NFC North: Chicago Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler's interactions with teammates and the media always seem to creep into the narrative about the quarterback, and on Tuesday Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said "we've absolutely noticed a difference in Jay."

Cutler admits he's changed, too.

Cutler
"It might be true. Anytime you are in an offense and have the same group of guys around you, it's going to be more comfortable. It is for me anyway," Cutler said. "I like the group of guys we have in the locker room, understand what we are doing offensively. And it's early. It's still preseason with you guys."

Described as petulant to the media in the past with televised on-field blowups with teammates and coaches as evidence that he's been difficult to get along with, Cutler hasn't displayed such qualities so far. But to Cutler's credit, he didn't in 2013 either.

Going into 2014, Kromer believes Cutler is taking on more of a leadership role. He's moved on to a new staff led by an offensive-minded head coach in Marc Trestman. He's finally protected well, and not taking unnecessary punishment every time he drops back to pass. He's surrounded by a bevy of weapons on offense, and playing in an offensive system he believes in strongly on a new seven-year contract.

"I think everyone in the building has noticed a difference in Jay," Kromer said. "None of us knew Jay very well before getting here last year, and we worked through the year and that first year is always hard on everybody. But what I see in Jay Cutler right now is a guy that's the leading the group; a guy that is approachable, and is working to make everybody better because he realizes it's important that everybody is on the same page with him."

New receiver Santonio Holmes admitted as much Monday, saying the quarterback has "taken me under his wing, talked to me, and kept me close." The expectation is Cutler's approach will translate into victories this season. During training camp, Brandon Marshall called Cutler "a totally different person," adding that "I think he has great balance in is life now."

"He's talked with receivers. He's talked with linemen. He's working with running backs constantly," Kromer said. "That's a maturity on his part of knowing the offense, knowing what we want as coaches and feeling good about being the leader that he is. It's been a very good start of the year that way."

Will it continue? Well, it did in 2013 despite the Bears finishing 8-8 in a season in which Cutler was forced to miss time due to injuries on two occasions.

Cutler seems to now totally understand the value of making everyone else around him better, which is part of the reason that within an hour of Holmes signing his contract on Saturday, the two were on the field together working on plays to develop a rapport as quickly as possible. Cutler displayed similar qualities in 2013, too.

"If Santonio Holmes is going to play, Jay's going to rely on him," Kromer said. "Jay knows he has to be on the same page with him. So the faster he can get to know him, the better off he's going to be and that's Jay's goal."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears continue to ponder whether to play recent signee Santonio Holmes on Friday night at Seattle due to the receiver's limited exposure to the offense.

Bears coach Marc Trestman said he hasn't yet made a determination.

"I can't say that right now," Trestman said. "I think we're trying to get him to that place. I think I'll know a little bit more after practice tomorrow. We'll see where he's at. We'll talk to him and we'll see if he's ready to go and get some playing time."

Holmes
Holmes participated in the club's Tuesday workout inside the Walter Payton Center and Trestman "thought he worked positively today." Within an hour of signing his contract with the Bears on Saturday, Holmes and quarterback Jay Cutler were on the field working together; the quarterback administering a crash course to the receiver on the nuances of the club's offense.

What Cutler notices is Holmes still possesses the speed and explosion that made him one of the league's most feared deep threats at one time, but it might be too lofty an expectation -- despite recent efforts -- for the duo to strike on-field accord by the time takes the field to face the Seahawks.

"He obviously knows how to play football," Cutler said. "He's been around a long time, been in a few different systems and been successful. It's just a matter of getting him caught up with our verbiage, how we like to do things, the little tweaks we like, and just kind of get in a rapport with him timing wise. It just takes time. He's explosive. He'd probably be honest [and tell you] he's a little bit rusty. He's been out of football. But getting in and out of cuts, [he] catches the ball well, extremely explosive, fast. He's exciting. It's hard coming in where we are offensively and just kind of throwing him into the mix."

