One day after being limited in practice, one of the Chicago Bears’ top pass rushers was missing in action altogether.
Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports outside linebacker Willie Young was one of two Bears defenders who did not practice on Friday ahead of the team’s Monday Night Football matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
Young picked up 7.5 sacks last year, is three years removed from a 10-sack season with the Bears, and was expected to be a key cog in a potentially fearsome pass rush this season. Instead, Young has played in just 47.8 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps this season – down from 66.4 percent in 2016. The 32-year-old pass rusher saw his playing time cut from 60.9 percent of snaps in the team’s Week 3 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers to 52.7 percent in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers.
And, yes, this is definitely a concern:
Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said the team isn't sure where OLB Willie Young is with his triceps injury.
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) October 6, 2017
#Bears DC Vic Fangio on lack of depth at ILB with Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and Nick Kwiatkoski out: "It's a concern."
— Bob LeGere (@BobLeGere) October 6, 2017
It’s possible Young’s injury status helped push the team to sign defensive end/outside linebacker Howard Jones to the team’s practice squad Friday morning. As it stands, the only available linebackers on the team are John Timu, Christian Jones, and Jonathan Anderson on the inside, as well as Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd, and Sam Acho who play on the outside.
Fellow linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski did not practice as he continues to recover from his pectoral injury, while center Hroniss Grasu (right hand) and Akiem Hicks (foot) were limited participants.
Losing Young for any amount of time would be just the latest blow to the depth the Bears had along the front seven, and specifically at linebacker. Further, if Young and Hicks are out of action on Monday, the task of stopping a Vikings team that could see the return of starting quarterback Sam Bradford grows even more difficult.