The Changing Chicago Bears Roster: How Injuries Have Impacted the Season

 The Chicago Bears have struggled with injuries all season and it has had a major impact every game.

Sep 19, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman (91) lays on the ground after bein injured during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field. Philadelphia won 29-14. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Bears fans have gotten to see different highs and lows for their favorite team since their inception.  Some of us saw the years of the Bears’ NFL Championship games, the golden era of Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus and the glory years of Walter Payton.  Granted, not all the Bears seasons have been winning seasons but they have had fewer losing seasons than winning ones.  This season, the Bears are spiraling out of control.  What makes this season so bad?

The answer is roster turnover as injuries and suspensions have taken their toll.  How have the injuries affected the team?  More importantly, who has been injured?

The Bears began the 2016 season with a lot of promise.  They had a good free agency period claiming guys like Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and Josh Sitton (claimed as the season started).  They looked poised to win more games this year than last.  There were some unknows but the coaching staff and management were confident that this could easily be a better year for Chicago.  Hope was everywhere.

But no matter which team you are, who you are coached by or who your general manager is, you are going to have a hard time overcoming injuries.  This year, the injury bug has more than bitten the Bears, it’s taken a huge chunk out of them.  These injuries have pretty much cost them the season.

The number one reason why the Bears are having a tough year is because of injuries.  They have suffered so many key injuries to their starters and backups they can hardly replace them quick enough.  These injuries have had a huge impact on the team and the way they are able play.  It’s easy to say that these injuries have cost the Bears some wins this season.

Let’s take a position by position look at the injuries that the Bears have suffered this season, how they have impacted the team and where the player is at now with their injury.

Nov 20, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) lays on the field after a late hit by New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon (54, not pictured) at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The quarterback position suffered quite a bit during both the preseason and regular season and may suffer even more before it’s all said and done.  If starting quarterback Jay Cutler finishes the season on injured reserve, then Chicago will have had three quarterbacks miss significant time due to injury.

The first quarterback to go out was Connor Shaw.  He went down in the Bears’ preseason game against the Cleveland Browns with a broken leg.  He has missed the entire 2016 season.  Shaw was a promising backup that could have been utilized this season with the injuries and ineffective play that has come out of the quarterback position.  Maybe we will see more of him next year.

Cutler lasted just a couple games, to start, before going out for a few games with a thumb injury.  The injury ushered in his replacement, Brian Hoyer.  Hoyer didn’t have that bad of a series of games but wasn’t a “gambler” or a risk take at the quarterback position.  He made very few mistakes but couldn’t do enough to win.  His season came to an end in the Green Bay game when he broke his arm.

After the injury to Hoyer, the Bears brought Cutler back for their game against the Vikings. He had managed to be healed just in time for a debut against Minnesota.  That was his best game of the season.  He played poorly in his next two games and may be out for the rest of the season.

UPDATE: The latest news now says that Cutler is day to day with a torn labrum.  It’s doubtful, however, that he will play this Sunday against the Titans.  Chicago has signed former backup David Fales off the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad.  It could be Fales or Matt Barkley at quarterback the rest of the year.

Sep 25, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jeremy Langford (33) can not make a catch in the first quarter against Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church (42) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, this position hasn’t been one of the most deeply impacted this season.  There was a bit of an issue near the start of season with Jeremy Langford who began the year as the starter.  He was injured in the Bears’ game against the Dallas Cowboys and didn’t come back until their game against the Minnesota Vikings.  Langford had a sprained ankle that kept him out for a while.

Langford’s role in the offense has decreased because Jordan Howard has been so impressive.  Howard has cemented himself as the starter but Langford will spell him at times.  Howard has flirted with injury a little bit himself this season but has managed to stay healthy.  Hopefully he can remain healthy the rest of this season because he can help the Bears move the ball and take some pressure off backup quarterbacks.

Ka’Deem Carey missed a little time with a hamstring injury but has been back and helping out as a reserve back.  He also plays on special teams, something that he didn’t apparently want to do too often when he came to Chicago.  He is a nice guy to have and can be an effective backup when needed.

