Chicago Bears: Nate Collins

The Chicago Bears announced Sunday they have agreed to terms on one-year contracts for defensive tackle Nate Collins and quarterback Jordan Palmer.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed, but it’s believed both signed contracts for the veteran minimum. The club moved to sign Collins and Palmer two days before they were set to hit the open market Tuesday with the start of free agency.

It’s unknown at this point whether the Palmer signing will affect the club’s effort to re-sign veteran backup Josh McCown. The Bears had been trying to reach a deal to bring back McCown, who served as the starter for five games last season in place of Jay Cutler. But negotiations had not gone smoothly, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.

In Palmer, the Bears gained some comfort in his grasp of the offensive system, despite the five-year veteran spending just nine games in 2013 with the club. At the end of training camp, Bears coach Marc Trestman came away impressed with Palmer’s ability to absorb information quickly when they brought aboard the quarterback as an emergency fill-in for the injured Matthew Blanchard. The Bears signed Palmer on Aug. 17, and 12 days later in the preseason finale against Cleveland, the quarterback completed 11 of 17 for 111` yards and a touchdown to go with a passer rating of 102.8 in only one half of action.

Still, the Bears cut Palmer at the end of the exhibition season, only to bring him back on Oct. 28.

The younger brother of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, Jordan Palmer has played five seasons in the NFL with the Bengals, Jaguars and Bears, but has participated in just four games.

Collins, meanwhile, became a starter when the team lost franchise defensive tackle Henry Melton for the season with a torn ACL. But in his first game in the starting lineup, Collins tore the ACL in his left knee during a third quarter loss to the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 6.

Collins’ injury marked the second time in 15 days the Bears lost a starting defensive tackle to a torn ACL. Prior to suffering the knee injury, Collins had produced 13 tackles a sack and three quarterback pressures.

Bears sign DE Trevor Scott

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
The Chicago Bears signed veteran defensive end Trevor Scott to a one-year contract, the team announced on Thursday.

Scott has appeared in 76 games with 18 starts over six seasons with the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 6-foot-5, 260 pound defensive end played in just four games and recorded three tackles for the Bucs last season.

Oakland’s six-round choice (No. 168 overall) in the 2008 NFL draft out of the University of Buffalo, Scott had five sacks for the Raiders his rookie, then registered a career-high seven sacks, 37 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss and 12 quarterback hits in 2009.

Scott also has 20 lifetime tackles on special teams.

The Bears view upgrading the defensive line as one of their top offseason priorities after the unit struggled last season due to injuries and inconsistent play.

Veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff agreed to terms on a new two-year deal on Wednesday, while fellow defensive linemen Henry Melton, Nate Collins, Corey Wootton and Landon Cohen are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents when the NFL’s new league year begins on March 11. The Bears signed former Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions defensive end Austen Lane to a one-year deal in February.

Another decision looming for the Bears on the defensive line is the roster status of eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers. Peppers, 34 years old, is scheduled to count $18,183,333 against the Bears’ 2014 salary structure under the terms of his current contract and is fresh off a mediocre 2013 season.
Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. dropped his Mock 3.0 on Thursday with the Chicago Bears staying true to filling their need at defensive tackle in using the No. 14 pick on Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald.
McShay writes: "Donald is a perfect fit for the Bears’ scheme as a 3-technique defensive tackle. I don’t know if there’s been a prospect who has helped his stock more during the draft process than him. He was unblockable at the Senior Bowl, and that, put together with an unbelievable overall workout at the combine. He’s shorter than prototype size, but he has long arms, a powerful upper body and creates a lot of big plays with his anticipation and quickness. FSU’s Timmy Jernigan is a fit as a 3-technique as well, but Donald is a much better finisher as a pass-rusher."

At this point, Donald might make more sense than Jernigan at No. 14 because the Bears re-signed Jeremiah Ratliff on Wednesday, and could benefit tremendously from pairing the young talent with a veteran next season. If Donald doesn’t pan out as a rookie, at the very least he would provide depth at a position that sorely lacked it in 2013 when injuries took hold of the front four.

