Chicago Bears: Michael Wright

Jonathan BosticAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhRookie linebacker Jon Bostic drew positive reviews for his play-calling on Thursday.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held out linebacker Lance Briggs (rest) for Thursday's practice, thrusting rookie second-round pick Jon Bostic -- who was filling in for injured middle linebacker D.J. Williams -- into the role of playcaller on defense.

Bostic drew positive reviews for his first day making the calls.

"He did very very well," defensive end Julius Peppers said. "We're going to need him. We hope Lance doesn't go down, but he could. All of us could go down. So whenever somebody goes down, the next player has to be up. So we've got to get him ready because we might need him one of those games."

The Bears could wind up needing Bostic sooner than originally anticipated. The club drafted Bostic with the expectation he would spend 2013 learning behind Williams, a 10-year veteran, who at one time was considered one of the NFL's most talented middle linebackers. Williams suffered a strained right calf on Wednesday, and the prognosis given by the team has been "week to week," which means the injury could linger.

"I really don't look at it as getting thrown in the fire," Bostic said. "I'm out there with a lot of guys I've pretty much watched on TV the last 10 or 12 years, however long I’ve been watching football. To be in there with them, I’ve got to pick it up. I've got to go out there and make sure I'm in my playbook off the field so I'm not making any mistakes when I'm out there."

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Matt Forte Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireMatt Forte hopes to be a bigger factor in the Bears offense this season.
The Chicago Bears brought in another weapon on offense for quarterback Jay Cutler in tight end Martellus Bennett, and there’s got to be at least some desire on the team’s part to see a repeat performance of Brandon Marshall's 2012 record-breaking season.

That’s why it would seem difficult for the Bears to find a way to incorporate more Matt Forte into the offense in 2013, but that’s the plan under Marc Trestman. More than likely, the team will be able to pull it off.

"I would expect (to be used more in 2013). Coach Trestman, I think he said he watched a lot of film on me and has seen me run different routes," Forte said back in May. "So we'll get back to catching the ball out of the backfield like we did the prior years."

The addition of Marshall prior to the 2012 season certainly caused a dip in production for Forte. Forte gained 1,434 yards from scrimmage in 2012 (1,094 rushing and 340 receiving), and while those numbers indicate a productive season, the running back rushed for 100 yards or more in just three games.

Forte finished second in receptions (44), but caught 74 fewer passes than Marshall (119). Forte's 44 catches in 2012 represented a career low. In the four previous years, he averaged nearly 56 catches.

"I think last year was basically the only time that happened. Before that, I actually was running the ball and catching the ball out of the backfield, had multiple catches," Forte said. "Last year was the only (a reduction) in catches. Brandon had a lot of catches, and everybody else really didn't have a whole lot. We were kind of one-dimensional last year I would say. (There’s) gonna be an emphasis for us this year to spread the ball around so that it works, it's balanced.”

To achieve that balance, the offense needs to run through Forte. Once opposing defenses gear up to stop him, that’s when Cutler can work the magic with Marshall, Bennett and the rest of the receiving corps.
Brian UrlacherAl Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesThe Bears might miss Brian Urlacher's presence on the field, but they might be better as a linebacking corps.
The initial shock of Brian Urlacher's absence quickly vanished once the Chicago Bears started on-field workouts during the offseason, and despite the linebacker's tremendous contributions over the years, it's unlikely the team will miss him much once the season starts.

A little insensitive, perhaps, but that's the reality of a transient NFL.


Will the Bears be better at linebacker this season with James Anderson and D.J. Williams?


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Besides that, the linebacking corps may have become a better unit with the subtraction of Urlacher paired with the additions of athletic veterans such as D.J. Williams and James Anderson along with rookies Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene. But what about the defense as a whole, which goes into the season without Lovie Smith or Rod Marinelli, the architects of the unit, and Urlacher, the quarterback of the defense?

It's easy to compare the numbers between Urlacher and the departed Nick Roach with Anderson and Williams, who appear at this point more suited to play the run-and-hit style Tucker likes in his linebackers, while giving the team more potential than Urlacher and Roach as pass rushers.

Over the past three years, Urlacher and Roach combined for 5.5 sacks, while Williams and Anderson came together for 15.5 sacks. It's worth noting that with Smith, the Bears didn't utilize linebackers extensively to blitz. It's also noteworthy that Williams and Anderson produced 10 more sacks than Urlacher and Roach over the past three years despite playing in a combined eight fewer games.

