Chicago Bears: Jonathan Bostic

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The shuffling at linebacker continued Thursday with the Chicago Bears placing veteran D.J. Williams on the injured reserve with a neck injury, which will force the club to move Jon Bostic from the weak side back to the middle.

Bostic took first-team reps at middle linebacker during Thursday’s workout inside the Walter Payton Center. Rookie Christian Jones is expected to replace Bostic on the weak side Monday when the Bears host the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field.

"First of all, we’re not in the business of making excuses for injuries; we can’t," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "Certainly we’ve had guys working in and out. It started differently this year with Lance [Briggs], Shea [McClellin] and D.J. Shea was out for quite some time with his hand. He’s back. D.J. is obviously out of the mix right now, and Jon is working at the position. We’ve got Christian Jones, [who] comes in, has continued to progress, getting more reps and more playing time. It’s part of the developmental process of our football team right now. We’re trying to develop players and play at a high level at the same time."

With Briggs and now Williams on the injured reserve, the Bears will face the Saints with their seventh combination of starters at linebacker (the Bears started out in nickel personnel for two games).

Chicago’s defense currently has four starters -- Briggs, Williams, Charles Tillman and Lamarr Houston -- on the injured reserve.

Bostic filled in at middle linebacker in Week 3, at strongside linebacker in Weeks 4 and 5, before sliding over to the weak side for the club’s past two games as Briggs’ replacement.

"You lose some experience, obviously, but it has to be a next-man-up mentality," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "That’s been our approach from the beginning. Obviously, you don’t want to lose players, but that’s a part of the game. You take it in stride. We have good players behind them we feel can step up, and get the job done."

In other injury news, the team held out safety Chris Conte (back) for Thursday’s practice along with kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps), offensive lineman Michael Ola (back) and linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring). Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) took part in a limited capacity, after sitting out the past two games.
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.”

W2W4: Chicago Bears

August, 14, 2014
The Chicago Bears (1-0) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) in preseason game No. 2 at Soldier Field. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

1. Backup quarterback battle: Jordan Palmer received first crack at the No. 2 job in the preseason opener, but in this matchup, the plan is for the Bears to go with Jimmy Clausen once Jay Cutler is finished for the night. Palmer played fairly well in the preseason opener, but Clausen stole the show when he came in, finishing with two touchdown passes and a passer rating of 134.6. If Clausen performs similarly against the Jaguars, it’s likely the Bears take away all the suspense in this battle and name him the No. 2. Remember, Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009, which makes the backup quarterback job important.

2. Linebacker play: Collectively, the group played poorly in the opener against the Eagles. But in its defense, the team was matched up against a high-octane, no-huddle offense that featured plenty of zone-read concepts that the Bears hadn’t game-planned for. Specifically, Jonathan Bostic and Shea McClellin need to play better. Considering he started nine games as a rookie, Bostic should be poised to take a major step in his development, but we haven’t yet see that. McClellin is making the transition from defensive end, and the staff remains confident he’ll progress enough that the team would feel confident about making him the starter on the strong side.

3. Zach Miller’s bid for the No. 2 tight end job: Incumbent Dante Rosario missed practice Tuesday with soreness in his calf, and if he’s held out of this matchup, Miller basically will receive the opportunity to solidify what appears to be a stranglehold on that No. 2 tight end spot. Miller caught six passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns in his preseason debut, and has since been given more repetitions with the starters when the offense goes to two-tight-end sets. Another strong showing by Miller in this game could outright win him the job, and he needs to take advantage. So far, Miller has taken advantage of every opportunity he’s been given. This game should be no different for him.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Day 2 of the NFL draft for the Chicago Bears in 2013 ended early with the club netting linebacker Jonathan Bostic in the second round; a solid selection, who projects to be a key contributor for years to come.

The Bears gave up that year's third-round pick to Miami in the trade to acquire receiver Brandon Marshall.

What’s encouraging about Chicago’s prospects for Day 2 of the 2014 draft is general manager Phil Emery is choosing from one of the deepest classes of prospects in recent years, not to mention the club actually has a third-round pick this time.

The Bears own the 51st and 82nd overall picks in the next two rounds, and still have several options available at defensive tackle in Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan, Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt, and Minnesota’s Ra'Shede Hageman and at safety with Stanford's Ed Reynolds Jr.

Linebacker options remain abundant as well with Brigham Young’s Kyle Van Noy (62 tackles in college), as well as Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood, who produced 332 career tackles and 9.5 sacks in college. New Bears defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni is familiar with Smallwood, having served as head coach at Connecticut from 2011-14.

Looking back at the acquisition of Bostic, he flashed moments of brilliance early on in the preseason. But when the club pushed Bostic into the starting lineup, the truth is he was inconsistent. Emery later even said the Bears were possibly playing Bostic in the wrong spot in 2014, which is why he’ll alternate between the middle and Sam linebacker in 2014.

Despite some bouts with inconsistency, Bostic finished the season with 75 tackles, a sack and an interception in nine starts. With a year of extensive experience, and an NFL offseason, Bostic figures to develop into exactly the type of player the Bears envisioned originally when making the selection.

So while the safety and defensive tackle position remain areas perceived as needs, Emery should be able to land a couple of starting-caliber players in Rounds 2 and 3. He accomplished as much last season with a talent pool not near as deep as the one he’s currently eyeing for the club’s next two picks.