Hopefully this group will remain strong throughout the rest of the season and not suffer any additional injuries.  They are a rare bright spot on this team and it would be nice to have them all healthy going into the offseason.

UPDATE: Langford has been out of practice this week with an illness.  It is not known if he will play this Sunday.

Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers won 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There have been two key losses in this group.  Kevin White was the first causality.  He suffered a broken fibula in the Bears’ game against the Detroit Lions and was placed on injured reserve. There was some discussion about him coming back but that is not going to happen.  White is definitely out for the rest of the year.

White missed the entire 2015 season with a leg injury and he will miss just about all this season with one.  Has he been a disappointment for the Bears?  Yes but is it his fault?  No.  He has just had a lot of bad luck.  Hopefully he will be able to return and contribute next season.

The other key loss in the receiver corps was not due to injury.  Alshon Jeffery was just recently suspended for using performance enhancing drugs (PED’s).  He said he wasn’t aware of what he was doing but he put that stuff in his body.  Now he has cost himself four game checks and the Bears a better opportunity to win games.  Some think he may have shown himself the way out of Chicago by getting suspended.  Would the Bears bring him back next season?

Another injury suffered by Chicago’s wide receiving corps happened to Eddie Royal. Royal missed some time with a calf and toe injury but finally made it back in the lineup recently.  He was a vital weapon on punt returns and makes the Bears’ special teams much better.  The problem with Royal is that he is always hurt.  With the Bears’ wide receiving corps decimated the way it is, it would be important to have Royal available as much as possible over the course of the next few games.  But can he stay healthy- that has always been the question with Royal.

There was a bright spot with this group recently as Marquess Wilson was able to make it back after suffering a foot injury prior to the start of the season.  Hopefully he will able to make up for some of what was lost when Jeffery went out.  He must stay healthy and that has been an issue.

We can lump the tight ends in this group as well.  The Bears had been lucky up until their game with the Giants. with health at that position. Unfortunately starter Zach Miller had his foot stepped on in the Giants game and it broke.  He is out for the remainder of the season and will be missed.  He was a nice target and a reliable receiver.

The Bears have struggled at the wide receiver position and the health issues they have had haven’t helped.  The suspension of Jeffery is a big deal for this team as it takes away their number one wide receiver.  The passing game won’t be as effective the rest of this season as a result but then again, the issues at the quarterback position won’t help either. This has been a tough year on both spots.

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

Chicago has had several injuries on the offensive line that have hurt the effectiveness of that unit.  The most crippling injury has been that of guard Kyle Long.  Long had been playing the season, up to his final injury, with a torn labrum and was playing well despite the injury.

Then, in the Bears’ game against the Packers, Long went out with an arm injury which was deemed to be “significant”.  It was thought he would be out for quite a while but after just one game missed, Long was back and playing again.  His good fortune didn’t last long however and in the Tampa Bay game, he went out with a right ankle injury.  He is on injured reserve now and facing surgery for the shoulder and the ankle very soon.

Long’s partner on the opposite side, Josh Sitton, had some injury problems also.  He was hurt in the game in Week Six and missed the Packers and the Vikings games.  He returned against the Buccaneers and played well.  The Bears were happy to have him back.

Unfortunately for Sitton and the Bears, he went out of the Giants game with more ankle problems and may miss some additional time.  The Bears can ill afford to have too many of their starters missing from the line but it looks like they are going to have to deal with this.  The offense will struggle as a result.

Before the season even started, Chicago lost it’s starting center Hroniss Grasu for the entire year.  They were lucky that rookie guard Cody Whitehair could step in and play.  Whitehair has played very well as the starter and has proven to be a valuable and worthwhile draft pick.

At the time of this writing, starting tackle Bobby Massie was going through the NFL’s concussion protocol.  He suffered it in Chicago’s game against the Buccaneers and he has practiced in a limited basis this week.  He might be back in time for the Bears’ game against the Titans this Sunday.