In 2013, the Bears allowed the most points (478) and total yards (6,313) in franchise history as opponents ran all through through the team's beat-up defensive line and inexperienced linebackers later in the season. Chicago gave up 10 100-yard rushing performances, in addition to a 211-yard effort on Dec. 1 by Minnesota's Adrian Peterson.

Defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins suffered season-ending injuries in 2013, and both are set to hit free agency. At this point, Collins seems to be more likely than Melton to return in 2014 as the latter will speak to other teams on March 8 when the negotiation window opens.

If the Bears brought aboard Donald, and re-signed Melton, Collins, and Corey Wootton, they'd actually field a pretty formidable rotation up front; at least on paper.

McShay and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. have been pretty consistent in their mock drafts with most of them having the Bears using their 14th pick on a defensive tackles.

Uncertainty currently remains a hallmark along Chicago’s defensive line, as the club needs more than just Ratliff and veteran Stephen Paea, who right now are the only defensive tackles under contract. It’s worth noting that Paea’s contract expires after the 2014 season.

“I feel like I can make an impact right away, feel like I can come in and have trust in the coaches and playbook and make plays right away,” Donald said last month at the NFL combine. “I played nose tackle, played a three-man front in the five-tech, three-tech. I moved around in college a lot. So being versatile the way I am, I feel like that’s a plus for me.”

It could prove beneficial for the Bears, too.

Donald, like Melton, lacks ideal size. But the former Pittsburgh star’s first step is off the charts, a trait he shares with Melton, who was the club’s franchise player in 2013.

The Bears want youth on defense, and when you talk to folks within the organization, the words “tough” and “athletic” seem to be a common themes of the team’s vision for the type of players they’d like to add in the future to that unit. Donald certainly possesses those traits.

The league’s rookie slotting system, which would strap Donald to a cap-friendly contract over the next few years, makes him even more attractive.
Teams around the NFL can start contacting and negotiating with agents of players set to become unrestricted free agents on Saturday, but deals can’t be executed until March 11 at 3 p.m. CT when the new league year starts.

As that date quickly approaches, we take a look at Chicago’s pending free agents, and their chances of returning to the team in the third part of our series we’ll post all week.

2014 free agent: D.J. Williams

Position: Linebacker

2013 statistics: 6 games (four starts); 39 tackles (21 solo), 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 tackles for lost yardage, 1 quarterback pressure.

2013 salary: $900,000 base salary, $750,000 roster bonus, $100,000 workout bonus -- $1,281,250 cash value

Outlook: The Bears mentioned Williams' strong play prior to a season-ending pectoral injury on multiple occasions shortly after the season, and all indications are the club wants the veteran to return for 2014. Williams has spent time rehabbing at Halas Hall and says he would like to remain a part of Chicago’s defense in 2014. Given the mutual interest between the sides, it should be only a matter of time before the Bears sign Williams to a deal similar to what he received to join the club last spring. With Williams in the middle flanked outside by Lance Briggs and Jonathan Bostic (provided he wins the starting job at Sam), the Bears could field a solid linebacking corps next season provided the group stays healthy.

2014 free agent: Craig Steltz

Position: Safety

2013 statistics: 16 games (one start); 14 tackles, one pass breakup and 14 special teams tackles.

2013 salary: $715,000 base salary and $50,000 workout bonus -- $765,000 cash value

Outlook: Steltz is a solid reserve safety and special teams contributor. He's spent his entire NFL career in Chicago and would no doubt prefer to stay with the Bears. League minimum contracts for NFL veterans are a sensitive subject. Minimum deals basically represent an invitation to try out for the team. Veterans that fall into the league minimum category will fight hard for signing bonus money. Steltz could possibly find himself in that situation. Steltz has always been a good soldier, hard worker and positive voice in the locker room. Whether the Bears reward Steltz with a signing bonus (he received a $125,000 signing bonus two years) remains to be seen. But he fits the mold of the type of player the Bears are looking to bring back.

2014 free agent: Nate Collins

Position: Defensive tackle

2013 statistics: Five games (two starts); 13 tackles, three quarterback pressures and one sack.

