Chicago Bears: NFC North

Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman checked in at No. 66 in our NFLRank project, which kicked off Day 4 on Thursday with ESPN ranking the Top 100 players around the league on both sides of the ball.

 The latest rankings grouped players between Nos. 70 through 61. Bears tight end Martellus Bennett made the list on Tuesday with a No. 82 ranking, while defensive end Lamarr Houston became the club’s first defender to crack the top 100 (No. 80)

Tillman’s 42 forced fumbles is tops by a defensive back in NFL history. Tillman has forced at least three fumbles in seven consecutive seasons, which ties as the longest such streak in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Playing on a one-year contract signed back in March, Tillman, 33, could be entering his last season with the Bears. They signed Tim Jennings to an extension during the offseason and used a first-round pick to bring in Kyle Fuller.

“Charles is one of the NFL’s great players and a true leader on and off the field, and we’re happy he will be staying in Chicago,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said after Tillman re-signed. “He remains the best in our game at forcing turnovers and always has brought a tough, physical presence to our secondary. Charles also has a special connection to the people and community across Chicago, and we’re excited for that to continue.”

The 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner, Tillman started just eight games last season before finishing on injured reserve due to torn triceps, but he still forced six takeaways (three interceptions, three forced fumbles).

Tillman’s 36 interceptions rank No. 3 in franchise history, and he owns club records for interception return yards (675), interception return touchdowns (eight) and defensive return touchdowns (nine).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Santonio Holmes expects to see action in some spots Friday night when the Chicago Bears face the Seattle Seahawks, but the staff wants to make sure to put the receiver into positions he’s comfortable with as he learns the new offense.

“I’d like him to dress,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to him and see where he is. As I said yesterday, we want to get him in there as quickly as possible. We also want to respect him and do the right thing.”

While Chicago’s offense is very similar to what Holmes executed as a New York Jet, the terminology is substantially different, he said. So the Bears want to make sure to use Holmes in situations that will allow him to excel.

“We don’t want to put him in a situation where he can hurt himself or hurt our football team,” Trestman said. “We’ll have that talk. I’ll talk to [receivers coach] Mike Groh about it, and I’ll talk to Santonio about it, and see how he feels about getting some playing time on Friday night.”

Holmes welcomes the opportunity, and said he respects Groh and Trestman’s handling of the current situation as he continues to learn Chicago’s playbook.

A ninth-year veteran and MVP of Super Bowl XLIII, Holmes has caught 381 passes for 5,963 yards in eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2006-09) and New York Jets (2010-13).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A Chicago Bears defender finally made the cut in our NFLRank project, which commenced with Day 3 on Wednesday as ESPN continued to rank the top 100 players on offense and defense, with defensive end Lamarr Houston checking in at No. 80.

The latest rankings grouped players between Nos. 80 through 71. Bears tight end Martellus Bennett made the list on Tuesday with a No. 82 ranking.

Read more on Bennett and his ranking, here.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Oakland Raiders posted a sack on 7 percent of pass attempts with Houston on the field, compared with 4.5 percent of attempts when he wasn’t on the field. Perhaps that’s why the Bears made Houston the jewel of their class of free agents, signing him in March to a five-year deal worth $35 million.

Bears general manager Phil Emery believes Houston is starting to come into his prime as a defender.

“Obviously watching tape of him, Lamarr has matured into a very versatile, powerful, tough, physical, productive player, and we’re very happy to have him as a member of the Chicago Bears,” Emery said after the signing.

A fifth-year veteran, Houston is coming off a 2013 season in which he racked up a career-high six sacks for 52 yards in losses. Houston led Oakland’s defensive linemen last season with 71 tackles, forced two fumbles and collected 10 tackles for lost yardage.
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.

"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 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. -- The Chicago Bears held out six players from Tuesday’s workout inside the Walter Payton Center, as the team continued preparation for Friday’s road matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

Guards Brian De La Puente (MCL sprain) and Eben Britton (hamstring) didn’t participate in Tuesday’s session along with cornerbacks Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Kyle Fuller (ankle), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) and defensive end Jared Allen (bruised shoulder).

Linebacker Lance Briggs (knee bruise) also returned to practice Tuesday after being held out of Monday’s workout.

Bears coach Marc Trestman has called Fuller and Mills day to day, and said Allen was held out as a precautionary measure. Mills hasn’t yet played in a preseason contest, leading to questions about whether he’ll be available for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills.

The team continues to take a conservative approach to Mills’ recovery. The second-year veteran underwent surgery in January on a fractured metatarsal in his left foot.