The injuries to the offensive line have really hurt the Bears this season.  With two of their starters out for an extended period (Long and Sitton) this unit will struggle.  They have gotten some decent play out of the depth players (the Vikings win is proof) but they aren’t loaded with a lot of talent and depth like other teams are.  Hopefully the Bears will have better luck with health here next year.

UPDATE:  Offensive lineman Mike Adams was recently added to the injury report.  He is suffering from a biceps injury and has been limited in practice.  We should also remember the Nick Becton is on injured reserve with an elbow injury.

Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Bears offensive guard Kyle Long (75) looks on with an ingury to his right ankle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Chicago Bears 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Bears offensive guard Kyle Long (75) looks on with an ingury to his right ankle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Chicago Bears 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Quite frankly, this unit hasn’t had the injury issues that the quarterbacks, offensive line and the secondary have had which is good.  But they have had one critical injury to a starter that has hurt their performance in the games this player has missed.

Eddie Goldman injured his ankle in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week Two.  He came back for Chicago’s game against the Buccaneers but left near the end of that one after tweaking the same ankle.  He also wasn’t 100% for that game.  He was scratched from the Giants game last Sunday.  On the injury report this week, Goldman has been listed as questionable with limited participation in practice.

Goldman is a very important part of the Bears’ defense.  He is a big bodied, gap filling tackle that helps secure the middle of the defense against opponent’s rushing attacks.  He can also get to the quarterback and this is huge for a defensive lineman.  While Goldman is valuable, however, he has struggled with health issues staying since coming to the Bears via last year’s draft.  Hopefully he will be able to remain healthy and active for the Bears in the future.

Another notable injury here is the back issue that end Mitch Unrein is suffering from.  He missed the game against the Giants and is listed as questionable this week.  His practice time was limited.  Unrein is a steady player and helps a lot especially against the run.

Hopefully he will be back to add depth to the position and get the Bears line back to stopping the run better.  In last week’s game against New York, several of the Giants’ rushing plays got past the defensive line and to the second level.  Having Unrein back will help alleviate that problem a little bit.

There are two additional injuries of note.  Backup Will Sutton was lost for the year after suffering an ankle injury.  Sutton was a nice depth guy and the Bears will miss that depth.   Ego Ferguson was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.  He had been waived at the start of the season but Chicago brought him back and stuck him on the injured list.

Oct 2, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) celebrates making a play during the second half against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Chicago won 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

There have been four very important injuries and one suspension in this group.  You had Pernell McPhee’s start on the injured list, Leonard Floyd’s movement in and out of the lineup and Danny Trevathan’s thumb injury. Despite these concerns, the Bears linebackers have had great success this season and can be considered the team’s best unit.  They have performed above and beyond expectations.

McPhee had surgery on his knee in the offseason, the same knee which had given him problems often in 2015.  It was thought that he would be back in time for the start of the season but the injury, and subsequent surgery, must have been much more serious than anyone was led to believe.  McPhee started the season on the injured list.

He returned to the lineup against Green Bay and has been playing more snaps every week.  It’s nice to have him back in the lineup as a leader and he has been at least a little bit productive with two sacks.  He does give the defense another dimension and makes offenses plan around him.  McPhee needs to stay healthy, for one and contribute.  If he is injured again, those wanting to label him a bust will have a strong argument.

Floyd struggled to stay healthy in the preseason and his start to the season was also a struggle. Floyd was injured in the game against the Detroit Lions (leg) and missed the next two games.  He came back strong after the injury and played very well.  A few of his former critics were removing his “bust” label and calling him a “steal” in the draft.  He was making general manager Ryan Pace look like a genius.

The bottom fell out for Floyd last week against the Giants.  While trying to make a tackle, he hit his head on one of his teammates (Akiem Hicks) and left the game on a cart.  He was taken to a local hospital and released.  He is currently in the NFL’s concussion protocol and it’s not known how much time he is going to miss.  Hopefully it’s not much because it would be ashamed to see his budding career get off track.  Plus, the Bears could really use him.