More than likely, Emery will do it again Friday with Chicago’s next two picks.
Everyone, thanks for taking the time to send in questions for this week’s Twitter mailbag.

We won’t have a mailbag next week, and my normal chat on Monday will be cancelled for this week as I’m headed to Texas to visit some friends and family. But everything returns to normal the week after.

Let’s get started:
INDIANAPOLIS -- Publicly acknowledging the failure of former first-round pick Shea McClellin as a defensive end on Thursday at the NFL combine, Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery announced the rising third-year player will move to linebacker.

Interestingly, McClellin -- who played strongside linebacker and middle linebacker in college at Boise State -- will compete for starting jobs at both those positions with 2013 second-round pick Jonathan Bostic, who started nine games last season as a rookie in the middle for the Bears.

“I think he’s very excited [about switching positions]. Obviously at Boise, he played Mike, he played Sam, he played with his hand on the ground,” Emery said. “So versatility is his strength. I’ll say this: generally, we’ll take calculated risks, which we did with Shea. When we swing, we’re gonna swing on the high side of athleticism, and that’s why we’re still excited about him being able to contribute at a high level.”

[+] EnlargeShea McClellin
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastHigh on his athleticism, the Bears are confident that Shea McClellin can make an impact at linebacker.
In speaking to new linebackers coach Reggie Herring, Bears coach Marc Trestman gained confidence in McClellin’s ability to successfully transition to 4-3 linebacker, despite spending his first two years as a defensive end. During the evaluation process leading up to the 2012 draft, Herring believed McClellin possessed the skill set to play linebacker in the NFL, and relayed those thoughts recently to Trestman.

“And that was great to hear, and great to know,” Trestman said. “So he’s excited about working with him and certainly he is as big of an expert as we have on this staff in terms of the ability of developing a linebacker. So we are excited about it.”

The plan, according to Trestman, is for McClellin to start off competing with Bostic on the strong side, but he’ll also play in the middle. Bostic’s move to the outside stems from the team’s belief that his skill set would be better utilized at that position.

At middle linebacker, Bostic sometimes struggled to fight off blocks by offensive linemen (which came from both directions as the result of him playing in the middle), and even admitted that in the NFL blockers “get up on you” faster than he anticipated. Because of Bostic’s speed and explosive burst, however, Emery thinks he could contribute more on the outside. The team thinks that, eventually, Bostic will take over on the weak side for Lance Briggs.

“This is what we envision: Shea is going to move to linebacker, but Shea will be used in multiple roles, wherever his skills will take him,” Emery said. “He is a perfect candidate to be on the field all downs in some capacity, whether that is blitzing, rushing, playing against the run in run personnel. But he is going to have to compete for his job. Competition right now is Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, and it’s Shea. Obviously, we feel that Lance Briggs is our weak[side] starter. If we add back a D.J. Williams or another player, that player will be involved in that competitive mix. It’s best person wins those two spots. We’re excited about the competition.”

Given the team’s evaluation of McClellin’s physical attributes, it appears the Bears envision a Swiss Army knife-type of role for the former defensive end. When the team used a first-round pick to select McClellin in 2012 to play defensive end, two personnel men revealed to that he wasn’t a first-round talent on their teams' draft boards.

Still, the Bears held high hopes for McClellin, who racked up 20.5 sacks at Boise State, 33 tackles for lost yardage and four interceptions.

McClellin played 14 games as a rookie and contributed seven tackles and 2.5 sacks, and followed that up with 29 tackles last season and just four sacks.

Emery admits defensive end might not have been the best place for McClellin, but said the situation “taught me to keep picking guys that have versatility because none of us are gonna be perfect. If you swing and miss on a player, you hope that they have the skill set, that they’re still competing and contributing in a positive way, which Shea did. In terms of pure defensive ends, [it taught me to] probably make sure they’re a little bit longer, and a little bit heavier.”

2013 FA review: MLB D.J. Williams

February, 14, 2014
Money: D.J. Williams signed a one-year deal last March that paid a base salary of $900,000 with a maximum value of $1.75 million.

Stats: Produced 27 tackles, including two for lost yardage, one quarterback pressure, two sacks and forced a fumble in six games.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Williams
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesLinebacker D.J. Williams played in just six games this season -- the lowest total in his NFL career.
2013 role: Signed as the replacement at middle linebacker for future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, Williams projected to be a potential steal in free agency because of his superior speed and athleticism, and joined the team as the starter. But Williams missed nearly all of training camp and the preseason due to a strained calf, which caused him to get off to a slow start at the beginning of the regular season.

The good: The strained calf during the preseason slowed Williams initially, and he didn’t appear to be in ideal shape at the beginning of the season. But once Williams worked himself into the mix, the linebacker made plays reminiscent of his days with the Denver Broncos.

Prior to joining the Bears, Williams had produced 90 tackles or more in five of the previous six seasons. The belief early on was that the addition of Williams and veteran James Anderson to play alongside Lance Briggs would upgrade the linebacking corps.

“D.J. Williams came in and provided leadership in terms of his motor, his effort and his physical[ity],” Bears general manager Phil Emery said. “Cannot understate when players make plays and they make impact tackles, impact plays on any side or area of the game, they become leaders.”

Williams also played a key role in the development of rookie second-round pick Jonathan Bostic, who would end up starting nine games.

