While the team is straightening out its offensive line problems there may be more of a concern on the defensive side of the line, as the status of All-Pro standout Tommie Harris remains a bit of a mystery for Week 1 at Indianapolis.
Defensive struggles now a Big Deal without the “Real Deal”: In order for the Bears defense to return to top form, Harris has to be on the field. Considering the fact he is not been close to 100 % and hasn’t been since Week 12 of the 2006 regular season (following week – lost for season vs. Minnesota), just having him play through the injury is good enough for a defense that has looked shaky at best. Harris played in all 16 games in ‘07 despite going through numerous nagging injuries, as he registered eight sacks, 35 tackles, forcing two fumbles – so I expect him to suit up Sunday night.
Legitimacy of Reports on Knee: The Chicago Sun-Times columnist Brad Biggs reported earlier this afternoon that the former Sooner was in full equipment while the team practiced special teams and stretched. Another source says Harris has been limited since August 21, when he was sidelined with what appears to be a more “serious” injury than originally thought of. It seems like there has been a lot of downplaying and overhyping going around town, I don’t know who to believe. For now Bears fans can dismiss whatever is on the web and just wait for the facts to come out soon. There is no telling the truth, and I won’t take any of these reports to the bank until I hear Tommie Harris, not Lovie Smith, comment on the big issue.
Impact/Effect: You have to count Harris in unless he has to go through season-ending knee surgery. I believe the Bears are taking precautionary measures and also know something we don’t – what are they hiding? Regardless of the final verdict, this isn’t good news for a team that has been all but bad news up to this point on defense. Who stands up on D, does the 2006 or 2007 version show up? Will Tommie Harris be at full strength in ‘08? Does this even matter with the state that the offense is in? You can only control so much, and all the Bears can do is get their defensive line (heavy dose of Israel/Dusty) prepared to play and their offense settled in, as they (OL big factor) concentrate on running the ball and limiting mistakes. On both sides of the line lies the Bears greatest weaknesses – their ability to run and stop the run.
Time Of Possession Battle: The turnover differential is important, the defense has to force takeaways and generate pressure up front against a banged up Colts line, but just as important is the vital time of possession factor – if you control the clock, the defense stays fresh. With that being said, can the offense shoulder the load and take some pressure off a defense that has been doing the lifting and shouldering for an offense that has been bailed out time after time? Now may be the best time for the offense to take its turn in returning the favor, doing their job in hanging onto the ball while the Tommie Harris-led defense recovers in hope of getting back to elite form – if they are capable.