2013 salary: $630,000 base salary and $5,250 workout bonus - $635,250 cash value

Outlook: Collins had a strong preseason and appeared poised to have a breakout year until he landed on injured reserve with a torn ACL. Collins is a pass-rusher. Players that can pressure the quarterback are not easy to find. The Bears decided not to tender Collins at the restricted free agent amount last season, and instead released him and signed him back to a minimum deal. Because of the knee injury, Collins is probably looking at the same kind of deal this time around. Collins, who has potential, seems like a decent candidate to return in the later waves of free agency unless the Bears feel confident enough in his health to extend him an offer in the coming week.

2014 free agent: James Anderson

Position: Linebacker

2013 statistics: 16 games (16 starts); 129.5 tackles (76 solo), 7.5 tackles for lost yardage, 10 quarterback pressures, 4 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery.

2013 salary: $950,000 base salary, $200,000 signing bonus, $100,000 workout bonus -- $1,250,000 cash value

Outlook: Anderson led the team in tackles, and tied with Shea McClellin for second in sacks. But the Bears haven’t shown much interest in bringing back Anderson so far this offseason. As of Wednesday afternoon, the team still hadn’t approached the veteran about a possible return. Anderson doesn’t seem to fit the mold of the tough, hardnosed athletes the Bears are looking to add to the defense. So once the negotiation window opens, Anderson will likely be speaking with other teams before the Bears make a move. Anderson will likely leave, but it's still too early to rule out a return to Chicago.

Melton drops weight, Bears want him back

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton's recovery from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament has progressed to the point where Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said on Thursday the club's preference is to re-sign Melton who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on March 11.

"We do want to bring back Henry and we'll work through that process," Emery said at the NFL combine. "He's made progress. He's made positive progress."

[+] EnlargeHenry Melton
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastHenry Melton collected 13 sacks combined in 2011 and 2012, but played in just three games last season.
Slapped with the franchise tag by the Bears last season ($8,454,725) after posting 33 tackles and six sacks in 2012, Melton started just three games before landing on injured reserve on Sept. 27 -- Melton has 15.5 sacks in 48 career games.

After undergoing surgery and sitting out the final three months of the regular season, Melton has apparently dedicated himself to strengthening his injured left knee over the past couple of months.

"He's in every day early," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. "He's got to drive in from downtown. If you see him, you'll see that he has been training and he has been working. He's very focused. You'll see he dropped some weight. He looks very good physically right now. Obviously he's in there working the knee, but he's been on time, he's working hard with [Bears head athletic trainer] Chris [Hanks].

"As I said, I spoke with him yesterday for 30-45 minutes and he's committed to getting himself back and he's got work to do to get there, but he's in a very good place right now and we all understand the situation and we'll see where it goes."

The Bears' ability to retain Melton is expected to boil down to money. Considered one of the top defensive tackles scheduled to reach free agency, there is no way of knowing how much other teams are prepared to offer Melton when the new league year begins on March 11.

The Bears find themselves in the same situation with the other unrestricted free agents the organization wants to return, namely quarterback Josh McCown, cornerback Charles Tillman and center Roberto Garza.

While the Bears cannot officially re-sign McCown until the beginning of free agency, the team does hold exclusive negotiating rights with the veteran quarterback and can agree in principle to a new deal. McCown posted the third-highest quarterback rating (109.0) when he completed 149 of 224 passing attempts for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception in eight appearances (five starts).

"I talk to Josh pretty much weekly, or bi-weekly, I've talked to him two or three times anyways and I've texted with him. He's in the loop into what's going on. I've just called him on a personal level just to catch up with him and see how he sees the league and what's going on," Trestman said. "We just like to talk football. He knows exactly where he stands with us. I think that he's going to take his time, see where things are at, when he's ready to say ‘I want to come back,' I know Phil's going to do everything he can and we're going to do everything can to make sure he is."

Tillman, the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, has publicly stated on multiple occasions that his decision to return to Chicago for a 12th season will be determined by the kinds of contract offers he receives.

Meantime, Garza, a 13-year NFL veteran center/guard, will likely have to accept a one-year, veteran-minimum contract with a relatively low signing bonus to stay with the Bears. However, Garza is a respected team captain and the leader of the team's revamped offensive line that started all 16 games together.

