Chicago Bears: Chris Conte

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears announced safety Chris Conte (back) and kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps) are out for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

The club also listed cornerback Tim Jennings (ankle), left guard Kyle Long (hip), and defensive tackles Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) and Will Sutton (illness) as questionable. Long and Ratliff were limited participants Friday during practice at Halas Hall.

“Kyle, his hip is a little bit sore today,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He did some limited work. We just monitored his work today.”

Trestman called Gould “week to week,” and said the kicker “tried very hard to go last week.”

The team will hold out Gould for the third consecutive week, while Conte will miss his second straight outing after suffering the back injury in the third quarter of a Dec. 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Prior to that, Conte left a Thanksgiving loss to the Lions due to an eye injury, and he's missed time with sprains on both shoulders.

It’s expected that Brock Vereen will start in Conte’s place.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte (back) missed his third consecutive day of practice Saturday, and the club officially lists him as doubtful for Monday night’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field.

The club also held out defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) and defensive end Cornelius Washington (ankle), but that duo is listed as questionable along with kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps), and offensive lineman Michael Ola (back).

Conte suffered the back injury during the third quarter of the team’s Dec. 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and couldn’t continue. Prior to that, Conte left the club’s loss at Detroit on Thanksgiving because of an eye injury. Conte has been diagnosed with two concussions this season, in addition to missing time with sprains of both shoulders.

If Conte can’t play against the Saints, it’s likely the team would go with rookie Brock Vereen at free safet over recent addition Anthony Walters or Danny McCray.

Ratliff, meanwhile, hasn’t played since the team’s Nov. 23 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Robbie Gould, Chris Conte sidelined on Friday

December, 12, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte (back), place kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps), and linebacker Daryl Sharpton sat out Friday’s practice held inside the Walter Payton Center.

Gould
Gould
Gould is attempting to battle back from a right quadriceps injury that kept the veteran kicker from playing last week in the Bears’ 41-28 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Kicker Jay Feely remains on the 53-man roster and might handle place kicking duties again on Monday against the New Orleans Saints, but Gould is expected to return before the conclusion of the regular season.

Soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Conte has fought the injury bug the entire season, with his sore back being just the latest in a long string of ailments that have plagued the safety since he had shoulder surgery last spring.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman said Conte would play when "medically cleared by the doctors," but Conte’s status to face the Saints seems to be in doubt.

Meantime, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) and offensive lineman Michael Ola (back) were limited on Friday.

Many in the building consider Ratliff the Bears’ best defensive player. The team’s defense has faltered the past two weeks against Detroit and Dallas (particularly versus the run) without Ratliff on the field. The 10-year veteran tried to warm up prior to the Cowboys’ game last Thursday, but wound up inactive.
Let’s take a quick spin around the Chicago Bears beat:
  • Here’s a notebook from Dan Wierderer of the Chicago Tribune chronicling everything from Halas Hall on Monday. Pay particular attention to the injury situation as cornerback Tim Jennings, receiver Alshon Jeffery, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, safety Chris Conte and right guard Kyle Long were held out of practice. The team doesn’t have to release an official injury report until later Monday.
  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times ponders how Lance Briggs will be remembered in Chicago.


  • Morrissey writes: I suspect we’ll appreciate Briggs more when he’s gone than we did while he was here. He and the city need a break from each other. Fans weren’t happy with his contract demands or with how much his play had slipped the past few seasons. But eventually the memory of a linebacker making play after play will win out. As it should.

  • Defensive tackle Stephen Paea is set to hit free agency. Will the Bears bring him back?
  • Kevin Fishbain takes a look at the opportunity Briggs’ absence creates for Jonathan Bostic.
  • The Bears are set to defend Dez Bryant coming off a game in which Detroit’s Calvin Johnson worked the defense for two touchdowns and 146 yards receiving.


CHICAGO -- Lovie Smith stamped Chicago's defense with a takeaway mindset during his nine-year tenure, and standing on the opposite sideline Sunday as coach of Tampa Bay, he watched the Buccaneers fall victim to his Bears brainchild.

Down 10-0 to start the second half, the Chicago Bears scored 14 points off three third-quarter takeaways to best the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-13 at Soldier Field.