With second-year receiver Marquess Wilson out of action due to a fractured clavicle suffered in training camp, the Bears hope to find a suitable slot receiver to complement Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Trestman said veteran Josh Morgan deserves the first opportunity to work with the starters Friday at Seattle, but Cutler believes the team could have Holmes ready to play by the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against Buffalo.

Morgan has caught five passes for 77 yards through the first two games of the preseason, and outside of Holmes, appears to be the most capable fill-in option at the No. 3 receiver spot.

"He's had two good weeks of practice, two good games, productive games," Trestman said. "He's made plays out there. I think he deserves a chance to step up now and get the first opportunity to do that. He's a powerful guy. He's explosive. He's got straight-line speed, and he's got experience. He's the most experienced, other than Santonio, of any of the receivers that we have."

If Morgan falters, the club appears confident it can get Holmes up to speed quickly enough for him to have an immediate impact in the regular season. Kromer said Holmes "has been impressive in practice. Especially today, he stood out."

Still, Trestman wants Holmes to develop enough of a comfort level with the system before the club rushes him out onto the field.

"I just want him to feel comfortable to be able to go in there and perform and not put our team in a position where his mistakes would create mistakes around him," Trestman said. "We want to give him the best chance to succeed on an individual basis as well."

A ninth-year veteran, and the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII, Holmes has caught 381 passes for 5,963 yards over eight years with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2006-09), and New York Jets (2010-13). Holmes could also become a contributor on special teams, as he's returned 66 punts for 636 yards and a touchdown in addition to 18 kickoffs for 436 yards.

But do the Bears have enough time to prepare Holmes for the limelight?

"We'll find out," Cutler said. "I think [we do]. We might have to help him along in the huddle and make sure he knows what he's doing. But we've got enough veteran guys. We can get him to where he needs to be."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Veteran Josh Morgan receives his turn on the No. 3 receiver carousel Friday when the Chicago Bears face the Seattle Seahawks on the road for preseason game No. 3, according to Bears coach Marc Trestman.

Morgan
"It's still wide open," Trestman said of the club's search for a No. 3 receiver. "In terms of how we're doing it, Josh Morgan will get some work this week. We'll see where the other guys are as we move through the end of the week, but Josh will get the first shot at it as we work into this week's practice and as we work into the game."

Although the club signed Santonio Holmes on Saturday, it's expected he won't receive sufficient repetitions at practice this week to make an impact against the Seahawks. Holmes spent several minutes after practice Monday working with backup quarterback Jordan Palmer and receivers coach Mike Groh in an effort to quickly acclimate himself to Chicago's system.

But a week of practice won't be enough.

Holmes
"I don't know where he is right now. He's still learning the plays," Trestman said. "I can't invent the opportunity. We can't put him in there before he knows what to do, where to go, where to line up, and how to do it. We're going to try like heck to give him a chance to play, but it's just Day 1. I can probably give you a little better information as we move more into the week. Right now, I'm not quite sure where he's at, it was just Day 1."

Besides that, Morgan would seem deserving of the opportunity because he's been the club's most productive receiver thus far this preseason outside of tight end Zach Miller and Brandon Marshall. He's caught five passes for 77 yards through the first two games, and outside of Holmes, appears to be the most capable fill-in option at the No. 3 receiver spot until Marquess Wilson recovers from his fractured clavicle.

Asked specifically what the club seeks in a No. 3 receiver, Trestman said: "I don't know that we're looking for anything but guys that can get lined up, and be flexible to do it in different places. We've got guys who can do that. Certainly Josh can do that. Then, it's just to perform. When you have a target, have an opportunity to make a play, and that goes for practice as well: to do the things we need to do on the perimeter in our run game, and be as effective as you can be with what we're asking you to do."

Morgan feels he's perfectly capable of all that. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Morgan has caught 199 passes over six seasons in the NFL, finishing 2009 and 2010 with 52 and 44 receptions, respectively. He hauled in 48 passes for the Washington Redskins in 2012.

