It seems that the Bears defense loses another player or two to an injury with each passing week. But veteran coordinator Vic Fangio won’t use attrition as an excuse.
“A carpenter never blames his tool,” Fangio said. “He just finds a way to get the thing built.”
While that may be true, it’s a lot more difficult to build something without your best tools. That’s the challenge that Fangio faces over the final month of the season.
With former Bears Brian Urlacher and Adrian Peterson being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this week, senior writer Larry Mayer ranks the top 10 college football players who went on to play for the Bears.
Last Sunday against the 49ers, defensive end Mitch Unrein suffered a season-ending knee injury, while nose tackle Eddie Goldman (hip) and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (shoulder) sustained injuries that have forced them to miss practice this week.
In the Bears’ previous two games, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Lions Nov. 19 and safety Adrian Amos sustained a hamstring injury versus the Eagles Nov. 26 that forced him to miss the 49ers game.
“It kind of seems to have all happened here of late where it seems like the last three weeks or so where it’s been one right after the other,” Fangio said.
Earlier in the year, the Bears lost outside linebacker Willie Young and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman for the season, while inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski missed games with injuries. Safety Quintin Demps recently returned to practice, but he hasn’t played in a game since breaking his arm in a Week 3 win over the Steelers.
“It’s been a little trying,” Fangio said. “But one man’s misfortune’s given some of these other guys opportunities, so hopefully we’ll able to play through that.”
With Unrein now lost for the season, young defensive ends Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris figure to see expanded playing time over the final four games.
Bullard, a 2016 third-round draft pick from Florida, played 42 of 75 snaps (56 percent) last Sunday against the 49ers, recording four tackles and one tackle-for-loss.
“I think Jon’s taken good advantage of the snaps he’s gotten,” Fangio said. “I know he’s played a pretty good bit here in the last month or so. We’ve had a little package where we play four of those guys and he plays in that and he’s been getting more and more reps, too, rotating with the other guys and he’s been doing good.”
Robertson-Harris has shown promise, though he has been slowed by injuries. The 6-7, 268-pounder spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve last year after joining the Bears as an undrafted free agent from UTEP.
“It’s hard to say what his ceiling is, but his ceiling has definitely got more floors than his bottom level,” Fangio said. “I think the guy has got a bright future. How bright? I am not sure. But definitely intrigued. Definitely see good things for him. He was definitely set back by that injury. I am very hopeful for him in the future.”