The Bears’ biggest acquisition in free agency this offseason was linebacker Danny Trevathan.  Trevathan came to the team with a lot of thunder and lightning but ended up being quiet as a mouse.  He still made plays but he finally had a big game against New York.  Trevathan missed a little bit of time after injuring his thumb against the Eagles.  He had surgery and came back in time for the game against the Colts.  He has been steady ever since and is starting to look like the guy the Bears wanted when they picked him up in free agency.

Lamarr Houston was thought to be an important piece for the Bears at the linebacker position this season.  Unfortunately, he was lost for the year after tearing his ACL against the Eagles.  The Bears miss his ability to be a depth player who can step in and rush the passer.

Finally, Chicago has had the unfortunate dilemma of having two players suspended due to the use of PEDs.  The first was Jeffery and then, just this week, it was discovered that star linebacker Jerrell Freeman was caught using an illegal substance.  He will miss the next four games.  Freeman has been the team’s best tackler and has been a standout in a standout group. The Bears will clearly miss him while he is out.

There have been two other linebackers placed on injured reserve this season.  Lamin Barrow was placed on IR with a foot injury and Danny Mason is on the list as well.

Despite the fact this group has suffered so many injuries, they have been the most consistent and the most productive unit on the team.  The depth here is outstanding and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has these guys coached up well.  This unit could have another injury and withstand that but it would hurt if they do.

When all the starters are in and playing, this is one of the best linebacker units in the NFL.

UPDATE: Linebacker Christian Jones has been out of practice with back and ankle issues. It is likely he will miss this Sunday’s game.  Willie Young was also limited this week with a foot injury but will probably play this Sunday.

Oct 2, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (25) runs against Chicago Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan (37) during the second half at Soldier Field. Chicago won 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears’ secondary has been rocked by injuries to the starters and the depth players this season.  This has really hurt.  It’s not only hurt the unit but it’s hurt the team and injuries here have cost them some wins this season.

Starting cornerback Kyle Fuller had his knee worked on right before the season began and has missed every game so far.  It’s been indicated that the Bears are thinking of bringing him back off injured reserve as their designated “return” player.  Keep an eye on this as having Fuller back would be huge.

The starter opposite Fuller, Tracy Porter, has had his moments with injuries.  He has struggled with a knee injury but hasn’t missed hardly any time.  He might miss a play here or there but he’s been in the lineup just about 100% of the time.  Some of his struggle with the knee has shown though as he has had some issues covering receivers.  Porter is a decent cover corner but when he’s hurt, he’s a little bit of a liability.  He will probably play the rest of the season on the bum leg.

You may not notice this that much but the Bears have missed Bryce Callahan’s presence in the lineup, this season, when he is out.  Callahan has been suffering from injuries to his groin, hamstring and has been sidelined with a concussion.  Callahan is a good hitter and a solid coverage guy but he is consistently injured and this hurts Chicago.  It will be interesting to see if he can remain healthy for the remainder of the season because it would be nice to see what he can do.

The Bears’ depth in the secondary has been hit with injuries along with the starters. Some of the draft picks they brought in have remained sidelined with a slew of injuries.  Deiondre Hall has missed time with an ankle injury since Week five and it doesn’t look like he’s going to be back anytime soon.  That’s too bad because he has a lot of promise and needs to develop.  He isn’t making any progress and that’s hurting himself and the team.

Deon Bush started last week’s game and looked very good.  He may see additional starts in upcoming games.  He did have a hamstring issue in week one but otherwise has been healthy.

Cre’Von LeBlanc had been seeing some action as the Bears’ nickel back but after a few rough outings, he was cast out of the lineup with a concussion.  LeBlanc suffered the injury in the Giants game and is going through the NFL’s concussion protocol.  It’s likely he won’t be ready for this week’s game against the Titans.

The secondary’s health has been an issue all season but hopefully some of the guys that have been missing time, like Fuller and Hall, will be back soon.  It would be great if Fuller could get back as that would give the Bears two solid starters at the cornerback positions and help make their defense that much better.

Wouldn’t it be nice to end the season on a bit of a high note?

UPDATE: At the time this article Demontre Hurst was on the injury report with a knee injury.  He was limited in practice.  Sherrick McMannis, who has been struggling with a knee issue, was limited in practice also.

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