The bad: The calf injury at the start of camp set back Williams for the early part of the season. Then with four minutes left in the third quarter of a 27-21 over the New York Giants on Oct. 10, Williams tore a pectoral muscle that would put him out for the rest of the season. That situation represented the third season-ending injury for a Chicago defensive starter, and forced the club to play Bostic in the middle for the duration.

Prior to the injury, Bears coach Marc Trestman said, “I saw D.J. Williams blowing up piles and running with speed to the ball.” But Williams missed five tackles over the first six games.

2014 outlook: Williams’ future in Chicago appears to be shaky at this point, with Emery saying the club wants to infuse youth on the defense through free agency and the draft. Williams will be 32 at the start of the 2014 season, but still possesses the physical attributes to be a dynamic playmaker.

So at this point, the Bears haven’t ruled out bringing back Williams. Perhaps it bodes well for the veteran that Emery that at some point it might be best to take advantage of Bostic’s run-and-hit skillset by moving him to an outside linebacker spot. That would leave open a spot in the middle for Williams.

“I like the team chemistry. I like the coaching staff. I like the energy of the city,” Williams said. “Hopefully if things work out right, I’ll be back here. I love our defense. It’s simple, but we play fast and just downhill.”

When the rest of the team packed up to leave for the offseason, Williams stayed behind to continue rehabilitation at Halas Hall. Williams needs to gain medical clearance to play before the team can seriously ponder bringing him back for 2014. The linebacker believes he’s still capable of producing at a starter’s level.

“I know I still have a good amount of years left in me,” he said. “I still have talent. If I don’t end up here, I’ll end up somewhere else, though I would love to end up here.”
On Super Bowl eve, here’s another Twitter mailbag to whet your appetite for the big game.

Here, we’ll get into perhaps one of this offseason’s most pressing issues: Julius Peppers’ contract:
WHEN: Oct. 10, 2013

WHERE: A 27-21 victory over the New York Giants at Soldier Field

THE PLAY: Giants running back Brandon Jacobs is stuffed for a 1-yard loss by Shea McClellin with 4:00 remaining in the third quarter, but middle linebacker D.J. Williams is injured on the play.

WHAT THEY SAID: Bears coach Marc Trestman: “The big question will be D.J. Williams. He had a [pectoral] injury and those are always dangerous. We'll know a lot more in the next 24 hours. We know a lot, but I don't know enough to be able to give you the information. But we’ll know enough in the next 24 hours, but it’s a pec and those are always dangerous. When we get all the information, we’ll give it to you. “There’s certainly a chance [Williams tore a pectoral muscle]. We don’t have all the information and that’s why I’m saying. When they say [pectoral], it can be very severe and it can be a season-ending injury. But we don’t know that right now. We’re in the process of continuing to gather more information.”

IMPACT OF THE PLAY: With the Bears playing their second game in five days, Williams suffered a season-ending ruptured left pectoral tendon. Williams became the club’s third starter to go down with a season-ending injury in a span of 15 days. The Bears lost franchise defensive tackle Henry Melton, and his replacement Nate Collins just prior to the Williams injury. The club was already playing that game without cornerback Charles Tillman (groin and knee), and nose tackle Stephen Paea (turf toe). Prior to losing Williams, the Bears ranked No. 13 against the run, surrendering 98.2 yards per game. The injury thrust rookie Jonathan Bostic into the starting lineup, but that transition came at a time when Williams seemed to be finally coming into this own. Remember, Williams missed pretty much all of training camp and the preseason due to a strained calf. The club has expressed an interest in bringing Williams back for 2014, and if that happens the Bears could move Bostic to one of the outside linebacker spots.

5 things to watch: Ravens at Bears

November, 17, 2013
Here's a look at five things to watch for Sunday when the Chicago Bears host the Baltimore Ravens:

How Josh McCown handles second start: Opponents now can peruse seven quarters of game tape to try to figure out a way to defend McCown, who has completed 60 percent of his passes in relief of Jay Cutler for four touchdowns and no interceptions with a passer rating of 103.2.

[+] EnlargeChicago's Josh McCown
AP Photo/Nick WassQuarterback Josh McCown will need to utilize his mobility against a stout Ravens defense that ranks No. 3 in sacks through 10 weeks.
"You watch [Cutler and McCown] play and they look the same when they play as far as success," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They've got go-to guys down the field. Intermediate, short, they've got a running back that can take, anytime he touches the ball, he can take it all the way. So they have very special weapons and they're using them very well."

The Ravens rank No. 3 in sacks, so McCown should see plenty of pressure when he drops back to pass. Composure and patience from McCown will be important. He's got to take care of the ball and remain composed during Baltimore's initial surge because it could take some time for the offensive line to adjust to the rush.

Zack Bowman filling in for Charles Tillman: Having played in 135 snaps, Bowman has been targeted by opposing quarterbacks 18 times in coverage for 12 completions for 164 yards and no touchdowns. So Bowman should be able to hold his own against Baltimore's receivers as the fill-in for Tillman, a two-time Pro Bowler, who is out for the remainder of the regular season.

Bowman has broken up three passes, and he picked off a pass in his only start against the New York Giants on Oct. 10.

"The thing I learned about Peanut is to just go out there and play football and have fun," Bowman said. "Obviously [I] just [have] to go out there and do my job. That's all I can do for our defense. [The Ravens are a] fast, fast team. They have a good back. They have a good quarterback. So we've got our hands full this week on defense."