"It's a tough business," Trestman said. "We want Roberto back. He knows we want him back. We believe he should finish his career with the Bears. He does so much in our community. He's such a leader in our locker room. He knows how we feel about him. We just need to let this thing evolve and hopefully it's going to work out best, No. 1 for Roberto, because that's No. 1. And from his standpoint, and it should be, he deserves that respect. And hopefully it will work out for the Bears as well. We certainly want to see him back."

Emery also praised free-agent veteran middle linebacker D.J. Williams who battled injuries for much of last season. Emery sounded as if the door is still open for Williams to return, and if he does, Williams is expected to compete with Shea McClellin, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene for a starting spot.

"Saw a good football player [in Williams]," Emery said. "Saw a guy that has legitimately very good burst. Saw a player that has good instincts, gets around the ball and plays with a relentless style. We were not displeased with his effort. We were very pleased with where he was going and how he was progressing. Obviously, he had some injuries in camp, he had to get his feet back under him and once he did he started producing at a high level."

Other notable unrestricted free agents for the Bears include: defensive lineman Corey Wootton, defensive tackle Nate Collins, return man Devin Hester, safety Craig Steltz, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and cornerbacks Zack Bowman and Kelvin Hayden.

Bears position outlook: Defensive tackle

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
2014 free agents: Landon Cohen, Nate Collins, Henry Melton, Jeremiah Ratliff and Corey Wootton (DT/DE).

The good: Wootton proved flexible enough to move inside after Melton and Collins were lost for the season due to knee injuries. Although Wootton was bothered by a hip issue that eventually required offseason surgery to correct, the versatile free-agent defensive linemen managed to record 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 12 quarterback pressures. Bears general manager Phil Emery was non-committal about Wootton’s future with the club at the end of the regular season, but did remark that, “I’m sure that we’ll continue to talk to him.” Wootton is expected to need several months to rehabilitate his surgically repaired hip before he receives the necessary medical clearance to resume football-related activities without restrictions. Ratliff, a nine-year NFL veteran who the Bears added to the roster later in the year, did a serviceable job in the final five games and is another candidate to return.

The bad: How much time do you have? Decimated by injuries (Melton, Collins and Stephen Paea) and the surprise retirement of Sedrick Ellis on the eve of training camp, the Bears were exposed up the middle in the run game and failed to generate an acceptable pass rush. Six opponents rushed for at least 198 yards versus the Bears. Some of those running lanes between the tackles against the Bears defense can best be described as monstrous. Remove Wootton from the equation and the entire defensive tackle group combined for only 4.0 sacks over the entire season. Melton played in just three games despite pocketing $8,454,725 as the club’s franchise-tag player. Not surprisingly, the team recently parted company with defensive line coach Mike Phair.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Thankfully, the Bears have next to nothing allocated to the position. With almost the entire group currently scheduled to be off the books, the highest projected cap figure belongs to Paea -- $1,172,787. Although the Bears tied up a good portion of their 2014 salary-cap space with extensions for quarterback Jay Cutler, cornerback Tim Jennings, left guard Matt Slauson and kicker Robbie Gould, there are options available to open up more space to potentially add a proven defensive tackle in free agency if necessary.

Draft priority: Urgent. The Bears must begin the task of rebuilding the defensive line. Emery promised a younger defense in 2014. The only way to accomplish that is by finding high-impact defensive players in the draft who can contribute immediately. Selecting a defensive tackle in the early rounds appears likely.

The next big thing: Bears

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
The Chicago Bears took care of some of the heavy lifting by signing quarterback Jay Cutler to an extension, in addition to bringing back guard Matt Slauson, cornerback Tim Jennings and kicker Robbie Gould.

The Bears now need to turn their attention to three areas: their own free agents, unrestricted free agency and the NFL draft, with drastic improvement of the club’s struggling defense as the No. 1 underlying factor. In all, the Bears have 25 free agents they’ve got to decide whether to bring back, a group that includes key players such as center Roberto Garza, cornerback Charles Tillman, defensive tackles Henry Melton, Nate Collins and Jeremiah Ratliff, along with backup quarterback Josh McCown, linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive end Corey Wootton.