"If you need me to go down there and block a 330-pound defensive end, that's what I used to do a lot with the Redskins," Morgan said during training camp. "If you need me to be a big major part in the running game like I was in San Francisco for Frank Gore, I did all those types of things throughout my career. If you need me to make the big play or the tough catch -- the catch in traffic or the catch across the middle -- I think if you watch film of me over the years, I think I've done all of that."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The #NFLRank project launched on Monday in which ESPN ranks the top 100 players on offense and defense, and Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler checked in at No. 93.

In the grouping of players ranked from Nos. 91 through 100, Cutler was the lone quarterback, ranked one spot above Minnesota offensive tackle Matt Kalil, and one slot below Cincinnati offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, and two places below Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. Interestingly, Cutler's ranking likely means multiple Chicago Bears offensive players register higher rankings than the quarterback.

None of Chicago’s defenders were ranked 91 through 100.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cutler comes off a season in which he put together his best total QBR (66.4) over five seasons with the Bears. Cutler’s 92.5 total QBR in the fourth quarter ranked as No. 1 in the NFL.

Bears fans probably won’t be pleased with Cutler’s ranking, but from this vantage point, the quarterback’s place is just about right. The truth is it’s probably better for Cutler to fly under the radar than to go into the season overhyped anyway.

Based on what we’ve seen from Cutler so far this preseason (123.3 passer rating and a completion percentage of 72.7), he figures to take a major step forward operating in Year 2 of Marc Trestman’s system.

That should mean more victories in 2014, and naturally a better ranking going into the 2015 season.

Where do you think Cutler should be ranked?
Examining the Chicago Bears' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Clausen appears to have passed Jordan Palmer, but Bears coach Marc Trestman maintains the situation remains fluid. Fales' delivery looks a bit odd, but he knows where to go with the ball, makes quick decisions and anticipates well.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The distribution of snaps through the first two games doesn't favor Michael Ford making the team. Trestman recently said Ford is somewhat behind Carey and Draughn on the depth chart. Draughn appears to have solidified the No. 2 spot.

RECEIVERS (5)

Wilson will miss time, but the Bears recently signed Holmes to come in and compete for the No. 3 position. With the club releasing Eric Weems, Holmes should have a legitimate opportunity to stick. Chris Williams needs to get back into the mix. He's missed time with a hamstring injury.

TIGHT ENDS (2)
Zach Miller appeared to be well on his way to claiming the second tight end position, but a torn ligament in his foot landed him on injured reserve. Rosario is the most well-rounded tight end among the candidates for the second spot.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

Injuries to De La Puente, Mills and Britton have given younger players more repetitions, but this position appears to be too deep for any of the younger players to make an impact. This is one of the team's deepest positions.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

Scott and Lane have come on strong, and they could actually become regular contributors in the defensive line rotation.

LINEBACKERS (6)

McClellin and Bostic played better in the club's second preseason outing, but the former doesn't exactly inspire confidence as the starting strong side linebacker. In a perfect world, Bostic, Williams and Briggs are the three starters, but it appears McClellin will wind up in the starting lineup.

CORNERBACKS (5)

McManis has put together arguably the best camp of all the players at this position. Fuller is nursing an ankle injury, but he has more than solidified his roster spot.

SAFETIES (4)

The Bears continue to use McCray and Mundy in the starting lineup, and Conte will need to make up some ground to unseat one of them. The club sporadically uses Adrian Wilson on the first team, and he hasn't yet shown enough to stick. The last two preseason games will be huge for Wilson.

SPECIALISTS (4)

The Bears eliminated Williams' main competition for jobs in the return game by releasing Weems. Tress Way has given O'Donnell a run for his money, but the Bears will likely opt for the draft pick O'Donnell.
Marshall
CHICAGO -- Cable network Showtime announced Thursday that Brandon Marshall will serve this season as an analyst on “Inside the NFL,” and Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman is perfectly fine with the receiver balancing the new job with football.

Marshall consulted with Trestman before making the decision to work at Showtime.

“I trust Brandon,” Trestman said after Thursday night's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. “I trust him to make a decision that was in the best interest of the team first. I know Brandon, and I know he’ll do that. I have complete faith the team will always come first.”