“Jordan Mills had a lot of practice before being injured. So we believe that he could be ready physically and mentally due to the practice he had in training camp prior to getting hurt,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “Obviously we’d like him back as soon as we can. We’re lucky to be in a situation right now where the backup Michael Ola went in and played well in the game. So it’s really on Jordan to come back in and be ready.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The NFLRank project kicked off Day 2 on Tuesday as ESPN ranked the top 100 players on offense and defense, with No. 83 for the Chicago Bears making the cut at No. 82 on the list.

In the grouping of players ranked from Nos. 81 through 90, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett was the only player at the position to make the cut, registering one spot above Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris, and one slot below San Francisco offensive tackle Anthony Davis.

None of Chicago’s defensive players was ranked between 81 through 100, but more than likely some Bears are coming up.

Bennett tied for seventh in receptions (65) last season, ninth in receiving yardage (759) and 11th in touchdowns (5) among tight ends.

Surely, the gregarious Bennett won’t like where he falls in this year’s rankings. But hey, there’s always next season.

Quarterback Jay Cutler became the first player to make the list on Monday, cracking the top 100 at No. 93.

Bears sign two, waive two

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
The Chicago Bears announced they signed return man Darius Reynaud and cornerback Peyton Thompson on Monday to one-year contracts in addition to waiving long snapper Chad Rempel and punter Tress Way.

Terms of the deals weren’t disclosed.

Reynaud played in 48 games for the Minnesota Vikings (2008-09), New York Giants (2010), Tennessee Titans (2012-13) and the New York Jets (2013), returning 102 punts for 985 yards and two touchdowns and 104 kickoffs for 2,347 yards and a touchdown. Reynaud led the NFL in total return yardage (1,650 total; 1,240 on kick returns, and 410 on punts) and tied for the league lead in total return TDs (3) and punt return TDs (2)

Thompson, meanwhile, came into the league in 2012 as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. Thompson has spent time on the practice squads of the Falcons and the Redskins.

Rempel joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent after spending 10 years in the Canadian Football League.

Way spent each of the last two preseasons with the Chicago Bears, and apparently lost out in a competition with sixth-round pick Patrick O'Donnell for the starting punter’s job.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears kicked off a simulated regular-season game week Monday in preparation for Friday’s exhibition matchup against the Seattle Seahawks with a few players sitting out of practice due to injuries.

The Bears held out guards Brian de la Puente (MCL sprain) and Eben Britton (hamstring), cornerbacks Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Kyle Fuller (ankle), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) and linebacker Lance Briggs (knee bruise).

Bears coach Marc Trestman called Fuller, Mills and Briggs day-to-day. But Mills hasn’t yet played in a preseason outing, and there’s growing concern that his regular-season availability could be in jeopardy.

The team has taken a conservative approach in bringing along Mills, who in January underwent surgery on a fractured metatarsal in his left foot. Mills wasn’t wearing a walking boot on Monday at Halas Hall, but throughout camp the second-year tackle wore one sporadically.

“Day-to-day, that’s it,” Trestman said of Mills. “It’s really day-to-day. I can’t give you anything more than that. We’re hopeful it’s soon [he returns], but that’s all I’ve heard at this point and time and that’s the way we’ve looked at it: just day-to-day.”

Asked if Mills’ regular-season availability could be in jeopardy, Trestman said, “I’m hopeful that it’s not. I’m not trying to get you to insinuate anything. I’m just hopeful it’s not.”

In other Bears injury news, receiver Chris Williams returned to practice for the first time since injuring a hamstring while catching a 73-yard touchdown in the preseason opener. Tight end Dante Rosario also returned to practice after missing the team’s 20-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday due to calf soreness.
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.

"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.

"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. -- NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino recently told Peter King of MMQB that the league doesn’t plan to compromise on its recent crackdown on defensive holding and illegal contact penalties, which is part of why the Bears remain vigilant about making sure their players execute proper technique.

Interestingly, officials flagged the Chicago Bears a total of three times so far this preseason for illegal contact or defensive holding.

“We talked to our guys, and we've actually reviewed some of the rules with them just to reiterate this is what's being called, these are the points of emphasis this season, and anticipate that it's going to be like that. It's not going to change,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “So coming out of the first game we said, ‘Hey, we had way too many penalties. Let's make sure we focus on eliminating the foolish penalties; things that we can control, the pre-snap penalties.’ So we eliminated those, but we still have some aggressive penalties.”

