Pernell McPhee was effectively the jumping-off point for the Ryan Pace/John Fox regime, the foundation pass rusher in the tradition of Julius Peppers and Von Miller, the first-year building blocks that Fox was provided in Carolina and Denver, respectively. McPhee’s left knee gradually brought him down as last season went along, eventually requiring surgery from which McPhee has yet to return.
McPhee is eligible to be moved from the physically unable to perform designation to the active roster as early as Thursday for the Bears' game against Green Bay. With virtually no practice (Tuesday’s was an extended walk-through only), McPhee is not expected to be available for Green Bay, a disappointment because McPhee delivered 13 combined tackles in the two games against the Packers last season.
For his part, McPhee is at least maintaining the front that he could play.
“How (do) I feel? Physically?” he said on Tuesday. “I feel like I’ve been blessed to wake up and see another day. I’ve got all my health. I’m breathing good. I’m feeling great.”
Not exactly an “I’ll be ready” statement. But if the flesh is still mending, the spirit is there: “Just nasty, hard-nosed, going crazy on the field type guy. Just physical, man. I’m just going to bring a physical impact, man.”
That would be an upgrade, even if McPhee is limited and possibly used only in obvious passing situations where he would not be tasked with holding the point against the run and offensive linemen.
That is unlikely.
“This (Packers) team does no-huddle a lot,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “And you have seen from watching them play over the years what they try to do when you substitute at the wrong time. He’s got to be able to fill in and play just like everybody else.”
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The Bears' pass rush for too much of the season — certainly for the past two games — has consisted of Willie Young and ... well just Willie Young. Akiem Hicks had a sack of Andrew Luck. So did Jonathan Bullard. Other than that? Crickets.
It should not be the least bit surprising.
The situation: The defense has averaged a little more than two sacks per game, 13 total, right on the league average of 12.7.
But the bigger view is alarming, given that while stopping the run is paramount, if a defense cannot then endanger the quarterback with any degree of consistency, the ultimate outcome is predictable.
The Bears have just 24 total quarterback pressures. That includes their sacks. Meaning the Bears have pressured quarterbacks just 11 other times, based on their own accounting.
The reality: The defense played the past two games without three of its four projected top pass rushers. Lamarr Houston is done for the year with a knee injury. McPhee hasn’t played yet because of his knee injury. Leonard Floyd was inactive with a calf strain and has faded after starting the first four games, albeit with diminishing participation (80, 71, 60 and 30 percent of the snaps) before going inactive for Indianapolis and Jacksonville.
“We have this whole cottage industry in the offseason about the draft and free agency,” Fangio said. “And (when) you get a good player and then he’s no longer there. It has an effect on you.”