When wondering how important an individual is to a team's success you must take a lot of stuff into account. There's the statistics that you can measure, there's the impact on the Xs and Os of a game, leadership, position depth, and so on, and so on...
This list will be the ten Chicago Bears that I believe will need to contribute the most to the team, in order for them to maximize their potential. A potential that I think will have them challenging for a playoff spot in 2013.
Starting off my top 10 with a combo may seem like a cop out, but until training camp opens up and we see who takes control of the middle linebacker position, it's hard to pinpoint exactly which one to name on my list.
Whether it's veteran D.J. Williams, or rookie Jonathan Bostic, the starting middle linebacker in a Tampa 2 defense is still an important cog in the machine. With new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker keeping the scheme and terminology intact, we'll still see the Mike backer dropping middle third in zone. He'll still be responsible for seamlessly disguising coverages. And the MLB will need to maintain gap integrity in the run game. There's one more thing, all season long, regardless of who wins the job, we'll hear the Brian Urlacher comparisons.
If a pass is dumped over the middle for a completion... Urlacher would have stopped that play.
If a back makes it around the edge for a long gain... Urlacher would have cut him off.
If a tight end runs the seam and catches a long pass... Urlacher would have deflected the ball.
If a player runs through an arm tackle of Bostic or Williams... Urlacher would have brought him down.
Fair or not, the 2013 Bears middle linebacker will be compared to a one of a kind player, a freak athlete, and a future Hall Of Famer.
Living up to the legacy of the iconic middle linebacker position in Chicago, and following #61, #51, #50, and #54, is a lot of pressure for one to live up to. How these two will fare is anybody's guess, but there will be pressure on them all season long.
You would have to imagine the early favorite to be the starter will be the veteran Williams. He'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder after missing much of 2012 to a suspension. However with a brand new coaching staff in place, I'm sure Bostic will be given every opportunity to win the job.
This should be a fun battle to watch throughout training camp.