Brad Biggs had a pretty interesting article in the Tribune about the playing time of certain members of the team. Of course we know the defensive corps' leaders are getting older - that shouldn't be news to anyone. But what is surprising is how often these players are on the field. That's not a bad thing, especially if the players are making plays, but a couple of numbers in the article are somewhat surprising.
Take the defensive end position, for example.
Idonije led Bears defensive linemen in playing 84.6 percent of the time and Peppers was just behind him at 82.1 percent. According to NFL-generated playing time statistics the Tribune acquired, only two other teams in the league had a pair of starting ends play more than 82 percent of the time - the Vikings' Jared Allen (94.3) and Brian Robison (84.4) and the 49ers' Justin Smith (91.1) and Ray McDonald (83.5). Allen led the NFL with 22 sacks and Smith had [7.5] in what might have been the best of his 11 seasons as a two-way end.
So how many players were at defensive end during the season? Peppers, Idonije, Mario Addison, Nick Reed, Chauncey Davis, and Favreslayer Corey Wootton. And two of those players are taking four of five snaps?
Idonije didn't have a great year, but it's possible he wore down far too much over the course of the year. From PFF's NFC North Trends column...
Biggest Drop Off
Israel Idonije: From +9.0 to -1.0
It wasn't a terrible year from Idonije. It did seem the Bears decision to not rotate the Canadian-born defensive end, impacted upon his productivity, especially in pass rushing situations. Idonije is still a fine defender of the run, and is capable of making plays in the passing game. However, you can't help but feel the Bears would benefit from cutting into the 944 snaps he had this year by finding a situational rusher to ease his load.
Wasn't that supposed to be Wootton's job entering the year? Right.
Other numbers to be wary of... Lance Briggs didn't miss a snap, Brian Urlacher missed only 14, and Charles Tillman only missed 11 snaps and played 152 special teams plays. Matt Forte was on the field for 75% of offensive snaps before his injury compared to 70.2% in 2010. Wide receivers were led in snaps by Roy Williams with 600. Johnny Knox had 521 before his injury, and Dane Sanzenbacher had 379.
So the 2011-2012 Bears were essentially fielded by veterans with hardly any rotation (except safety, as any safety on the roster will almost surely get playing time).
But does Phil Emery see a concern?
"I've heard rumblings there is age on our roster," new general manager Phil Emery said at his introductory news conference. "(But) it's not a numerical number. It's whether you are making plays. If it was just a numerical number and number of gray hairs, I wouldn't be standing here."
He's right about the "age is a number" thing. The problem isn't that the players are getting older, it's that they're getting older and still playing the overwhelming majority of snaps. It's great while they still can do so. But it puts too much of the fate of the team into the hands of too few individuals - how much confidence do we have that the team would be able to respond in the case of a significant injury to Urlacher, Briggs or Tillman? Or to Peppers or Idonije?
I'll turn it over to you guys. If you ran a football team, would you set the slider to using more rotational players and keeping guys fresh, or would you try to ride your horses for as long as you can?