The Chicago Bears defense didn’t look like its usual self in London against the Oakland Raiders. Part of that was the Raiders playing really well, but another part was attrition. The Bears were without key anchor Akiem Hicks for most of the game due to an elbow injury he suffered in the 1st quarter. That was a big factor in the Raiders running the ball so well throughout the rest of the game. It’s clear despite their good depth that the Bears defensive line still has its limits.

The bad news is Hicks could be out for a bit, having likely suffered a dislocation to the elbow. However, not all is gloomy. That front might be getting some help back for the upcoming New Orleans Saints game in two weeks in the form of Bilal Nichols. Expectations were high for the second-year defensive end after a strong rookie season. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken hand in the second game of the year against Denver and has been out ever since.

Thankfully according to head coach Matt Nagy it seems he’s on the cusp of returning. The tricky part is getting him used to playing with a club on his hand in order to protect it from further injury.

“I think he’s very close. The club thing too, we’ll kind of get into that and talk. We went through that last year with Floyd and it can be hard as a d-lineman when you try to grab somebody. So we’ll see. I’m excited.”

Nichols can at least ease Chicago Bears defense snap counts

Nobody is saying Nichols will fill in for Hicks. That is unlikely with his condition. The idea is to at least fortify the depth a bit more, easing the snaps played for others. Giving Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Williams some extra plays off to catch their wind can often mean the difference late in games. Oakland exploited this advantage last Sunday. No doubt the Saints will try to do the same when they come to Soldier Field. Nichols should be able to re-enter the rotation.