Sitting at 2-8 through 10 games, the Bears could use some good news. They got exactly the opposite on Monday as it was announced linebacker Jerrell Freeman would be suspended four games for a violation of the NFL’s PED usage policy, according to ESPN.
This comes just one week after star wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was suspended four games for violating the league’s PED policy as well. So, in the last two weeks, the Bears, who have already had a tough season, have lost arguably their best player on each side of the ball.
Freeman, who was signed as a free agent this offseason, has the fifth-most tackles in the NFL with 91 tackles. He is yet another player the Bears can’t afford to be without for the next four games. With he and Jeffery being suspended three overlapping games, the future looks even dimmer for the lowly Bears.
Bears Remaining Schedule
It could be worse for the Bears regarding their upcoming schedule. While the Titans are an up-and-coming team and should still be considered the favorites in Chicago, their defense is porous. Therefore, Chicago might be able to move the ball quite a bit on Tennessee. Expect a high-scoring game next week.
San Francisco is a rare team as bad as the Bears this season and having this game at home gives the Bears a chance to win. With the Lions and Packers the following two weeks, though, the Bears could be in trouble. Detroit has hit their stride, and if they haven’t already lost out on the playoffs, Green Bay will be desperate at that point in the season.
Freeman’s hiatus should give some players in Chicago the chance to step up in the coming weeks, although that isn’t all that exciting for a 2-8 team limping to the finish as the season winds down.
Players Who Could Step Up
There are a couple of players who could step into Freeman’s shoes and prove themselves going forward as the Bears look for linebacker options going forward. The first player who could step in is Christian Jones, who has already contributed in the past. He has 167 tackles in his career; he is currently in his third season in the league.
His production has actually gone down this season with the addition of Freeman to the linebacking corps this season. If he shows he is serviceable, he could earn a spot on the defense in the future. Especially with the solid running game the Titans present, Jones will have a chance to prove himself right away.
The other linebacker who will have the chance to prove himself is West Virginia rookie Nick Kwiatkoski. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and has just seven total tackles this season. Unlike Jones, he hasn’t been given a legitimate chance to prove himself this season.
As for the Bears, they need to take a serious look at the locker room culture they’re fostering right now. With John Fox at the helm, one would think they’d be more disciplined, but this is now two weeks in a row that a star player is getting suspended for violation of the league’s PED policy.
Fox said he doesn’t think this issue is unique to the Bears, as he told ESPN.
“I don’t think this is unique to the Bears. It’s an issue everywhere in the league,” Fox said.
No matter what, the Bears have issues everywhere. Very few of those are going to be solved during this season. As Freeman’s suspension shows, the team still has more questions than answers, and that will likely be the case entering a very uncertain offseason.
[Featured Image by Jeff Haynes/AP Images]