Marshall will serve as an analyst alongside former NFL safety Ed Reed, Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms along with new host Greg Gumbel.

“Football has always come first for him,” Trestman said of Marshall. “I believe he’ll work it out to where it won’t distract him from doing his job.”
CHICAGO -- Finally, it seemed Zach Miller conquered all the injuries that were derailing his NFL career, only to watch it come crashing down Thursday during Chicago’s 20-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Miller
Miller
Playing against the team that drafted him in 2009, Miller suffered a foot injury during the second quarter and was carted off the field. Bears quarterback Jordan Palmer, once a teammate of Miller’s in Jacksonville, called the injury “heartbreaking.”

“Zach is a guy I’ve been trying to spread the word on,” Palmer explained. “I tried to get Arizona to get him last year. He’s worked so hard. He was dealt a really bad hand last year, and he just worked through it. I talked to him throughout the whole process. He’s one of my best buddies. He’s had an unbelievable camp. This is the kind of camp when you come off the streets, this is the kind of camp you dream of.”

Perhaps it is now a nightmare for Miller.

Making his Chicago Bears debut against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Miller caught six passes for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Prior to that, Miller had impressed the coaching staff by taking advantage of every repetition given to him, and those snaps certainly increased when tight end Martellus Bennett was suspended indefinitely.

Miller wasn’t available to speak with the media after the game. At halftime, Miller received X-rays, but was expected to undergo more tests later.

“You’re patient. There weren’t a lot of opportunities early, but when he got those opportunities, he made the most of them,” Palmer said. “Goes in the game last week and has six catches and two touchdowns, and we’re riding high. He’s so confident. And then to get one of those injuries; it's not a work-ethic injury. It’s not that he’s out of shape or has bad technique. It’s just a total bad luck injury.”

Miller played in 29 games over his first two years in the NFL, but since 2011, he’s participated in just four contests.

Bears coach Marc Trestman said the club would know more Friday about the extent of Miller’s injury.

“He’s going to rehab and do everything they ask him to do, and he’s going to contribute somewhere,” Palmer said. “If it’s here, hopefully he comes back. Whatever his situation is, he’s going to play a long time in this league because he is a great player.”
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears first-round pick Kyle Fuller is out of Thursday's matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars after suffering an ankle injury during the game's opening kickoff.

The severity of Fuller's injury wasn't immediately known. There's a chance the Bears could be taking a cautious approach with Fuller, who played extensively last week during the team's preseason opening win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Fuller walked along the sideline under his own power, and didn't appear to be in any pain.

The No. 14 overall pick of the NFL draft out of Virginia Tech, Fuller had been playing with the starters at cornerback opposite Charles Tillman. Tim Jennings filled in for Fuller after the injury.

The team also announced tight end Zach Miller will also miss the rest of the game. Miller suffered a foot injury during the second quarter.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears announced nine players won’t suit up for their matchup Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Soldier Field.

The list includes receivers Marquess Wilson and Chris Williams, safeties Craig Steltz and Chris Conte, cornerback Isaiah Frey, center Brian de la Puente, guard Jordan Mills, tight end Dante Rosario and defensive end Willie Young.

Wilson is expected to miss time in the regular season due to a fractured collarbone, while Williams is sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. Steltz and Conte came off the physically unable to perform list on Sunday, and it’s likely the staff wants the duo to take in more practice time before participating in a preseason outing.

Frey, meanwhile, is nursing a strained hamstring while de la Puente is sidelined with a sprained MCL.

The staff continues to exercise caution with Mills, who underwent surgery in January on a fractured metatarsal in his left foot.

Rosario was held out of practice Tuesday due to what Bears coach Marc Trestman called calf soreness.

It’s unknown why the Bears plan to hold out Young.