In all, Chicago gobbled up four takeaways.

[+] EnlargeBears
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesRyan Mundy's interception was one of four Bears takeaways against Lovie Smith's Buccaneers. The Bears are 8-0 under Marc Trestman when they finish with a positive turnover margin.
"They were big," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We're not going to apologize for the short fields. We haven't had very many, but we're not going to apologize for creating the turnovers we did."

A light rain fell at kickoff, but as the game progressed, the precipitation increased along with Chicago's prospects for forcing turnovers. Several Bears defenders said the sloppy conditions helped them to take away the ball.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that," safety Ryan Mundy said. "But takeaways are our focus every game. We come in trying to be plus-2 [in turnover margin] every game because that's what this defense has thrived on for so many years. That's one of the pillars of our defense. Particularly, when the weather gets nasty, offenses have trouble handling the ball. So we need to exploit that moving forward. We knew they were going to be playing for takeaways because when Coach Smith was here, those were the coaching points for [the Bears]."

David Bass' strip-sack of Josh McCown with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter turned the tide of the game, as Matt Forte busted a 13-yard touchdown run behind left guard Kyle Long on the next play from scrimmage to give the Bears a 14-10 lead after the extra point.

In a span of 1:49, Forte scored two touchdowns off Bears takeaways. Mundy picked off a pass that bounced off Charles Sims' hands to set up Forte's second score. Chicago needed to move the ball a total of 28 yards on five plays for Forte's touchdowns.

"When you get into this weather, it's not optimal throwing conditions," McCown said. "But you've got to manage it the best you can. Those two [turnovers] right there back-to-back hurt us. It's tough, but we've got to do a better job of managing it."

Earlier in the game, Chris Conte picked off McCown. But Jay Cutler fumbled on the ensuing possession, and Tampa Bay capitalized with a McCown touchdown pass to Mike Evans. Chicago's opponents this season have now scored 82 points off turnovers, with Cutler committing 18 of the team's 21.

The Bears' defense, however, has scored 63 points this season off 18 takeaways. Since 2006, the Bears are 50-10 when they finish games with a positive turnover margin (8-0 under Trestman in those conditions), 13-35 in games on the negative side of turnover margin and 14-16 when the turnover margin is equal.

"With them coming in, Lovie preaches [turnovers] a lot, so we knew we had to win the turnover battle," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "That was huge for our success today. We needed that."

During Smith's tenure in Chicago, the Bears led the NFL in takeaways (310), returning 34 of them for touchdowns, including 26 interceptions returned for scores. That tied for the most in the NFL during that span.

Smith couldn't help but admit that the Bears beat him at his own game.

"Yeah, I think most teams win with that turnover ratio," Smith said. "There are a lot of defensive players [for Chicago] that bought into that, and, like most games, that's normally what's going to determine the winner."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A lingering foot injury kept starting right tackle Jordan Mills off the practice field Friday -- forcing the Chicago Bears to list Mills as questionable to face the New England Patriots on Sunday.

 Mills went backwards on the injury report the entire week; downgraded to limited participation in practice on Thursday (Mills had full participation on Wednesday) before sitting out Friday's session altogether.

“It’s a problem [Mills’ foot injury] right now and we’ll have to see how it is over the course of the next couple of days,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “We’ll have to see where Jordan is. If he can’t go, then Michael [Ola] will be in his place [at right tackle].

Ola started three games at left guard and two games at left tackle earlier in the season when Matt Slauson and Jermon Bushrod were injured.

Meantime, linebackers Jon Bostic (back) and Lance Briggs (ribs) are both listed as doubtful for Week 8. Trestman said Briggs is still dealing with soreness but is making progress towards an eventual return.

In more encouraging news, rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller is probable for Sunday after suffering a broken right hand and right hip pointer injury last weekend in the loss to the Miami Dolphins. Fuller has worn a protective brace on his hand the past two days at practice, but it’s unknown if he plans to wear anything on his hand versus New England, according to Trestman.

Safety Chris Conte (shoulder), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (non-injury related) and tight end Martellus Bennett are also probable.

Safety Danny McCray has been ruled with a knee injury.