Rookie linebackers: Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene continue to show improvement, but they're still not exactly where the team would like for them to be at this point. Bostic struggled in his first two starts, but has picked up his play over the past two weeks.

In 205 snaps, Bostic has posted 25 combined tackles, including 1.5 for lost yardage. But he's also missed three tackles. Greene has participated in 41 snaps, and comes out of the game when the Bears go into nickel personnel. He's posted seven tackles over the last two weeks.

"They are improving and they're getting more experience. Each and every day, they get a little better," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "That's what you want to see and not just with the young guys, but with all of the players. You have to work to improve and we just need to find a way to make more plays."

Run blocking: Chicago's offensive line struggled tremendously in the loss to Detroit in the run-blockng department, with the team finishing the game averaging a season-low 1.9 yards per attempt. If the Bears can't run the ball consistently, it makes them one-dimensional, thus predictable.

Bears coach Marc Trestman needs to see better results this week against another solid defense.

"When you lose a game, it's just a little bit more magnified that there's a lot of ifs involved, if we would have run inside instead of outside, if we would have been a little bit tighter, the little details that go with any aspect of the game, and the running game is inclusive of that," Trestman said. "If you're not detailed and one guy is doing it just a little bit differently and we're not in coordination with the other guys, that's what happens. I really can't be any more specific than that."

Pass rush: After a five-sack outing against the Green Bay Packers, the Bears failed to get to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who passed for 219 yards and three touchdowns. Pressuring Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco will be critically important, and the Bears should be able to have some success. Flacco has been sacked 30 times this season, and the quarterback has a tendency to hold onto the ball waiting for routes to develop.

"He's big. He's a lot more mobile than people expect," said defensive end/tackle Corey Wootton. "He can get outside the pocket. So contain is a big issue. He's holding the ball a little longer than most teams. So we ought to definitely be able to get after him."

Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger is another quarterback known to hold onto the ball, and the Bears managed to sack him three times during a Week 3 win.

5 things to watch: Lions at Bears

November, 10, 2013
Here's a look at five things to watch for Sunday when the Bears host the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North:

Jay Cutler's mobility: When the Bears host the Detroit Lions, 21 days will have passed since Jay Cutler tore a groin muscle in the team's loss to the Washington Redskins. So Cutler's potential mobility against Detroit's formidable pass rush has to be a concern, even though the quarterback and the club say otherwise.

"[The Lions] do a good job," Cutler said. "We've done enough to test where I'm at. I feel good, got a lot of trust in the offensive line and the way they're playing right now. Can't worry about that. Once you get in the game, it's just reactionary stuff. Your brain's not gonna be able to say, 'Hey, alright, I want you to step right.' It just happens. We tried to mimic that as much as possible [in practice]. I thought we did a good job of that. I feel ready."

Look for the Bears to try to help out Cutler by putting him in plenty of shotgun formations so he won't put strain on that groin muscle with constant dropbacks from under center.

Front seven's run fits: Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker attributed the team's inability to hold down Reggie Bush (139 yards and a touchdown) in the last meeting to poor tackling and improper run fits. So Tucker is stressing better tackling out in open space, which is where Bush thrives, not to mention a swarm-the-ball mentality.

"We didn't tackle him. No. 1, we didn't fit the run well, and No. 2, he played exceptionally well," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "He made people miss. We've got to do a better job this time of working this week to try to neutralize him."

The defensive line needs to stay in their gaps, and the linebackers need to make sure to fill accordingly. Rookies Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene have struggled recently with leveraging blocks, which won't help the Bears in their attempt to stop Bush. So they've spent time this week working to improve in that area. But it all starts with the club's injury-depleted front four.

"We have guys who are injured, just like everybody in the league has guys who are injured," Trestman said. "We have no excuses. We have to go out there and try to stop him. It's never easy when you're at full strength, so we have to make it a point of interest this week, and No. 1 is to neutralize Reggie and minimize his ability to get big plays in the run game."

Pass rush: Chicago's front four took a major step in the right direction with its five-sack outing Monday night at Green Bay, but there's a good chance the club's sack leader from that game won't play Sunday against the Lions. Coming off a three-sack game against the Packers, second-year defensive end Shea McClellin suffered a hamstring injury during Thursday's practice and is doubtful for the matchup with the Lions. That means the Bears need potential replacements such as David Bass and Cheta Ozougwu to step in and pick up the slack.

Julius Peppers needs to do the same.

"We have guys that have talent and [have] put a lot of hard work and effort with that, and eventually guys are going to break through. So I think that's what you saw [against the Packers]," Tucker said.

But can the Bears produce that type of performance again this week with sole possession of the division lead on the line?

Rushing attack: The last time these teams met, the Lions jumped out to a 30-10 second-quarter lead and immediately forced the Bears into passing mode, thus eliminating the prospects for Matt Forte getting into a flow. Forte rushed 14 times for 95 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown in the second quarter before the Lions erupted for three TDs in the final 3:26 of the first half. So the Bears could help themselves tremendously by using Forte to dictate the flow of the game early, which will also enable the passing attack to have success with play action.

Surely, the Bears learned the importance of ball security from their first matchup against the Lions, when Cutler contributed to the loss with four turnovers, including a fumble returned for a TD.