Bears Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
2:43
PM ET
BOURBONAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • The Bears broke training camp Tuesday in cool, rainy conditions at Olivet Nazarene University, but the club plans to spend one more day on campus going through meetings and walk-throughs in preparation for Thursday’s matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It seems like we just got here, and now we’ve got one more day of walk-throughs and we’re moving back, 48 hours until game time,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “It was a very good camp. I told them after practice I thought we did a great job of focusing when we need to focus on our work. I think you saw that, for those of you who have been here every day.”
  • The Bears held out Chris Williams (hamstring), Eben Britton (hamstring), Jordan Mills (foot), Marquess Wilson (collarbone), Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Dante Rosario (calf). Charles Tillman and Jeremiah Ratliff were given the day off to rest.
  • Since returning from a strained quadriceps, veteran cornerback Tim Jennings has worked exclusively at the nickel corner spot. Prior to the injury, Jennings had been working outside opposite Tillman when the Bears played their base defense, before kicking inside when the team ran nickel. Now Jennings is taking reps solely as the nickel.
  • Marisa Buchheit, otherwise known as Miss Illinois 2014, visited the sideline at camp and took pictures with several spectators, and even some with members of the media.
  • Safety Chris Conte slipped while dropping into coverage, allowing room for the offense to hit a pass down the seam. Immediately after the play, several in the crowd began to continuously heckle and ridicule the safety. One teammate stood up and screamed “shut up” to the spectators.
  • Obviously, Conte’s struggles in 2013 are well documented. But he certainly wasn’t deserving of the ruthless ridicule, especially considering several players slipped on the wet grass during Tuesday’s workout.
  • On the subject of Conte, it’s still unknown whether he’ll play Thursday against the Jaguars.

“I’m gonna leave that up to the trainers. I’m hoping he can [play], but I can’t say that right now,” Trestman said. “We’ll wait and see.”
  • Conte came off the club’s physically unable to perform list on Sunday and has practiced every day since.
  • At the conclusion of the final workout of training camp, team officials wheeled the bicycles ridden around campus by the players and coaches onto the field to give away to some of the kids in attendance. The Bears have done this for the past several years.
  • Tight end Martellus Bennett spent several minutes after practice playing catch with a young boy visiting camp. After they played catch, the boy walked off the field carrying Bennett’s helmet.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Lovie Smith finished 10-6 in his final season with the Chicago Bears before being fired. Marc Trestman comes in and leads the Bears to an 8-8 record in 2013. Yet expectations soar here on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, where crowds for training camp practices routinely swell to 10,000.

It’s easy to see why. For a fan base accustomed to hard-nosed defense and shaky-at-best offense, Trestman flipped the script in 2013, taking Chicago’s attack to new heights with a major assist from general manager Phil Emery’s shrewd personnel moves.

The Bears broke record after record on offense last season, and the defense stumbled to historic lows.

If Trestman and Emery could basically work a miracle on offense in just one season, why can’t they do it on the other side of the ball in 2014?

“[I] feel very good about the competitive depth and the fights for positions that we're going to have,” Emery said. “Out of the three camps, I would say this camp has the best competitive level among the roster from 1 to 90.”

Emery achieved that by loading up on defenders: acquiring a mix of players poised to hit the sweet spot of their careers in Lamarr Houston and Willie YoungJared Allen, and drafting potential stars such as first-round pick Kyle Fuller. The Bears bolstered those moves with an overhaul of the scheme and additions to the defensive coaching staff.

“We started [with], ‘What could we do to get this team better?’” Trestman said. “I sat down with Phil [Emery], and we began to lay out a road map together on how we were going to rebuild this football team, and here we are at a stage where I don’t think there’s a player in our meeting room who doesn’t feel like there’s hope and high expectations. Now, it’s time to go to work.”

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJay Cutler is more comfortable in coach Marc Trestman's system, and all of his offensive weapons are healthy and ready to go.
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. Jay Cutler’s grasp of the offense is firmer in Year 2 of Trestman’s system, and his performance this year at camp is significantly different from in 2013. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said Cutler is his own problem solver and is making on-field adjustments so instinctively that he doesn’t need guidance from the staff. In his first camp under Trestman, Cutler misfired routinely, and there were concerns about whether he’d be effective in the regular season. After one particularly bad session in 2013, Trestman gathered Cutler and the other quarterbacks in the middle of the field in what could be described as a turning point. That’s not happening this year at camp as Cutler has become a bona fide field general.