Bears CB Kyle Fuller limited at practice

October, 23, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller (hand, hip) returned to practice on Thursday wearing a protective brace on his fractured right hand.

The official injury report listed Fuller as having limited participation.

Fuller
“I talked to him after practice. He said it went well,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.

“Our decision with Kyle is day-to-day in terms of how he’s working. He practiced today to the full extent of practice. We’ll see how that is tomorrow and we’ll continue to evaluate it daily. We certainly want him to feel comfortable playing and not to have the concerns that he can hurt himself more with what he has. We certainly wouldn’t put him out there if we thought that was the case.”

Linebackers Lance Briggs (ribs) and Jon Bostic (back), tight end Martellus Bennett (hamstring) and right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) were also limited.

Three players were held out of practice: defensive end Jared Allen (rest), safety Danny McCray (knee) and KR/WR Chris Williams (illness).

Safety Chris Conte (shoulder) practiced without restrictions for the second consecutive day and is expected to be available Sunday when the Bears travel to New England. Conte was inactive in Week 7 after failing to finish four of the Bears' first six regular-season games.

Brock Vereen excited about family reunion

October, 22, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears first-year free safety Brock Vereen has had the date circled on his calendar for months.

Vereen
S. Vereen
Vereen
B. Vereen
Sunday’s game in New England potentially pits Vereen against old brother Shane -- the Patriots' starting running back and key contributor on offense with 259 rushing yards (one touchdown), and 23 receptions for 185 yards and two scores.

The brothers have yet to battle each other during a game -- until now.

"After draft day obviously we looked up each other's schedules," Brock Vereen said. "Since then it's something that we've both been anticipating, but we're very excited for it to actually be here.

You know, it's an exciting time for my parents and my family. But from a personal standpoint I've got to stay focused and get ready to go."

A fourth-round draft pick, Vereen started Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins (five tackles), and is a candidate to see the field on defense in New England. Vereen is also tied for fifth on the team with five special teams tackles.

Of course, Vereen’s defensive playing time likely hinges on the health of safety Chris Conte (shoulder). Conte practiced without restrictions Wednesday, but the safeties' 2014 track record is concerning. Conte failed to finish four of the first six games before being inactive against the Dolphins.

"There are definitely things I feel I did well and there's definitely things I need to improve on," Vereen said regarding his first NFL start.

Would Vereen hesitate to clobber his brother Sunday, if the opportunity presented itself?

"That's my job; just like he would be looking to run me over or break my tackle," Vereen said. "So we're very excited."

Bears OL reunited at practice

October, 16, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Injuries forced the Chicago Bears to use four different offensive line combinations through six games, but all five starters were together on the practice field Thursday in preparation to play the Miami Dolphins.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (ankle/knee) is likely to return to action on Sunday after being upgraded to full participation in practice, while right tackle Jordan Mills (right) did limited work following a rest day on Wednesday.

“Today was like the first time we’ve all practiced together since Week 1,” Mills said. “I wasn’t there in OTAs (foot surgery) and parts of camp. Then it was Kyle Long when he had his illness. Then unfortunately Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson got hurt in the same game (Buffalo) with the same injury. Then Bushrod [suffered his injury at practice before Carolina game]. But all these dudes [we have as reserves] played so well it was like nobody ever left.”

Linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were the only ones to sit out Thursday’s indoor session, but head coach Marc Trestman refused to officially rule out either player, yet.

Trestman said the Bears have rotated safeties Ryan Mundy, Brock Vereen and Danny McCray this week at practice, but Mundy and Vereen lined up together in Atlanta after Conte left the game, the fourth game he’s been unable to finish in 2014. Conte did cardiovascular work on Thursday.

Linebackers Jon Bostic (back) and D.J. Williams (neck), and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) had limited participation.

Cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps/knee) and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand) practiced without restrictions and are expected to be available to face Miami.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Linebacker Shea McClellin returned to practice Wednesday after being inactive the past four games due to a hand injury along with starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee and ankle) and linebacker Jonathan Bostic, who missed last week’s contest due to a back injury.

In other injury news, linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice, along with safety Chris Conte (shoulder), running back Matt Forte (coach’s decision), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot), defensive tackle Stephen Paea (coach’s decision) and linebacker D.J. Williams (neck).