"Anytime you see a team for the second time, you have a better feel for how much strength you have against a guy, how much technique you're going to need against someone," Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. "Just as you go from the first drive of a game to the second; 'I can do this more than I thought on tape watching him against someone else.' But they're also familiar with us."

Special teams: Punter Adam Podlesh finished with a season-low 28.8-yard net average in the first matchup between these teams, and he hit a line-drive punt in that contest that Micheal Spurlock returned 57 yards to set up a Matthew Stafford touchdown run. The game nearly cost Podlesh his job.

"I think Adam's been consistent really since that time," special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. "He's really picked his game up. He made some slight changes, and it's helped him. I'm glad he's going in the right direction."

That needs to continue against the Lions.

DeCamillis said the Bears played the kind of game Monday night where "we had 11 out there, but 10 guys played a lot of plays," which is unacceptable. The team's punt protection also allowed a blocked punt against the Packers.

"When you look back at the film, it wasn't just that punt," DeCamillis said. "There was kickoff return yardage that was left out there where there is one guy sitting in the hole because somebody gets beat. We've got to get all 11 going at the same time, and that was obviously critical during this past week."

It'll be the same Sunday unless the Bears resolve those issues.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on Monday night when the Bears face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field:

How the game is called offensively: Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer maintain the club won’t change the way they’ll call a game with Josh McCown as the quarterback. But Kromer admitted there could be a few subtle changes because of McCown’s involvement in putting together the game plan for Green Bay.

Kromer also said that a strong running game is every quarterback’s best friend, which means the Packers can expect to see a heavy dose of Matt Forte.

"Last week, we continued on the game plan that we had (with Jay Cutler at quarterback), and Josh handled it very well,” Kromer said. "When you have a week to plan, you’re going to have a few things that Josh might like better than Jay, and usually they like it because they feel like they’ll have success, they’re confident before the ball is snapped that something good is going to happen, and that’s important in a quarterback’s mind, and in an offensive line. So we let Josh help us in ways like we let Jay help us in ways (by asking) ‘What do you like best? What are you going to take the snap from center and feel like you’re going to have success with?'"

How Josh McCown handles adversity: Surely, the Packers will find a way to get to McCown and pressure him, and the veteran will sometimes wind up taking sacks or throwing the ball incomplete. What’s important for him is to settle in and get into the flow of the game without making costly mistakes before that happens. So McCown needs to weather Green Bay’s initial storm so to speak, and he’s proven perfectly capable of doing that.

But McCown should know going into this game that he's going to get hit quite a bit.

“I feel like we’ve shown this year with our offensive game plans and our ability to move the ball that hopefully I feel like we’ll be prepared,” McCown said. “I feel like we’ll be ready to put our best foot forward as good as we ever have here in the past. That obviously gives you a comfort level as a quarterback going into this game.”

Special teams: With the defense continuing to struggle, it’s important for the Bears to win the field-position game with big returns and strong coverage on the punt and kickoff teams. The Packers gave up a 109-yard kickoff return against the Vikings last week, and have surrendered kickoff returns of 86, 56 and 51 yards so far this season. Chicago, meanwhile, is coming off a performance against Washington in which Devin Hester busted an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown.

“I think things started to get more consistent towards the Washington game. We still have a lot work left to do,” Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. “But I thought overall both the coverage game and the return game were more consistent as we went. Really when you look at it, there are three plays that you’d like to have back, and there were several plays that they made. We just need to make sure we’ve got a lot more positives than negatives in the second half (of the season). These guys have worked, and I think we’ll do that.”

The rookie linebackers: The coaching staff gave the responsibility of play calling to veteran James Anderson, but defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said rookie Jonathan Bostic will also play a role in getting the defense set. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Packers look for ways to keep Chicago in its base defense in an attempt to match up against Bostic and fellow rookie Khaseem Greene as much as possible.

“We’re really not worried about inexperience. It’s next man up,” Tucker said. “Guys have a role to play. Guys know what’s expected. It’s our job to get them ready to play. I feel good about what we’ve done so far in preparation. We’re not worried about experience or inexperience.”

Although there’s no trepidation on the coaching staff’s part, the reality is Bostic and Greene are rookies, and prone to the mistakes that come with inexperience.

The safeties: Trestman and Tucker gave safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte votes of confidence last week, but how the duo plays Monday night should go a long way toward determining Chicago’s success against the Packers.

Quarterbacks have completed 68.8 percent of their throws directed at Conte in coverage, and 77.8 attempts against Wright for a passer rating of 135.2. Obviously, the duo faces one of the league’s best in Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, but the duo must also do its part in run support against Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Lacy currently ranks No. 1 among all rookies this season in rushing yards (446).

“Major and Chris Conte are playing well,” McCarthy said. “I think they’re going through what we’re going through a little bit with some injuries to their front seven, but they still do a great job of taking that football away, and once they do, they know what to do with it; dangerous defense.”

Double Coverage: Bears at Packers

November, 1, 2013
On the day former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith got the job, he said that one of his priorities was to beat the Green Bay Packers.

First-year Bears coach Marc Trestman made no such promises about this rivalry, but it goes without saying that he's eager to end Chicago's six-game losing streak to the Packers.

The last time Chicago beat Green Bay was on Sept. 27, 2010, on "Monday Night Football." The teams meet again in prime time Monday night at Lambeau Field.'s Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Bears reporter Michael C. Wright break down the matchup.