Limited salary cap space will be the main hindrance to bringing back some of their own, as well as any plans to improve by making acquisitions on the open market. Bears general manager Phil Emery admitted the club’s cap space will be tight, but added the team should still be able to improve the roster.

The club has ways to free up space, such as converting Cutler’s $22.5 million base salary for 2014 into a signing bonus it can prorate over the life of his deal or asking other veterans such as Julius Peppers, who counts $18,183,333 against the cap in 2014, to restructure.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman offered no definitive statement on the future of embattled defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, but Trestman praised the way Tucker handled the injury-riddled defense on multiple occasions during Thursday’s 90-minute joint news conference with team general manager Phil Emery.

However, Trestman said a direct conversation between himself and Tucker still needs to take place before he can comment on the status of his coaching staff.

“I don’t want anybody to read into anything what we are doing,” Trestman said. “Everything is on the table. We’re going through a very thoughtful and methodical process here. Other than that, we’ve talked enough at these press conferences that I’m hopeful you won’t [draw conclusions on the staff]. We’re going to look at everything because we have an obligation to do that and what I can do to get this football team better.

"Everything is on the table. Again, we’re just three days into this. All we’ve done is looked at some tape. This is a process that’s going to involve not just myself, but all of our coaches. It’ll be a process where we’ve left everything on the table.”

The Bears finished 2013 ranked No. 30 in total defense and dead last in rushing defense and yards allowed per play. The defense was also tied for 30th in points allowed and ranked 26th in sacks per pass play.

But the group did suffer key injuries to cornerback Charles Tillman, linebacker Lance Briggs, defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins, middle linebacker D.J. Williams, nickel back Kelvin Hayden and defensive lineman Turk McBride. Veteran defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis also opted to retire on the eve of training camp, further depleting the Bears’ depth on the defensive line.

When relatively healthy, the Bears' defense put up respectable numbers over the first three games of the regular season, but their performance sharply regressed as the year wore on.

“I think it’s a real shame that Mel got the raw end of the deal,” Bears cornerback Tim Jennings said.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said on ESPN 1000’s “The Jay Cutler Show” on Monday that he believes Tucker will be the team’s defensive coordinator until “he lands a head coaching job” either in the NFL or college ranks.

Trestman said he and Emery work together when shaping the coaching staff, but Emery clarified that Trestman has final say on the matter.

Phillips: Bears still opposed to FieldTurf

November, 21, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Sunday's severe weather that delayed the Chicago Bears' home game against the Baltimore Ravens and damaged the Soldier Field natural-grass playing surface was not enough to convince the Bears to reconsider their long-standing opposition to having FieldTurf installed in their home stadium.

In an interview on Thursday with ESPN 1000's “Waddle and Silvy Show,” Chicago Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips cited safety issues as the reason for the organization's ongoing refusal to switch to an artificial surface.

“I've been with the Bears for 30 years, and this was the first and only time I ever remember having a storm like that blow in during a game where you had to relocate fans,” Phillips said. “To me, that's not a reason to go to FieldTurf. You can't make a knee-jerk decision. You can't do that. It's a health and safety concern. We're still not at the point where we feel that artificial surfaces play as well, or even as close to grass.

“It's hard enough. Look at the kind of injuries we've had this year. I'm not blaming it on any kinds of surfaces, necessarily, but why go to the extra risk of injuries when you see the results of medical surveys that indicate that the risk of lower-leg injuries is significantly higher [on] artificial surfaces.

“Until that time comes when it gets to be a little closer to how grass plays, I wouldn't see us changing.”

Soldier Field was ranked the NFL's third-worst playing surface when the NFLPA released the 2010 NFL Players Playing Surfaces Opinion Survey back in February 2011 -- 1,619 players from all 32 teams participated in the survey.

However, according to the report, 32 of the 39 Bears' players surveyed felt that artificial surfaces are more likely to contribute to injuries than natural grass, and 74.4 percent of the Bears preferred grass to artificial surfaces.

Interestingly, all four lower-leg injuries the Bears have suffered in 2013 have occurred on natural grass: cornerback Kelvin Hayden (Soldier Field Family Night), defensive tackle Nate Collins (Soldier Field), defensive tackle Henry Melton (Heinz Field, Pittsburgh) and defensive lineman Turk McBride (Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.).