2. Brandon Marshall is Brandon Marshall. He wasn’t at camp in 2013. He was coming off hip surgery that hindered his season preparation. Fully healthy now with an offseason to condition, Marshall is ready to go -- and with full comprehension of the offensive system. Throw in Alshon Jeffery’s ascension and you have the makings of something lethal on offense. The duo has certainly looked that way at camp as both routinely make so many eye-popping plays that Cutler could almost throw it up blindly and one of them would come down with the ball.

3. There’s a nastiness on defense and intense focus reminiscent of the units put on the field in Smith’s heyday. Practicing against one of the best offenses in the league, the defense should be losing more than it does at training camp. But this group routinely bests the offense, with dominating play by the front seven as a hallmark. Chalk it up to a combination of personnel additions and a culture shift brought about by an overhaul of the scheme and the acquisition of no-nonsense, get-in-your-face coaches such as Paul Pasqualoni, Reggie Herring and Clint Hurtt.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mundy
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bears brought Ryan Mundy in to compete at safety, but the position, at least in camp, continues to look shaky.
THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The defensive line makes plays at training camp. The corners and linebackers make plays. But you rarely see the safeties making an impact. That could be a result of a lack of chemistry because, with both spots up for grabs, the Bears are using several combinations at the position involving players such as Ryan Mundy, rookie Brock Vereen, Danny McCray, Adrian Wilson and M.D. Jennings. Horrid play at this position in 2013 contributed significantly to the defense’s demise, and we haven’t seen many indications at camp that the Bears will turn that around in 2014.

2. Protecting Cutler could become an issue if some of the injuries suffered by the team's offensive linemen linger. Guard Kyle Long (ankle) and tackle Jordan Mills (foot) missed the preseason opener, and the latter was seen wearing a walking boot when the club returned to training camp after that game. Reserve center Brian de la Puente is expected to miss time to a knee injury, and reserve guard/tackle Eben Britton still hasn’t returned from a strained hamstring suffered earlier at camp.

3. Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009. So naturally, you’d think at some point in 2014 the Bears will have to turn to the backup quarterback. The problem is the candidates vying for the No. 2 job -- Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen -- have done little to inspire confidence the way Josh McCown did last year at training camp. For the most part, Palmer and Clausen have been merely average at camp, misfiring on occasion and making mistakes typical of players acclimating themselves to a scheme. The duo needs to pick it up or the Bears could wind up looking outside the current roster for a suitable No. 2.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Chris Conte says he’s the best athlete in Chicago’s secondary. He needs to prove it, which he'll finally have a chance to do now that he's off the physically unable to perform list. Conte certainly possesses the athleticism to be a playmaker on the back end, provided he regains his confidence. But time is running out for Conte to make a real push for one of the two open jobs at safety. What Conte has going for him right now is that none of the safeties vying for the starting jobs is making plays at camp.
  • The Bears hired martial arts expert Joe Kim to teach the defensive linemen hand fighting techniques as part of the scheme overhaul that requires the front four players to be technicians with their hands. It’ll be interesting to see how the results manifest themselves on the field. Every day after practice at camp, several defensive linemen -- and even some defensive backs -- work intricate hand fighting moves with Kim for several minutes. The players say the moves become almost natural once routinely put into practice on the field. We’ll see whether Kim’s assistance plays a role in the front four anchoring a run defense that finished last in 2013.
  • Zach Miller and Matthew Mulligan are pushing Dante Rosario hard for the No. 2 job at tight end. Miller is more of a move tight end, and Mulligan is a classic in-line blocker who shows some impressive skills as a receiver. The two have received extra reps because of Martellus Bennett's suspension.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Linebacker Khaseem Greene admittedly struggled to acclimate himself to the speed of the NFL game last season when a shoulder injury to Lance Briggs thrust the rookie into the starting lineup for four games.

Greene
But with a year of experience under his belt, Greene has quietly pieced together an impressive camp, and even spent Monday’s practice next to Jon Bostic on first-team nickel with Briggs taking a veteran’s day off.

