LAKE FORERST, Ill. -- With Lance Briggs expected to be sidelined for the next several weeks with a small fracture in his left shoulder, veteran strong side linebacker James Anderson has assumed the role of on-field defensive signal caller leading up to the Chicago Bears road game versus the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.
“James has done it this week so far and it’s looked good,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said on Thursday. “He’s done it before. [Rookie middle linebacker] Jon [Bostic] will also have a role in it, helping us get lined up. So we won’t have any issues getting lined up.”
An eight-year NFL veteran, Anderson has proven to be one of the defense’s most consistent performers after the club signed him to a one-year deal in the offseason. Anderson is currently third on the team with 54 tackles. Before arriving in Chicago, Anderson started 53 games for the Carolina Panthers from 2006-2012 -- 43 of those starts occurred over the last three seasons.
“I’m completely comfortable [calling the plays],” Anderson said. “I did it in Carolina so it’s nothing that is new to me. For the most part during the year I’ve been helping Lance make the calls, so it’s not like I’m totally new to the situation.”
Anderson went on to say he embraces the opportunity to call the signals because the act itself makes him a better player.
“I think it helps me to call plays because it reiterates in my mind what the call is and what we are trying to do,” Anderson said. “When I’m telling them what the call is, I’m also telling myself as well.”
This is an important week for Anderson. As the last veteran linebacker standing, until Briggs returns, he will be responsible for properly aligning the defense against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL: Aaron Rodgers. The No. 1 career passer in terms of quarterback rating (105.2) in NFL history, Rodgers is having another All-Pro caliber year in 2013, completing 167 of 249 passes for 2,191 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions -- 108.0 quarterback rating.
“I don’t think it’s more a teaching role, I think we just have to make sure we improve our communication on the field,” Anderson said. “I just have to make sure I talk to these young guys more on the field so they feel comfortable.”
Privately, Rodgers is likely relishing the chance to face a Bears’ defense without Briggs and with a pair of rookie linebackers (Bostic and Khaseem Greene) in the starting lineup. However, Rodgers downplayed the changes the Bears have undergone this week at linebacker during a conference call on Thursday with members of the Chicago media.
“I’m sure anybody who’s making those calls, regardless of who they put the helmet on, will be ready to go,” Rodgers said. “Those guys have been in that defense for a while so the faces may change, but schematically it’s not going to be a lot of huge changes. It always comes down to execution in these matchups.
It’s been down-to-the-wire games; we’ve gotten the best of them the last few games but we don’t take this game lightly ever.”