Trestman: DC Tucker doing 'amazing job'

November, 13, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman gave embattled defensive coordinator Mel Tucker a public vote of confidence Wednesday, this despite the unit ranking No. 26 in total defense, No. 27 in points allowed, No. 31 in rushing defense and No. 23 in passing defense in Tucker's first year on the job.

Trestman cited key injuries on defense when evaluating Tucker's effectiveness. Entering Week 11, the Bears will be minus six projected starters (Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams, Henry Melton, Kelvin Hayden and Nate Collins) -- defensive end Shea McClellin is questionable with a pulled hamstring -- when they face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at Soldier Field.

"I can tell you, Mel's done an amazing job in my opinion," Trestman said. "He has been consistent with the guys in terms of his passion, the way he's teaching. He's a positive guy. I thought as I talked to the team on Monday, I thought our defense played well enough for us to win under unusual circumstances because of the situation of having so many players out that gave our team a chance to win. I think that starts with Mel, and our staff getting the guys ready, continuing to work with them to try and improve.

"Are we where we want to be? No. We're always trying to get better. But I think he's done an outstanding job in the classroom. On the field he's excellent, and I think he's done a great job of being on the field and managing the team for the last couple of games on the field. It's very impressive to watch."

Upon Further Review: Bears Week 5

October, 7, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Chicago Bears' 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints:

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhA slow start for running back Matt Forte and the Bears' offense spelled doom against the Saints.
Slow starts: The Bears need to stop spotting opponents points early in games through mistakes, lax play, turnovers or simply giving teams short fields to work with because of unproductive drives on offense. Whatever the case, the Bears have trailed at the half now in three of five games before making adjustments in the second half to come from behind to win or at least make a seemingly lopsided loss look respectable. The Bears need to start making effective adjustments more quickly.

Chicago killed itself on the first play from scrimmage when Matt Forte doomed a drive with a fumble for a 10-yard loss, and New Orleans responded with a field goal to put the Bears at a disadvantage early. On Chicago’s next drive, ineptitude in blitz pickup resulted in another fumble that the Saints turned into another field goal. By the time the Bears started playing productive football, they were trailing 13-0 with 5:57 left in the first half. That’s too late.

Injuries to front four: With Henry Melton out for the season and Stephen Paea missing Sunday’s game because of a turf toe injury, the front four suffered another blow when Nate Collins left with a knee injury. That’s two starters and a backup ailing from injuries. Unheralded players such as undrafted rookie Zach Minter and Landon Cohen need to step up, along with players such as defensive end Corey Wootton, who is now being forced to play out of position. The personnel department needs to help in this area, too, by beating the streets for suitable talent to acquire, and that will be a difficult proposition.

Podlesh rebounds: The Bears brought in six punters for workouts Tuesday after Adam Podlesh produced a rancid performance against the Lions in Week 4, finishing with a net average of 28.8 yards. But Podlesh bounced back with a decent outing against the Saints. He finished with a net average of 44.8 yards, including a 54-yard effort in the first half, his best outing since Nov. 19 of last season.

Rush improved, but not enough: With the injuries mounting, it’s likely the pass rush will continue to be an issue for this team. The Bears sacked Drew Brees twice and have registered six sacks over the past three games. But the club needs to apply even more pressure. There’s no way Brees should be allowed enough time to complete nearly 83 percent of his passes.

Nate Collins to have MRI; Paea plans return

October, 6, 2013
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the left knee injury he suffered in the third quarter of the Bears’ 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Fellow Bears’ defensive tackle Stephen Paea said he spoke to Collins after the game.

“I have no idea (how bad he is injured), “Paea said. “He has an MRI tomorrow (Monday) to find out what’s going to happen. He’s good. He had a smile on his face, so he’ll be back.”

Paea was inactive because of a minor toe injury he suffered last week against the Detroit Lions, despite telling reporters on Friday he intended to play after missing the entire week of practice. However, Paea said in the postgame locker room that he thinks there is a strong likelihood he will return to face the New York Giants Thursday night at Soldier Field.

