Finally, a football post. I've made you wait this long. I might as well prolong it a little more. After the jump, of course.
Lance Briggs seems to have everything. For starters, he's got a nice car and a lot of money. But few would have even known about his fortune, fame and four straight Pro Bowl appearances because he has lived in the shadow of Brian Urlacher since the dawn of time.
Urlacher is out for the season with a dislocated wrist that will need plenty of time to be relocated. Before Briggs got his big-money deal, it was a hassle between he, his agent and the Bears front office. Briggs wanted to be paid like "the man." Jerry Angelo upheld his end of the bargain and signed the check. Now it's up to Briggs to play like the man.
He'll don the captain's "C" in Sunday's home opener for the Bears. A great game against the Steelers could propel him to his goal of being NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Especially now that Urlacher is gone.
Guys like Warrick Holdman and Roosvelt Colvin shined as sidekicks for Urlacher. Talented in their own ways, Holdman and Colvin's level of play was elevated thanks to No. 54 in the middle. Each of them found greener pastures, yet Urlacher never missed a beat. Holdman never developed into the star he thought he was going to be -- probably because he never played next to a guy as good as Urlacher. Colvin did OK for himself after leaving the Bears, but a lot of that success can be credited to the defensive wizard that is Bill Belichick.
It is now up to Briggs to make sure he doesn't end up as an Urlacher afterthought.
In the season opening loss to Green Bay, Briggs made only three tackles. That's as many as Urlacher, who missed half of the game. That's not going to fly, and it's not going to get any easier, either. Hunter Hillenmeyer will fill the middle for Urlacher and the only things they have in common are that they are both white, both play linebacker and both play for the Bears. After that, Hillenmeyer and Urlacher are on opposite ends of the talent spectrum.
That means offensive blocking schemes will turn their focus to stopping Briggs. For years, teams have tried to do that to Urlacher. And all he has done is shed blockers en route to pummeling quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers ... or any one else that decided they wanted to come across his area holding the pigskin.
A lot of times, these situations cause analysts to say things like, "He doesn't need to be Brian Urlacher." Contrary to that statement, he kind of does. Briggs begged the Bears to pay him Urlacher-like money, and now it is time for him to put up some Urlacher-like statistics now that The Man can no longer hold him down.