This whole “Player to Watch” concept is a bit tired, isn’t it? What exactly is there to watch in camp when it comes to Robert Quinn? Or Danny Trevathan? There’s no production to monitor. Nothing the team shows to fans and media means anything. So what are we watching?
But there are things of note, and those things usually involve who is getting reps where. (Hence, yesterday’s focus on which player will be returning kickoffs in a few weeks.) This summer, when it comes to the Bears defense, there is one thing to watch: health.
Khalil Mack has been wrestling with back (and other) injuries for two seasons.
Akiem Hicks is constantly in and out of the lineup.
Robert Quinn never got his season started in 2020 due to a series of knocks.
Jaylon Johnson is being asked to assume the top corner role but, while he is immensely talented, he is also chronically-injured.
Eddie Goldman just took a year off from playing football. That’s not easy and his body’s response will be something to monitor.
Danny Trevathan is aging (aren’t we all?) and slowing.
This is an older group, with it unlikely Mack, Hicks, Quinn and Trevathan will be on the roster in 2022. But if the Bears want to be a playoff team this season – no matter who is playing quarterback – they need almost all of the aforementioned players to stay on the field (with the plausible exception of Trevathan).
- Without Mack, the pass rush is non-existent.
- Without Hicks, Bilal Nichols will be asked to take the leap from solid role player to top-tier interior lineman. (While a good player, he has not made that leap yet.)
- Without Quinn, it’s unlikely the pass rush will be able to compensate deficiencies on the backend.
- Without Johnson, any team with two capable wide receivers will tear this defense apart.
- Without Goldman (again), the run defense won’t hold up over a long season.
Is it important which corner settles into the slot role? Sure. But if Kindle Vildor wins the job this summer that doesn’t mean he’ll still have the job come October. What’s important to watch this summer is the health of the aging stars. Because that will have the greatest impact on 2021 success.