“It was a game-time decision with my foot, and they told me not to play today,” Paea said. "I was (surprised I didn’t play), but at the same time I have to listen to doctors and do whatever they tell me to do. But yeah, (I think) I have a high chance of going (versus the Giants).”

Collins hurt the knee while attempting to pressure Saints quarterback Drew Brees on a pass attempt. Collins' knee appeared to buckle as he was tied up with a New Orleans offensive lineman. The four-year veteran defensive lineman grabbed his knee after falling to the ground and remained on the turf for a short period of time before eventually walking back to the locker room under his own power. He was eventually ruled out for the remainder of the game by the team’s medical staff.

Collins moved into the Bears’ starting lineup after Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Entering Sunday’s game versus the Saints, Collins led all Bears defensive linemen with 10 tackles through the first four games. Collins also recorded two quarterback pressures and forced one fumble.

Bears DT Collins (knee) leaves game

October, 6, 2013
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins sustained a left knee injury in the third quarter against the New Orleans Saints and has been ruled out for the remainder of the game.

Collins hurt the knee while attempting to pressure Saints quarterback Drew Brees on a pass attempt. Collins' knee appeared to buckle as he was tied up with a New Orleans offensive lineman. The four-year veteran defensive lineman grabbed his knee after falling to the ground and remained on the turf for a short period of time before eventually walking back to the locker room under his own power.

Collins moved into the Bears’ starting lineup after Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Entering Sunday’s game versus the Saints, Collins led all Bears defensive linemen with 10 tackles through the first four games. Collins also recorded two quarterback pressures and forced one fumble.

The Bears are perilously thin on their defensive line. Not only are Turk McBride and Melton already on injured reserve, but starting nose tackle Stephen Paea was inactive on Sunday because of toe injury. The Bears also lost another prospective body on the defensive line when veteran tackle Sedrick Ellis announced his retirement on the eve of training camp.

Because of the rash of injuries on the defensive line, relative newcomer Landon Cohen and undrafted rookie Zach Minter are both in the defensive tackle rotation on Sunday, along with Corey Wootton, who the club bumped inside from his customary defensive end spot. David Bass is seeing significant playing time outside at end.

Upon Further Review: Bears Week 4

September, 30, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Chicago Bears40-32 loss to the Detroit Lions:

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsReggie Bush ran (and jumped) over the Bears in the first half Sunday, but Chicago's defense clamped down on him after that.
Run defense: The Bears allowed Reggie Bush to gain 112 yards in the first half, then held him to 27 yards in the second half. With Henry Melton out, the Bears played Stephen Paea at the 3-technique spot and moved Nate Collins to nose tackle. The Bears might want to consider trying Collins at the 3-technique and Paea at nose.

After the game, Paea wore a walking boot due to minor turf toe on his left foot, and maybe that injury diminished Paea’s effectiveness.

“I’ve played some 3 [technique] before, but it’s just a matter of time, repetitions and practice,” Paea said.

Jay Cutler: This could come off as odd, but despite Cutler’s horrid performance (65.6 passer rating with three interceptions, plus a fumble returned for a touchdown), this game might have shown growth on the quarterback’s part.

Detroit scored 17 points off turnovers, and Cutler appeared to be the culprit on every giveaway but one (his first interception). How the quarterback handled himself in the heat of battle and afterward gives reason for optimism. Despite the mistakes, Cutler held up well and nearly brought the Bears back. After the game, Cutler showed accountability for his contribution to the loss and told it how it was, which signals he’ll take the appropriate steps to correct the issues.

“I have to give us a better chance to win. I mean, three picks. It’s hard to come back from that,” Cutler said. “[I] have to play better.”

Third-down conversions: The Bears converted just one of 13 third downs, and no matter how well the defense plays, it’s difficult to overcome that deficiency. It’s not all on Cutler. In the second quarter, Jordan Mills was whistled for a false start on third-and-10. Two series later, Cutler was in a third-and-21 situation after a 9-yard sack on second down. In the third quarter, a 27-yard gain on third down was negated by a Kyle Long penalty. Then, on the next series, Cutler was sacked and fumbled for Nick Fairley’s 4-yard touchdown.

