Going into the 2014 season, one thing that just about every Chicago Bears writer discussed was how lucky the team’s offense had been on the injury front in the previous year, and warning that they might not have the depth to deal with a rash of injuries if one came.
In just the first game of the season, a 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills, that depth was sorely tested. Both Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson left the game with high ankle sprains, meaning that the team didn’t have any offensive linemen left on their bench. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery sat out the second half of the game with a hamstring ailment, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall also was banged up on a catch in the third quarter of the game.
The Bears took a step to address the injuries on their offensive line Tuesday, signing Eben Britton. They also have Charles Leno Jr., who was inactive for Sunday’s game. Michael Ola would likely start at left guard if Slauson were unable to go, and Brian de la Puente would likely replace Garza in the lineup if the center can’t play.
As for wide receiver, the Bears’ options are a bit more limited if Jeffery or Marshall are still hampered by their injuries. Micheal Spurlock, who had a catch for eight yards in Sunday’s game, was cut by the team to make room for Britton, and Josh Morgan didn’t exactly inspire confidence with his performance either.
The team does have some great pass catching weapons outside of the receiver spot, with Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte both having great Week 1 performances. Santonio Holmes also provides a dynamic veteran presence to the mix, and he had a solid afternoon Sunday.
The question then is this: which injury situation poses a bigger threat to the Bears’ chances of victory against the San Francisco 49’ers on Sunday? Sure, the offensive line has some added depth thanks to the Britton signing, but missing two out of five members of your starting group isn’t a recipe for success against a talented defense.
By the same token, even if Jeffery and Marshall play Sunday, they will both be hobbled by injuries that are often stubborn and take time to heal. The Bears don’t have a bye week until Week 9, so when you factor that into the mix, as well as the fact that Marquess Wilson isn’t available to shoulder the load until Week 10, then you can see that the Bears are in a pickle at receiver as well.
When push comes to shove, it’s the offensive line that’s the bigger concern for the Bears. The group already has enough of a challenge on its hands as Jordan Mills continues to try to round into form after offseason foot surgery, and losing two of the five starters to injuries is not a good way to improve chemistry. De la Puente and Ola were both solid in Sunday’s game, but to just assume that they’ll each perform at that level again against San Francisco is a bit of a stretch.
We’ll see what the injury report brings on Wednesday, and the Bears have to be hoping that the doctor bears some good tidings when it’s released.