The Bears held out Briggs and Williams from the club’s win last week over the Atlanta Falcons, and Bears coach Marc Trestman doesn’t anticipate Briggs will practice Thursday.

Mills, meanwhile, is hobbled with by the same left foot that forced him the miss the entire preseason after undergoing surgery in the offseason to repair a fractured metatarsal. In the win over the Falcons, Mills was flagged for three pre-snap penalties, and struggled in pass protection.

“We gave him some time off today,” Trestman said. “He was at practice, did some limited things. But we kept him out. We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”

Bushrod and Bostic participated in a limited capacity. Bushrod has missed the last two games after suffering ankle and knee injuries during practice leading into the club’s Oct. 5 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Bostic missed the club’s last outing at Atlanta as the Bears’ entire starting linebacking corps was forced to miss due to injuries.

Other limited participants included safety Ahmad Dixon and cornerback Sherrick McManis.

Second-year receiver Marquess Wilson (fractured clavicle) is eligible to return to practice this week after being placed on short-term injured reserve on Sept. 2, but he didn’t participate in Wednesday’s workout at Halas Hall. Trestman said the Bears plan to bring along the No. 3 receiver slowly. Wilson will be eligible to return in Week 10 when the Bears face the Green Bay Packers.

“There’s a whole plan involved to when he can start to work, when we want him to start work,” Trestman said. “That will all take place, really get started in the next two to three weeks in terms of his protocol so to speak [for getting] back into the swing of things. He’s obviously getting a lot of work with the trainers and working out with [strength and conditioning coordinator] Mike [Clark] and so forth. But it’s all part of the timing issue of when he can come back as much as anything.”

Marc Trestman: Chris Conte 'is our starter'

October, 13, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Safety Chris Conte’s inability to finish four of the Chicago Bears’ six games is not a motive for coach Marc Trestman to remove Conte from the starting lineup.

Conte left Sunday’s 27-13 victory in Atlanta at the 14:30 mark of the third quarter because of a shoulder injury and failed to return. Shoulder injuries previously knocked Conte out of games versus the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets, while a concussion forced Conte to exit Week 5’s road loss in Carolina.

Conte also suffered a concussion in the Bears’ third preseason game against the Seahawks on Aug. 22 after missing the entire offseason program and the beginning of training camp due to offseason shoulder surgery.

Conrath
Conte
“He’s our starter until the doctors and trainers…or he feels uncomfortable playing. That hasn’t been the case,” Trestman said Monday. “We’ll see how he is in the next couple of days and how he proceeds through the week.

“I can only tell you what I’m hearing from the doctors and trainers is that he hurt his shoulder yesterday. I just feel so bad for Chris because he’s worked so hard and he’s had these situations come up that have taken him out of games. Yesterday was just another aberration of things that have happened to him. He’s played hard and he’s made plays for us, but at the end of the day he’s had to come out of the game and I’m disappointed for him.”

In other injury news, second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson is eligible to begin practicing this week after being placed on injured reserve with the designation to return at the onset of the regular season. Wilson fractured his collarbone when he dove to catch a deep ball during a training camp practice in Bourbonnais. Surgery was required to correct the problem.

Trestman wouldn’t confirm if Wilson will practice on Wednesday, but instead told reporters the wide receiver is expected to work out in front of the club’s medical staff Monday and Tuesday before a final determination is reached.

Wilson can’t play in a game until the Bears return from their bye week and travel to face the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 9.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears listed center Roberto Garza as participating fully in practice for the first time since the 14-year veteran suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1, increasing the likelihood that Garza will return to the starting lineup Sunday in Atlanta.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Garza practiced today, and we’ll see what kind of aftereffects he’ll have after a full day of work,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

Last week, Trestman announced that Garza will return to the starting lineup upon receiving the proper medical clearance, but added the club is pleased with veteran Brian de la Puente, who has replaced Garza at center for four straight games.

Seven players missed practice on Wednesday: running back Matt Forte (coaches' decision), left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee/ankle), linebackers Shea McClellin (hand), D.J. Williams (neck), Jon Bostic (back), Lance Briggs (ribs) and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring).