“The big thing was third down,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We did horribly today [on third down], and that starts with me.”

Too much pressure: Cutler was sacked three times and spent most of the day under duress. This team has invested too much into protecting Cutler for this to continue.

"Either we didn't execute on the play or we didn't give Jay enough time to throw the ball," running back Matt Forte said. "Give credit to them for giving a great rush, but we didn't do our part."
DETROIT -- Knowing the capabilities of running back Reggie Bush meant little in terms of stopping him for the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Ford Field.

Bush wrecked the Bears for 112 yards on 11 attempts in the first half to help Detroit build a 30-13 lead at intermission, before hanging on to capture a 40-32 win and first place in the NFC North. Chicago slowed down Bush in the second half, limiting him to 27 yards on seven carries. But by then, the damage had already been done.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
AP Photo/Paul SancyaThe Bears knew what to expect from Lions running back Reggie Bush but were still unable to contain him.
“We just missed a lot of tackles,” Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. “He did a good job of making his moves. You have to give credit where credit is due. He’s a good back.”

Bush made that known almost immediately. Julius Peppers stopped Bush for no gain on the running back’s first attempt, but he ran for gains of 9, 11 and 17 yards on his next three attempts.

Bush’s first two attempts of the second quarter gained 15 and 16 yards.

“I think they had a good game plan for us in the run game. They have Israel Idonije over there, who was a long time player for us, and who also happens to really know our defense,” safety Chris Conte said. “So they really had a great scheme going. But we just have to have a better effort individually. That’s all there is to it.”

Idonije played nine seasons in Chicago, and at least one of the team’s current players suspects his former teammate tipped off the Lions to what the Bears were doing defensively. The player said that Bush broke most of his big gains when Chicago called for its “power” stunt. A stunt involves defensive linemen altering the path of their rush in a coordinated fashion in an attempt to confuse opposing offensive line, which in turn, makes it more difficult for them to block.

Because of Bush’s production during when Chicago ran that stunt, the Bears abandoned the call altogether, according to the player.

Bush broke a highlight-reel run for a 37-yard touchdown with 2:43 left in the second quarter to help the Lions go ahead 30-10 after the extra point, and there’s a good chance Detroit caught the Bears on that play in their “power” stunt.

“A sweet run,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “It was a play that, honestly, we have been working in practice all week knowing that they were going to blitz us. Instead of getting out of it, we just ran right into it. Dom [Raiola] made a great call up front. [Tight end Brandon] Pettigrew had a great block. We sealed off the backside, and then Reggie did the rest.”

The Bears played a good portion of the opening half in a nickel defense, which features five defensive backs, and just six players in the box to defend the run. Bush admitted to becoming “very excited” upon seeing Chicago’s personnel grouping.

“When we have them in nickel, and there’s six guys in the box, we’ve got to take advantage of that,” Bush said. “We definitely felt that was an area we could take advantage.”

Detroit certainly did that.

Bush said on some runs he “really didn’t get touched a whole lot until I got to the secondary.” By then, all Bush had to do was turn on the speed or juke the defender in space.

“If we don’t tackle, we’ve got trouble,” said Bears safety Major Wright, “especially with a back like that. Today, he came out and had a good game because we didn’t tackle him. Reggie Bush is special. He has speed. He can shake you. He can do everything.”

The Bears knew as much going in. The problem is they couldn’t do anything to stop it, which is a concern moving forward for a Chicago defense whose main goal always is to stop the run first.

The Bears played without franchise defensive tackle Henry Melton, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Nate Collins played the nose tackle spot, with Paea moving into Melton’s place as the three-technique.

Collins and Paea admitted the Bears are depleted up front without Melton in the mix, but each repeated the team’s next-man-up mentality for dealing with injury. Paea called Bush “another Adrian Peterson, if not quicker,” while Collins mentioned that an inch of daylight for the running back is often too much.

“He’s got quicks. He’s got jukes,” Collins said. “The running plays they had, if there was just a little sliver, he could still get through it quick going downhill. A guy like that, it’s hard enough to tackle him. But when he gets a little space, gets going and gains speed, that makes it even worse.”