“It’s slowed down a lot for me this year,” Greene said. “I’m seeing stuff quicker. I’m being able to just be a natural football player and just use my instincts to react. The game definitely has slowed down. It’s fun now. I’m not overthinking it.

“The older guys always say that it will slow down once you get a grasp of the playbook and learn how to start studying opponents. Guys say those skills come with age and from the experience of doing it. I feel like from last year to this year, I’ve made a big jump as far as the game slowing down. I’m now able to read and react.”

The jury is still out regarding the number of linebackers the Bears plan to keep on the 53-man roster. With Briggs and Bostic already locks to make the team, the remaining linebacker spots are between D.J. Williams, Shea McClellin, Jordan Senn, Christian Jones, Jerry Franklin and Greene.

It will be interesting to see which players are pushed out if the Bears decide to keep six at the position.

Williams and McClellin appear safe if they stay healthy, but the picture is cloudy after the top four.

Greene figures to be intriguing because he has value on special teams where he recorded two tackles last year, in addition to defense. Senn is a core special-teamer, but isn’t considered much of a contributor at linebacker. The 6-foot-3 Jones, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Florida State, had a rough game versus the Eagles, but performed well the first couple weeks of camp. Perhaps the potential upside of Jones proves too irresistible to resist if the rookie can be trusted on special teams. And Franklin, who also received increased reps in Monday's practice, played in 13 games over two seasons with the Bears, recording eight tackles.

Bears Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
5:20
PM ET
BOURBONAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Morning showers soaked the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University on Tuesday. So the Bears moved their session across the street to Ward Field, where the club could practice on FieldTurf. “The players handled the transition today and the weather. We moved some things around, went indoors for our walk-through, came out here for the first time in full pads, got a lot of work done, moved some guys around and we made it through the day,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We wanted to make sure we got this one in. We had Plan B and Plan C. Plan A worked pretty good and we got a lot of work done.” According to a school official, the same company that installed the surface inside the Walter Payton Center laid the FieldTurf at ONU, with the work being completed approximately three weeks ago. The school’s soccer teams used the field for the first time on Monday, and the Bears were the first football team to put the surface to use.
  • Zach Miller continues to state a strong case to win the job as the club’s No. 2 tight end. Miller put together another solid outing, catching every ball thrown his way during the various team periods.
  • Backup quarterback Jordan Palmer struggled during Tuesday’s workout, throwing a pair of interceptions to safety Chris Conte and defensive end Willie Young. The INT thrown to Young hit the defensive end squarely in the chest. Conte secured his pick in the end zone during a red-zone drill on a pass intended for Micheal Spurlock. Trestman declined to say whether Jimmy Clausen had overtaken Palmer on the depth chart. “I don’t think we’ve had any movement there at all,” Trestman said. “We’ll move people around. We’ll see how they play in different environments and we’ll make a decision when we have to.”
  • Trestman said “it’s too soon to talk about” whether Conte will play Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Conte came off the physically unable to perform list on Monday and has practiced just two days.
  • Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray continued to take snaps at safety with the starters. The club did work in Conte and Adrian Wilson with the starters as well.
  • Brandon Marshall spent time catching punts during special-teams periods, but don’t expect the club to use him in that capacity during games. “Brandon Marshall likes to get into some drills that maybe he shouldn’t be in,” special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said.
  • Non-participants for Tuesday’s session included Chris Williams (hamstring), Eben Britton (hamstring), Jordan Mills (foot), Brian De La Puente (knee), Marquess Wilson (collarbone), Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Lance Briggs. Briggs isn’t injured. He was given a day off, which Trestman routinely does for veterans.
  • Keep an eye out for linebacker Jerry Franklin, who is taking snaps with the starters on some of the coverage and return units on special teams. He’s also been taking reps with the second team on defense.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Aside from generating additional revenue for the league, preseason football exists to allow teams to work through their issues before games count for real in September.