Accepted penalties have increased thus far this preseason, compared to the 2013 regular season, and Blandino told MMQB that “the way the game’s being officiated now is the way it’s going to be officiated when the season begins.”

Believe it or not, that could bode well for Chicago’s physical receiving duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but that won’t be the case for the club’s defenders. Bears coach Marc Trestman said last week the league’s crackdown won’t be a huge detriment to the team’s defenders because they rarely grab receivers’ jerseys and hold.

But that won’t stop Tucker from continuing to emphasize sound fundamentals, which will ultimately decrease penalties. Officials have flagged Bears defenders a total of 14 times so far this preseason.

“It really boils down to hand placement. That's really the focus this week: making sure our hands are in the right place, in terms of we want to make sure our hands are inside, they're not where they're supposed not supposed to be,” Tucker said. “From an illegal contact standpoint that's not a new rule. It's what it is, and we've got to coach through it. But we want our guys to be aggressive and play aggressively through their technique, and then we'll clean them up along the way. But obviously we've got to get those penalties cleaned up.”
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?

Chicago Bears' projected roster

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
Examining the Chicago Bears' roster:

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.
They’ll say signing Santonio Holmes was all about adding competition to the mix, and that will be true.

The Chicago Bears also might be concerned the abilities of the candidates vying for Marquess Wilson's No. 3 receiver spot lack what the club is looking for at the position.

When Wilson fractured his collarbone diving for a pass at camp, it appeared Chicago’s roster contained several suitable prospects as potential replacements. Surely, between players such as Eric Weems, Josh Morgan, Chris Williams, Armanti Edwards and Micheal Spurlock, along with newcomers Greg Herd and Dale Moss, the Bears could find a receiver capable of getting the job done until Wilson returns. They still might be able to pull from this group, with the exception of Weems, who was released once the Holmes news became official.

Let’s take a look at how they’ve played through the first two games of the preseason.

Of the group, just Morgan and Spurlock caught more than three passes over the first two games as both have five receptions. After Josh Bellamy (three receptions), none of Wilson’s potential replacements collected more than two receptions. Williams (two receptions) receives a pass since he suffered a hamstring injury catching a 73-yard pass against the Philadelphia Eagles in the exhibition opener and sat out of Thursday night’s game, while Weems didn't record a single reception in two exhibition outings.

So while the group has shown some production, catching a combined 18 of the 32 passes thrown its way for 301 yards and two touchdowns, the team needs to find about half that output over two games from one player. Wilson showed that capability, and perhaps some of the other candidates possess it, too, but haven’t received ample opportunity due to the Bears shuffling so many players in and out of the lineup to glean a clean evaluation.

Holmes, 30, caught 23 passes for 456 yards and a touchdown in 11 games last season for the New York Jets. He played in four games in 2012 before suffering a lisfranc injury.

Holmes put together his most productive season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009, registering a career-high 79 receptions for 1,248 yards, in addition to receiving MVP honors at Super Bowl XLIII.

Holmes doesn’t need to be all that in Chicago; just a suitable and consistent complement in the slot, which at this point appears more difficult to find with Wilson out of the picture.
The Chicago Bears announced on Friday they have placed tight end Zach Miller, who suffered a foot injury during the second quarter of the club’s win Thursday night over the Jacksonville Jaguars, on the injured reserve while signing receiver Kofi Hughes to a one-year contract.

The severity of Miller’s injury wasn’t immediately disclosed, as he was visiting a doctor Friday undergoing an MRI exam and a CT scan as the club made the announcement.

Despite the setback, Miller was still in good spirits.

Signed by the Bears last December, Miller put together a strong showing at training camp and caught six passes for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the club’s preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. That performance led to increased repetitions for the fifth-year veteran, as the club began to experiment more with two-tight end formations which featured Martellus Bennett and Miller.

“We’ll see what happens,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “You guys saw him out at practice. He had an excellent camp. Things transitioned from the practice field to the games over the last couple of weeks. That was clear. We were certainly excited about what we saw.”

Backup quarterback Jordan Palmer, who played with Miller in Jacksonville in 2012, called the tight end’s situation “heartbreaking.”

“There weren’t a lot of opportunities early, but when he got those opportunities, he made the most of them,” Palmer said after Thursday’s game. “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 (2009-10), but since 2011, he’s participated in just four contests as injuries continue to keep him sidelined. Miller hasn’t been a part of an active roster since 2011. He spent 2012 on the injured reserve in Jacksonville, and in 2013, Miller worked with Tampa Bay in the offseason, but was waived prior to the start of the regular season.