Rob Demovsky: We all know how much Smith wanted to beat the Packers. He stated as much the day he got the head coaching job. What has Trestman's approach to this rivalry been like?

Wright: Rob, my man, you know that rivalries have to cut both ways in terms of wins and losses for it to be truly considered a rivalry. Counting the postseason, the Bears have lost six in a row and nine of the last 11. So, if anything, this is more Green Bay dominance than a rivalry. But the interesting thing about Trestman is he's a guy who likes to compartmentalize everything. He looks at today rather than the past or the future. So while it sounds cliché, Trestman is looking at the Packers as just another opponent on the schedule. That's just the way Trestman likes to operate, and I think for him it sort of makes things easier.

I keep looking at Green Bay's sack numbers, and I'm a little surprised the club is still in the top 10 in sacks with Clay Matthews out the last three games and other key members of the defense missing time. What is Dom Capers doing over there schematically to keep up the production?

Demovsky: I figured when Matthews broke his thumb, Capers would have to blitz like crazy. Now, he's picked his spots, but he hasn't gone blitz-happy like I thought he might. However, he has been sending different pass-rushers to keep offenses off guard. One game, against the Baltimore Ravens, linebacker A.J. Hawk came a bunch and sacked Joe Flacco three times. Also, they've finally found a defensive lineman with some rush ability in second-year pro Mike Daniels. Three of his team-leading four sacks have come in the past two games.

As long as we're on the topic of quarterbacks, in 2011, backup Josh McCown played a halfway decent game against the Packers on Christmas at Lambeau Field, but he threw a couple of interceptions. What do you expect from him this time around as he starts in place of the injured Jay Cutler?

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsThe Packers have limited Brandon Marshall to 8 catches for 80 yards in their past two meetings.
Wright: Believe it or not, I expect little to no drop-off from McCown in this game. The biggest difference between now and then is that in 2011, McCown joined the team in November, fresh from a stint as a high school football coach in North Carolina, and four weeks later became the starter. So he basically came in cold and still played relatively well. This time around, McCown has become immersed in the offense from the ground level, when Trestman first came on board, and even had some input as the team constructed the scheme. In fact, during the offseason, McCown was holding film sessions with all the club's new additions to teach everyone the new offense. So he's got complete mastery of the offense just like Cutler, which is why McCown came in against the Redskins and the offense didn't miss a beat. Obviously, McCown doesn't possess Cutler's arm strength. But he'll make up for that deficiency with anticipation. I'm quite sure the Bears won't scale down the offense to accommodate McCown at all, because they don't need to. So I expect McCown to play well. I'm just not sure Chicago's offense can keep up with Green Bay's in what I expect to be a high-scoring game.

Speaking of high scoring, the Packers put up 44 points on the Minnesota Vikings. How is Green Bay handling the preparation process for the Bears?

Demovsky: Well, they certainly don't have as much time as the Bears do, considering the Bears are coming off their bye week. But the Packers have gotten themselves into a rhythm. They've won four in a row after their 1-2 start and look like a different team than they did the first three weeks of the season. Mike McCarthy probably doesn't get enough credit nationally, but show me another coach who has stared injuries in the face and hasn't blinked. What other team could lose playmakers like Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Matthews and still keep winning? That's a testament to the program he has established here. You can argue with some of his in-game coaching decisions, but you can do that with every coach. What you can't question, though, is the team's preparation.

The Bears, obviously, have had their share of injuries, too, losing Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs. What's a bigger loss -- Cutler to the offense or Briggs to the defense?

Wright: Well, Cutler's replacement is a veteran in McCown who has plenty of experience and a ton of weapons surrounding him on offense, while rookie Khaseem Greene will likely fill in for Briggs on a bad defense that will also feature rookie Jon Bostic in the middle. From my vantage point, losing Briggs is much more significant. The Bears have already proved to be horrible against the run (ranked 25th), and that issue certainly won't improve with two rookies at linebacker and a defensive line decimated by injury. It's also worth noting that Briggs made all the defensive calls and served as somewhat of a coach on the field for Bostic. Given that Green Bay seems to be running the ball so well, the current situation with Chicago's front seven could be devastating.

Now that the Packers are running the ball so well, how has that changed the way the offense is called? It seems Green Bay runs well regardless of which running back they line up in the backfield.

Demovsky: It's remarkable -- and even a bit stunning -- to see Aaron Rodgers check out of a pass play and in to a run play at the line of scrimmage. That kind of thing hasn't happened around here in a long, long time -- probably not since Ahman Green was piling up 1,000-yard seasons nearly a decade ago. Teams no longer can sit back in a Cover-2 look and dare the Packers to run. Because guess what? The Packers can finally do it. It also has given the receivers more one-on-one opportunities, so it's helped the passing game, too. Right now, this offense almost looks unstoppable.

If the Packers keep playing like this, they might be tough to catch in the NFC North. What are the Bears' prospects for staying in the NFC North race until Cutler and Briggs return?

