defense could make such a big impact.  Goldman proved, last season, that he was a very valuable asset on defense and that he would be missed  His rookie year was a good one and he helped make the Bears defensive line pretty solid as the season progressed and he got a better feel of the NFL game.  But what makes Goldman so valuable?

Goldman is a big bodied defensive tackle that can plug up the middle of the defense.  This forces the opposing offense to avoid running in his direction having to take the play another way.  With that, quicker defenders, such as linebackers, can get to the ball carrier and bring him down fast.  Goldman’s work against the run was very noticeable last season not only plugging the gaps but taking down the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage.

Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber (43) runs with the ball as Chicago Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman (91) defends during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Chicago Bears 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Another thing that Goldman did well last season was rush the passer.  In a less than complete set of 16 games, Goldman had four and a half sacks.  That is pretty decent for a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense.  He was well on his way to having a strong finish to his rookie season but he got hurt and missed the final few games.

He came back and played well but went out of the Bear’s game in Week Two (Eagles) with a high ankle sprain.  The injury left that hole we talked about in the middle of the defense and the Bears had trouble replacing him.  You could easily tell that Goldman was missed.

Goldman made it back for the game against Tampa this Sunday but went out late in the game with what appears to be a leg injury.  Has he re-injured his ankle?  If he has, he may be gone for a long while again.  Keep an eye on his injury this week.  Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Bears offensive guard Kyle Long (75) is attended to after being injured in the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Sitton and Kyle Long

Josh Sitton went out of the lineup in the Bear’s game against the Jaguars and has missed just over two games.  His counterpart, Pro Bowler Kyle Long, hurt his arm against the Packers and was out of the lineup up until the Tampa Bay game.

If you look at the Bears game against the Vikings, a game in which both Sitton and Long were out, saw the team was actually able to overcome their absence in a pretty efficient manner.  They protected the quarterback and the running game flourished behind the patchwork offensive line.  The performance was just a testament to how much depth the Bears have at a majority of their positons, including the line.

Both Sitton and Long came back for the Tampa Bay game and solidified the offensive line.  Unfortunately, early in the game Long went out with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury.  He was seen on the sidelines with a large wrap around his leg.  Now it’s been indicated the Long will be out for the remainder of the season.  His loss will be huge.

The loss of Long brings up an interesting question.  With the season sliding away, was it smart for the Bears to keep Long in the lineup even though he was injured?  Granted, the injury he suffered this Sunday was not related to the one that he was dealing with through the first few games of the season.  Maybe they should have shut him down with their record the way it was.  It’s too late to second guess them now.

Another injury of note, to the offensive line, came again on Sunday as tackle Bobby Massie left the game with a concussion.  He did not return.

Nov 26, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Marquess Wilson (10) during the NFL game against the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving at Lambeau Field. Chicago won 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Marquess Wilson and Eddie Royal

Marquess Wilson has been injured often during his career with the Bears.  This time, Wilson broke his foot in minicamp and spent a lot of time healing.  It’s now time for him to possibly come off of injured reserve and play in the season’s remaining games.

The Bears lost Kevin White earlier this season and will be looking for some help from Wilson.  Wilson can play the slot and give the Bears another dimension at the receiver position.  When he has played before, he has shown himself to have reliable hands with the ability to get open and make big catches down the field.  He can help the Bears out right away.

But can he stay healthy?  That will be the key.

We have seen Wilson make some nice catches but he isn’t in the lineup long enough to judge just how effective he can be.  Hopefully he will be able stay healthy so we can see what kind of contribution he can have on offense.

Royal has had similar issues with staying healthy since coming to Chicago.  He missed a few games in 2015 with injuries and has been suffering from ailments this season.  When he is healthy, Royal is a very useful tool on offense and on special teams.  The Bears needed him back in the lineup.

Chicago’s punt return game has suffered without Royal back to return punts so getting him back can be huge.  He can help the Bear’s offense get better field position and also give them another option at the wide receiver position.

Combine the return of Wilson and Royal and the Bear’s offense, along with their special teams will be that much better.  As long as they both can stay healthy the will contribute and give the Bears a better chance of winning more games the rest of the season.

Dec 6, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan (37) runs with a kick-off during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Injured Players in the Secondary

The Bear’s secondary has seen its fair share of injuries over the first half of the season.  One of the biggest injuries came when Kyle Fuller was placed on injured reserve to start the season.  It would appear as if Fuller is going to miss the entire season with a knee injury.  The Bears could have really used him this year.  Hopefully he will be back and fully healthy in 2017.

A guy who has quietly has been missed this season, when he is hurt, is nickel back Bryce Callahan.  Callahan is nursing a hamstring injury right now but appears poised to be back sooner than later.  What you get with him is solid play with sure tackling and an awareness of where the receiver is he is covering.  Without him in the lineup, the Bear’s secondary has suffered noticeably.

One player who may not be back for a little while yet is Deiondre Hall.  Hall is suffering from a lingering ankle injury and has missed some considerable time as a result.  Hall, a rookie from Norther Iowa, is a promising prospect with a lot of talent who just hasn’t been able to see the field that much this year.  With his development stunted by the injury, his development has slowed and he will struggle to keep learning and contribute to the team.  The Bears need to him to get better and keep learning because he has too much talent to waste.

The Rest of the Wounded

Chicago has had some players that have either played hurt missing little to no time or just recently got some guys back that they had been waiting on.

Pernell McPhee was activated from the physically unable to perform list three weeks ago and has slowly started working himself into games.  McPhee is the Bear’s leader on defense (and perhaps the team’s leader) and his side of the ball does better when he is in the lineup.  If he can come back completely from the knee injury that has held him back for the better part of two seasons things could get better in Chicago.

Cornerback Tracy Porter has been suffering from knee issues off and on this season and seems to be on the injury report consistently.  He is still one of best players on the team and could arguably be considered their best player in the secondary.  His health is key to keeping at least one side of the defensive secondary stable.  Keep an eye on that knee as it’s one of the more important injuries on the team.

Leonard Floyd had been highly touted coming out of the draft and was to be a key component of the Bears defense this year.  He was sidelined for a short period of time with a leg injury but came back strong and had good games against the Packers, Vikings and Tampa Bay.  He has struggled to stay healthy (see his time in training camp and the preseason) but if he can stay healthy, he could finish this season strong.

Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws the ball as Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (94) defends during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Not to be forgotten, Chicago did lose Lamar Houston to a knee injury and he is on injured reserve.  It will be interesting to see what the Bears decide to do about Houston this offseason.  And we mentioned Kevin White who will most likely not be back this season.

There have been some additional players that have suffered injuries this season. There has been some time missed by some while other players just show up on the injury report week in and week out. Some of those guys just keep playing.

That’s the life of a football player and a member of the Chicago Bears this season.

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