With the top four linebackers out, the Bears took a look at the trio of Khaseem Greene, Christian Jones and Darryl Sharpton.

In other injury news, safety Chris Conte and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff were limited because of concussions, and cornerback Sherrick McManis had limited participation because of a quadriceps injury. McManis is a candidate to be used at cornerback in the nickel subpackage Sunday given the release of Isaiah Frey on Tuesday.

Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod officially out vs. Panthers

October, 3, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears will face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday without left tackle Jermon Bushrod, as the club officially declared him out because of a knee injury suffered Thursday during a workout at Halas Hall.

In anticipation of Bushrod’s absence, the Bears shuffled in multiple players along the offensive line at practice Thursday in an attempt to find the best combination up front. Bushrod will miss his first game since 2009. He had started in 68 consecutive games.

“I don’t know how many it is in a row, but it’s coming to an end this week,” Bushrod said. “We’re gonna see how I feel in the next few days. [The injury is] nothing crazy. It’s just some things I have to deal with one day at a time. I miss it. I’ve been away from practice for two days. It’s hard to see the guys out there grinding.”

The Bears also announced defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff will miss his third consecutive game stemming from a concussion suffered during Week 2 at San Francisco, and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand) and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) are also out for Sunday’s game.

Bushrod’s injury forced the Bears to move around players at multiple positions along the offensive line at practice Thursday as a contingency plan. Working in Chicago’s favor is the fact that center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson returned to practice Wednesday after missing the last three games with high ankle sprains.

Slauson is officially listed as questionable , and if he plays, Bears coach Marc Trestman said the team will start Michael Ola at Bushrod’s left tackle spot. Ola has started the past three games at left guard in place of Slauson. But the team anticipates Slauson returning to the lineup against the Panthers.

“That’s a common thought and belief, that you want the quarterback’s back side to be protected, and as we’ve gone into it, the move is right now is Mike will be over there if Matt is playing,” Trestman said. “Mike got a lot of work over there, anyway, to be where we could certainly have him starting there and have him play the guard position as well. The hope is that Matt will be playing and Mike will be at left tackle.”

In other injury news, defensive end Jared Allen (pneumonia), linebacker Lance Briggs (knee), safety Chris Conte (shoulder), receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), and linebacker D.J. Williams (neck) are officially listed as probable. Garza (ankle) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) are doubtful.

Chicago typically dresses just seven offensive linemen for games, which means the club cross-trains the players at multiple positions up front in case of injury. During the preseason, Ola bounced along the offensive line, playing both tackle and guard in spurts.

A rookie, Ola admitted to feeling a little pressure about taking on the responsibility of protecting Jay Cutler’s blind side Sunday against the Panthers. Ola didn’t start taking snaps at left tackle until Wednesday’s workout.

“I definitely don’t want to be that guy who gets Jay hit at all, or I’ll be back to flipping burgers or something,” Ola said.

Marshall (ankle) has full participation

October, 1, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears received encouraging news on the health front Wednesday with the return of five previously injured/ill starters to the practice field in advance of Sunday's road game in Carolina.

Headlining the group is wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), who's been battling a sore ankle since Week 1 that's limited his production the two weeks to three combined catches versus the Jets and Packers.

Marshall
Marshall practiced without restrictions on Wednesday for the first time in recent memory.

"It was good to get him [Marshall] back out there at full speed," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.

Meantime, defensive end Jared Allen (pneumonia), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle) were limited on Wednesday, a positive development since all four players were inactive in Week 4.

Allen said he is confident about his chances of suiting up this weekend against the Panthers. However, the defensive end did acknowledge he lost about 15 pounds during his illness, and checked-in on Wednesday morning at 241 pounds, approximately 13 pounds below his normal playing weight of 254.

The statuses of Garza, Slauson and Ratliff remain unknown for Week 5, but Trestman confirmed that Garza and Slauson will return to the starting lineup whenever they are medically cleared.

"That's the way we are going," Trestman said.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) were also listed as having limited participation.

Safety Chris Conte (shoulder) had full participation.