Wright: To me, this game is the measuring stick for making that determination. But I'm not really confident about Chicago's chances, and that has more to do with the team's struggling defense than Cutler's absence. There have been conflicting statements made about Cutler's recovery time frame. Some teammates think he'll be ready to return by the time the Bears face Detroit on Nov. 4, while Trestman said the plan is to stick to the minimum four-week time frame prescribed by the doctors. Either way, if the Bears lose to the Lions you can kiss their prospects for the playoffs goodbye. The Bears might be able to afford a loss to the Packers because they'll face them again on Dec. 29. But a sweep by the Lions kills Chicago's chances to me because just from what we've seen so far, it appears one of the wild cards will come out of the NFC North with the other coming from the NFC West. Obviously it's too early to predict that, but that's the way things seem to be shaking out.

Without two of his top receivers and tight end Finley, Rogers still hit 83 percent of his passes against the Vikings. Is that success a product of the system, a bad Minnesota defense, or is Rodgers just that good at this point?

Demovsky: The more I see other quarterbacks play, the more I'm convinced it's Rodgers. For example, seldom-used receiver Jarrett Boykin makes his first NFL start two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns, and he ends up with eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. How many catches do you think he would have had if he were playing for the Browns that day? Their quarterback, Brandon Weeden, completed only 17-of-42 passes. That's not to minimize what Boykin did or what players like Jordy Nelson do week in and week out, but Rodgers is special, and special players elevate the play of those around them. Look at what Greg Jennings has done since he left for the Vikings. Now tell me the quarterback doesn't make the receiver, not vice versa.

Speaking of receivers, other than Anquan Boldin, who lit up the Packers in the opener at San Francisco, they've done a solid job shutting down other team's No. 1 receivers -- most recently Jennings and Cincinnati's A.J. Green. How do you think the Bears will try to get Brandon Marshall involved against what has been a pretty good Packers secondary?

Wright: This question brings me back to the 2012 massacre at Lambeau Field on Sept. 13. The Packers bracketed Marshall with two-man coverage, and the Bears struggled tremendously. Shoot, cornerback Tramon Williams caught as many of Cutler's passes as Marshall, who finished the game with two grabs for 24 yards. Obviously, this offensive coaching staff is a lot different than last year's group. So the Bears will go into this game with a lot more answers for that coverage. I definitely see McCown leaning on Marshall and trying to get him involved as early as possible, but the only way he'll be able to do that is for the Bears to establish the rushing attack with Matt Forte so the quarterback can operate off play action. When the Bears go to Marshall early, expect to see a lot of short passes that will enable the receiver to gain some yardage after the catch.

Over the years, Green Bay has been pretty successful at limiting the impact of return man Devin Hester. So I was a little shocked to see the Packers give up a kickoff return for a touchdown to Cordarrelle Patterson. As you probably know, Hester is coming off a pretty strong return game against the Redskins. Do you think the Packers fix the problems they encountered last week, and minimize Hester's impact?

Demovsky: Part of the Packers' problem on special teams has been that all the injuries have created a trickle-down effect. Here's what I mean: On the kickoff coverage until they gave up the 109-yard return to Patterson, they lined up six rookies, two of whom weren't even on the opening day roster. The Packers always have feared Hester, as they should, and in various games in recent years have shown they'd almost rather kick the ball out of bounds than give him any return opportunities. He's one of those special players who make rivalry games so entertaining.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman indicated on Monday the club plans to give rookie Khaseem Greene the first opportunity to replace starting weakside linebacker Lance Briggs.

Briggs is expected to be held out at least six weeks as he recovers from a fracture in his left shoulder, leaving the team to make a choice for the potential replacement between Green, veteran Blake Costanzo and new additions Jerry Franklin and Larry Grant, who signed on Monday with the Bears.

[+] EnlargeKhaseem Greene
Scott Boehm/AP PhotoLinebacker Khaseem Greene could see his first extensive playing time of the 2013 season on Monday, should he be tabbed the starter to replace injured Lance Briggs.
“We’re working at it,” Trestman said. “Khaseem wil certainly get a very good look here (as the) No. 1 and we’ve got Jerry, we’ve got Blake, and we just brought in Grant. But we’ll start with Khaseem and we’ll see how the week goes. We’ve got a long way to go before we get started.”

A fourth-round pick out of Rutgers, Greene played one snap at linebacker during the club’s Oct. 20 loss to the Washington Redskins. With extra days to prepare for what could be his debut as a starter at Green Bay next Monday night, Greene admitted he’s fired up about the chance to see extended playing time.

“I am. I’ve played one snap of defense this year, and just having an opportunity to maybe get out there and be a starter and play way more snaps is enough in itself to be fired up,” Greene said. “I’ve just got to stay calm, trust the defense, trust the scheme, and also build some confidence in my teammates so they know I can actually go out there and compete if I’m the guy. I feel good. This is one day we all look forward to doing is being starters in the NFL."

To prepare for the task, Greene said he’s been able to rely on Briggs, who has acted as somewhat of a coach “to help me as much as he can,” in addition to fellow rookie Jonathan Bostic, who made his debut as a starter against the Redskins as a replacement for injured starter D.J. Williams.

Bostic and Greene have been roommates since joining the club.

“Tell you the truth, we’re really similar players,” Bostic said of Greene. “We’re going to depend on each other, we’re going to have to help each other. We have to do a lot of talking out there, get our chemistry back, what we had throughout preseason. It’ll definitely be a fun process; (we’ve) just got to keep going out there and having fun.”