While the Chicago Bears displayed a multitude of positive signs on both offense and defense in their preseason opener, the third phase, special teams, self-destructed on nearly every level imaginable -- blocked field goal attempt, muffed punt return, penalties, average punts, and a coverage breakdown that led to a Philadelphia Eagles 102-yard kickoff return touchdown.

Time is still on the Bears' side, but special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis feels a sense of urgency to turn things around in a hurry, starting with Thursday night's second preseason contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I took away from Friday night that we didn't play very well," DeCamillis said Monday. "We had a lot of miscues. What's disappointing is practice had been going well. We felt like it was a good training camp up to [that] point.

"We have to starting finding out the guys [who] are going to be playing for us on Sundays. There's no question about that. It's still an evaluation, but I think one of the things that wasn't as good at the start of [last] year was we didn't start out great. I think they came on after the fifth game and really started playing well. We need to see the guys that are going to play on Sundays. That's our goal moving forward, especially in that third preseason game. We have to see those guys and they have to start playing together as a unit."

DeCamillis cited the windy conditions at Soldier Field last week as a possible reason why punters Tress Way (37.5 yards per punt/37.5 net average) and Pat O'Donnell (43.5 yards per punt/33.5 net average) had only average performances against Philadelphia, although both players appeared to strike the ball well during Monday's practice at Ward Field.

One encouraging aspect to take away from the Eagles' game is that long snappers Brandon Hartson and Chad Rempel were on the mark with their snaps. No decision has been made regarding which of the two the Bears will keep on the 53-man roster, but each offers something unique. Hartson is probably the better pure snapper, but Rempel is extremely athletic and seems to be capable of running downfield and covering a punt if necessary.

As for the return game, Eric Weems is in the drivers' seat, especially since speedster Chris Williams suffered a hamstring injury versus the Eagles. Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall did spend time Monday at practice fielding punts during special teams drills, but don't look for Marshall to be the new special teams secret weapon.

"Brandon Marshall sometimes likes to be in drills he shouldn't be in," DeCamillis said with a smile. "That's above my pay grade."
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Shea McClellin produced a lackluster debut at linebacker Friday during the Chicago Bears' preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, but the staff remains optimistic about his transition.

McClellin
A first-round pick drafted to play defensive end in 2012, McClellin moved to linebacker in the offseason after two pedestrian seasons as a pass-rusher. Against the Eagles, McClellin struggled in his first live outing at linebacker.

He missed tackles, struggled to shed blocks, and took bad pursuit angles. But those struggles weren’t exclusive to McClellin, though, as pretty much every player at the position experienced an up-and-down evening. McClellin just happens to fall under the microscope more often because of his first-round pedigree.

"It’s one of those things where he’s working at it," defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "We see him do it at practice. He looks very instinctive at practice. We saw him make sudden movements and quick decisions in the game. I think he’s already doing that to a certain extent. We just have to get better."

Perhaps the most important component of that process is placing McClellin into as many live-game situations as possible so he can become more comfortable playing the position. Believe it or not, against Philadelphia, the Bears drew a difficult assignment given the first-team defense faced the Eagles’ potent no-huddle offense, which features plenty of zone-read concepts, in a situation in which the club hadn’t game-planned for the opposition.

Such a scenario makes for a chaotic opening few series, but once the defense settled in, McClellin started to improve, and he finished the game with two stops. The truth is the staff isn’t looking for McClellin to light it up immediately, because it knows firsthand the challenge the linebacker is facing in making the transition from defensive end.

What the staff hopes to see from McClellin are gradual steps toward becoming the starter on the strong side.

"The bottom line is that Shea has shown enough out here to believe he has linebacker instincts," linebackers coach Reggie Herring said. "I think he’s gonna be fine," Herring added. "He’s committed. He works hard. To be honest with you, there are times out there when he moves better than all of them. He changes directions, instincts, breaking on the ball, it’s a process. Y’all be patient. We’ll know after the first game, second game, where we’re at with him. Right now, he’s on schedule. He needs to play more games. He needs more at-bats, and I really believe that he’ll come and be a solid player for us. That’s my prediction."

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