Williams played in just seven games in 2012 as a result of multiple suspensions, but produced 10.5 sacks in 2010 and 2011, in addition to 164 tackles.
Even with Williams playing just seven games, he and Anderson posted 106 more tackles than Urlacher and Roach from 2010-12.

Still, the numbers don't illustrate the intangibles Urlacher brought to the team. Urlacher's ability to bring players together, his immense knowledge of the defense and the NFL, his all-Pro past, which likely came in handy when articulating to younger players the expectations for how to play defense as a Chicago Bear. Those are the qualities this defense will miss most with Urlacher not on the field.

It's unknown whether that absence will prove detrimental, but it doesn't appear that will be the case.

With established veterans such as Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, and Tim Jennings, the Bears already own a strong nucleus with up-and-coming players sprinkled in such as Henry Melton and Chris Conte. The team certainly revamped the linebacking corps, but the team made sure to do that with two more established vets in Williams and Anderson.

So for the fans, yes, the absence of Urlacher might hurt. For the team, though, it should be business as usual.

Road to Bourbonnais: The new offense

July, 11, 2013
Jay CutlerAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJay Cutler faces another new offense, and if history is a judge, he should pick it up quickly.
Editor's note: Michael C. Wright and Jeff Dickerson will preview the top storylines heading to the Bears training camp.

Balls thudded to the grass. Quarterbacks and receivers seemed out of synch sometimes. The defense feasted on interceptions.


What do you expect from the Bears' offense this season?


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That's what transpired for the Chicago Bears at organized team activities and minicamp. Fortunately for the team, the offseason is the time for such miscues. However, once the team hits the field for training camp in Bourbonnais, the margin for error starts to shrink significantly.

So as the team prepares for its 12th training camp trek to Olivet Nazarene University, one burning question seems to be whether the Bears can absorb the new system of Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer sufficiently enough to operate productively once the Sept. 8 opener rolls around against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Recent history indicates the Bears will be up to the challenge.

Last season, when the Bears switched from the offense of Mike Martz to the system of Mike Tice, quarterback Jay Cutler completed only 1 of his first 10 passes in the season opener before catching fire and hitting 11 of his next 12 throws. The Bears stomped the Colts 41-21 in last year's opener with Cutler completing 21 of 35 for 333 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears started the fourth quarter with a 34-14 lead.

When the Bears transitioned into Martz's system from the offense utilized by former coordinator Ron Turner in 2010, Cutler threw for 372 yards and two TDs -- including a 28-yard pass to Matt Forte with 1:32 left to play -- as the club defeated the Detroit Lions 19-14.

So the move to Trestman's precision and timing-based West Coast scheme should come with relatively few hiccups. In fact, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to expect the Bears to put forth one of their best performances offensively in a season opener in recent history in 2013, given Trestman's reputation for attacking defenses, his ability to groom quarterbacks, and the fact the team is stocked with successful veteran players at most of the key positions.
Lance Briggs AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhLance Briggs is now calling the plays for the defense with Brian Urlacher gone.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs spoke Tuesday for the first time in a public setting all offseason, and admitted the defense is "very different" without former teammate Brian Urlacher in the fold.

"I didn't call plays before, and now I'm calling the plays," Briggs said. "I just have a lot of respect (for the job Urlacher did). I've been spoiled for the last 10 years."

A free agent, Urlacher and the Bears couldn't come to an agreement on a contract, causing the club to basically cut ties with a franchise hallmark. Urlacher played alongside Briggs since the latter's rookie season (2003), but hasn't yet found a new team.

Briggs abruptly ended the interview session when asked if was surprised that Urlacher remains unsigned.

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte missed Tuesday's session of organized team activities along with cornerback Tim Jennings, as both had a prior commitment with USO Illinois in Germany, where they visited troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Forte and Jennings visited Germany as part of the USO Illinois Pro Tour along with former Bears receiver Johnny Knox.

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Michael Wright kicks off this week's Bears chat at 12 CT, followed by Jeff Dickerson at 12:30 CT from New Jersey.

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Michael Wright enters the Bears chat room at 11 a.m. CT.

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Michael Wright starts the Bears chat today at 11 a.m., followed by Jurko at noon.

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No respect? Bears have to earn it

December, 13, 2010
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The lack-of-respect spigot of motivation froze up for the Chicago Bears in the icy winds at Soldier Field on Sunday, when the New England Patriots came to town, exposing the home team's flaws in a 36-7 pasting.

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Michael Wright and Jurko enter the Bears chat room at 11 a.m. CT. Click here to submit questions now and check back at 11.