At Rutgers, Greene started in 39 of 51 games, including a 2012 season in which he started 12 games at free safety and earned Big East Defensive Player of the Years in back-to-back years. Greene forced an NCAA-record 15 fumbles in college, and hopes to use those takeaway skills into Chicago’s starting lineup if given the opportunity.

But Greene also mentioned the need to be resistant to pressing too hard when asked about what he’s learned throughout a brief NFL tenure.

“It’s hard to win games in the National Football League. That’s what I’ve observed,” Greene said, “and also that you can’t try to do too much. If I’m the starter, I can’t go out there and try to be Lance and try to do too much because I’m not him. I can learn from him, and I’ve learned a lot from him. But I can’t go out there and try to force myself to make plays and stuff like that, or I’ll end up hurting the defense and the team.”

If Jay Cutler left the Bears in a tight spot on offense because of the torn groin muscle that will keep him out at least four weeks, then Lance Briggs gave the defense a near-insurmountable task: to somehow improve without him on the field.

That’s right. The loss of Briggs weighs more heavily because at this point, he means more to the defense than the quarterback does to the offense. It sounds silly, but that’s simply the state of affairs these days at Halas Hall.

We expected the defense to fall off a notch this season, with the loss of linebacker Brian Urlacher and the acquisition of two new faces (James Anderson and D.J. Williams) and the hiring of a new coordinator in Mel Tucker. But what we’re seeing is an injury-induced dive off a cliff.

[+] EnlargeChicago's Khaseem Greene
AP Photo/Scott BoehmThe Bears likely will choose between Khaseem Greene, above, and Blake Costanzo as the replacement for Lance Briggs.
In all, the defense -- which has allowed 21 points or more in every game, and gave up 499 yards to the Redskins -- has lost five starters. Briggs, who was playing at a Pro Bowl level, is expected to be out at least six weeks because of a small fracture in his left shoulder.

"There’s no simple answers. There are a lot of teams in our position in the National Football League,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Defensively, we’ve got to improve our fits, our assignments. We’ve been completely inconsistent. At times we’ve been outstanding, and at times we just haven’t done the right things.”

That’s what comes with thrusting young, inexperienced players into key roles. It’s a situation not likely to improve soon. The team still hasn’t decided who will call defensive signals in Briggs’ place. Right now, Jonathan Bostic and James Anderson are the likely candidates.

Bostic made the calls in the loss at Washington on Sunday after Briggs left the game in the third quarter.

The club also will choose between rookie Khaseem Greene and veteran Blake Costanzo as Briggs’ replacement.

“We’re losing a great leader in Lance,” Trestman said. “Arguably we’re going to have to work very, very hard to recover, but that doesn’t say we can’t. It’s been done before, we’ve got time to work through it and there’s no reason why as a football team that we can’t be confident we can rally around that position, find a way to win games.”

On the offensive side of the ball, that’s an easier proposition due to the quality of the replacement, the club’s revamped protection, not to mention all of the weapons surrounding him, with running back Matt Forte, tight end Martellus Bennett and receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

Cutler’s replacement, Josh McCown, demonstrated as much Sunday when he completed 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown to Bennett before finishing the game with a passer rating of 119.6 as the offense put up 34 points.

A 10-year veteran, McCown has logged 20 starts in the NFL and is considered “a glue guy” by general manager Phil Emery, and “a captain,” by Marshall “without the 'C' on his chest.”

Emery called McCown’s “ability to play the position” the backup’s greatest asset in his bid to replace Cutler without the offense skipping a beat.

“And probably foremost, just in terms of Josh and the person and the leader he is, the buy-in he has from his team in terms of being able to be a positive part of winning football on Sundays,” Emery said. “I didn’t notice it because I don't always watch the huddles, but Josh McCown is in every special teams break before they go out on the field. That to me signals to everybody what type of person this guy is. He could be content staying over on the sidelines with the headset and a clipboard, literally, but he's not. He's a big part of this team. He's a big part of the leadership group of this team.”

[+] EnlargeChicago's Josh McCown
AP Photo/Nick WassJosh McCown is "a big part of the leadership group of this team," general manager Phil Emery said.
McCown’s teammates agree. Cornerback Tim Jennings admitted Monday “it’s going to be tough not having Jay out there, but I also think Josh came in there and played great, and he gave a lot of confidence to the guys in this locker room.”

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod said he has “all the confidence in the world” in McCown because “he came in yesterday, and he did his thing. He spread the ball around. He got us in good positions, and we had a chance to win the game.”

McCown, meanwhile, says the structure in place gives him a leg up from where he was two years ago, when the Bears first asked the veteran to start a game. It was 2011, he had been coaching high school football just before the Bears signed him, and he basically went in cold for his first start at Green Bay. McCown helped the Bears put up 21 points in a loss to the Packers, but helped the club break its five-game losing streak the next week in the season finale at Minnesota.

McCown says “I’m in a better spot right now,” having learned Trestman’s system from the ground up from Day 1 of the coach’s tenure in Chicago.

“The structure is in place and the emphasis has been put on individuals to do their job and do their part,” McCown said. “If we continue to get that, and we felt like we got that yesterday, it allows the quarterback to step in there, whether it’s Jay or myself, to function and play, because guys are going to be coached to be where they are supposed to be and do what they’re supposed to do. It’s going to look different between Jay and I; our skill sets are different.”

On offense, the highly productive results likely won't change, either. The same can’t be said for an already reeling Bears defense without Briggs.