Four players sat out Wednesday: linebackers Lance Briggs (knee), Shea McClellin (hand) and D.J. Williams (neck), and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Before getting into thick of the Chicago Bears' next matchup at the Carolina Panthers, let's first take a look at the team's first-quarter report card after a 2-2 start:

Quarterback

Jay Cutler has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's shown more discipline and better command of the offense, but costly turnovers have been an issue. If Cutler maintains his current level of efficiency, he'll set a career high in passer rating for the second consecutive season. Cutler currently ranks third in completions (102), ninth in yards (1,006) and is tied for second in touchdowns, and his passer rating is currently 94.7. Grade: B

Running back

Matt Forte finally broke through for his first 100-yard rushing performance against the Green Bay Packers and is currently tied for eighth in rushing yards (258), first in receptions at his position (24) and third in yards from scrimmage (452). Rookie Ka'Deem Carey is becoming more of a factor in the offense as well, and the Bears have employed formations that feature both backs in the game at the same time. Both backs average at least 4 yards per attempt. Grade: B+

Offensive line

Injuries in the season opener to center Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson gave cause for concern, but their replacements Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola have performed well. The group has given up eight sacks through the first four games. According to Pro Football Focus, every offensive lineman graded positively in run blocking against the Packers. Grade: B-

[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
David Banks/Getty ImagesThe offseason work tight end Martellus Bennett put in is paying off for the Bears.
Tight end

Martellus Bennett ranks second in catches (29th) among tight ends, fourth in yards (295) and is tied for second in touchdown receptions (four). Bennett put in the work during the offseason to prepare for a more significant role, and he appears to have developed a strong rapport with Cutler. Bennett has scored a touchdown in all but one game, while averaging 7.25 receptions. Grade: A

Receiver

Injuries have led to slow starts for Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, who have combined for 36 receptions and six touchdowns through four games. But the duo is gradually getting back to full speed. The club's complementary targets such as Santonio Holmes and Josh Morgan haven't received many opportunities to showcase their talent, but they're plenty capable. Grade: B-

Defensive line

The Bears revamped the defensive line in the offseason with the additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young in addition to drafting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. But the group certainly hasn't met expectations as the Bears rank 20th against the run while contributing just eight sacks (linebacker Shea McClellin is responsible for a sack as well). For the Bears to gain any level of consistency on defense with the style they play, the defensive line needs to step up its game, shut down the run and pressure the quarterback. Grade: D

Cornerback

The Bears are tied for fourth in the league in takeaways (eight), and rookie Kyle Fuller deserves credit for his team-high- three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Fuller became the only NFL player in the past 20 years with three interceptions and two forced fumbles in the first three games of the season. Obviously, Charles Tillman's season-ending triceps injury hurts the position. But the Bears are in decent shape with Fuller and Tim Jennings. The Bears need better play from the nickel corner spot. Grade: B-

Safety

Chris Conte gave up 46 yards on two catches and a touchdown against the Packers and missed a couple of tackles but for the most part has performed well (two interceptions). Ryan Mundy has been a solid run defender, and provided one of the team's takeaways with his pick-six Sept. 22 against the New York Jets. Overall, the safeties still need to play a little better. But they've been much more consistent than they were in 2013. Grade: C+

Linebacker

Shea McClellin entered the season as the starter on the strong side but has been on the shelf recently with a broken hand. Perhaps that's somewhat of a blessing in disguise as it has enabled the Bears to upgrade the overall athleticism of the starting lineup by replacing McClellin with Jonathan Bostic. The group lacks consistency in terms of gap integrity and pass coverage but is tracking positively. Grade: C-

Coaching

Coach Marc Trestman caught heat for the club's clock management in the second quarter to Green Bay, and you have to admit the Bears committed a few unnecessary penalties in the defeat, not to mention the thrown challenge flag that resulted in a lost timeout. Trestman deserves credit for suspending Bennett during training camp, because the move resulted in a positive change for the tight end. And you can't deny this Bears team did manage to pull together back-to-back road wins against strong opponents. Grade: C+

Overall

The consecutive road wins at San Francisco and New York followed by the stinker at home against Green Bay point to a lack of consistency in every facet of the game, and while injuries at key positions have been an issue, Chicago's situation plays out every week all over the league. So there are no excuses here. Ultimately, the Bears will be in decent shape in the second half of the season if they can finish the second quarter headed into the bye with a record of .500 or better.

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