Matt Nagy’s decision to largely sit his starters in the preseason is looking better by the day.
While Bears starters have scarcely seen the field this preseason, the Lions and Packers saw key players get hurt in games Thursday and Friday, respectfully. Linebacker Jarrad Davis and center Frank Ragnow went down with leg injuries for Detroit; linebackers Rashan Gary (neck), linebacker Curtis Bolton (knee) and Equanimeous St. Brown (ankle) exited for Green Bay.
Davis and Ragnow are scheduled to undergo further testing on Saturday, though losing them for any time would be a significant blow for the Lions. Davis (2017) and Ragnow (2018) are two of the team’s more recent first round draft picks. The former led Detroit with 99 tackles in 2018, while losing Ragnow could cause the Lions to shuffle their offensive line.
In defense of Lions head coach Matt Patricia, injuries in football are rather unpredictable. There’s no telling when, or even if, a player will get hurt over the course of a season. However, part of that unpredictability is knowing that the sport is violent and that injuries do happen.
After Friday’s game, Patricia said that “hindsight is 20-20” and broke down the team’s thought process.
“We’re looking at reps, we’re looking at numbers, we’re looking at possibilities of when we can get guys out there, when we think they’ve had enough during the course of the week to take a look at it," Patricia said. “Guys can get injured during practice, guys can get injured during the game.
"I mean, it’s football, to some aspects of it. Injuries are part of the game and that’s something that we all have to deal with.”
Patricia’s last point is exactly why Nagy goes about preseason the way he does. Losing a player to injury in a meaningless game is simply not worth it. Sure, injuries can still happen in practice, and starters not getting in-game reps could be detrimental leading up to the regular season.
However, doing what you can to eliminate injuries in games that don’t count should be well worth the reward, in theory.
“My biggest thing is I’m trying to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears, and every team is different, and that’s okay,” Nagy said about his starter-sitting plan. “… We love where we’re at right now in regards to our starters. We feel really good about it.”
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur mimicked Nagy's plan on Thursday, sitting 33 players due to poor field conditions in a matchup against the Raiders in Winnipeg. This included sitting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Even sitting those 33 players didn’t prevent the Packers from losing key pieces, though. Gary was the No. 12 pick in this year’s draft; Bolton was positioned to replace injured starter Oren Burks at linebacker and St. Brown was set for a larger role in the offense this season. The statuses of the former two aren’t yet clear, but St. Brown will miss 4-6 weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
Fans may want to see their favorite players play, preseason or not. However, ensuring the health of key players is more important, especially with the Bears' Super Bowl aspirations this season.
“September 5th is an important day for us," Nagy said”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.