The Bears' defensive line has taken its share of hits over a trio of very physical games, and now Henry Melton and Shea McClellin are both listed as doubtful for tomorrow's game, defensive tackle Matt Toeaina is questionable with a knee injury, Stephen Paea missed time with an injury and is probable with a foot, and Julius Peppers has been battling plantar fasciitis all season long and not playing like the Julius Peppers the Bears signed to a megadeal.
And in a game and defense where generating pass-rush will be a large factor to determining the defense's effectiveness, having healthy guys at the end of the season, while tough to do, is essential, especially concerning the team's playoff chances could well be in jeopardy.
But this doesn't mean the unit is entirely without teeth, even should Melton, McClellin and Toeaina all miss the game. Prior to the season, the defensive line was touted as one of the deeper units in the league, discussion that carried into the regular season with every guy contributing.
Now, one of the things that's torn apart the unit's effectiveness has been the inability of the defensive line to get their rotation going, to give their impact players a bit of a breather, and with the injuries on the line, that'll be more difficult to achieve, considering the players involved. For instance, Idonije's gotten quite a bit more practice time at the interior with Melton doubtful and Paea and Toeaina hampered.
That being said, Peppers will still start, Corey Wootton's had a nice season so far, Paea's come along pretty well, and in his limited action, Nate Collins has shown some pretty good flashes.
Clearly, if Melton isn't able to go, the line loses some of its effectiveness, and McClellin provides another spelling option when healthy, but the Bears still have the guys to make enough of an impact in the pass rush. But the depth, which was so effective early in the year, will face their biggest test of the season on Sunday.