NFC North: Chicago Bears

CLEVELAND -- Here are five things we learned in the first half of the Chicago Bears’ preseason finale versus the Browns.

1. 53-man roster mostly set before game: The Bears offered up a fairly complete picture of the final roster when they decided to sit numerous reserve players like: Josh Morgan, Ka’Deem Carey, Brock Vereen and Michael Spurlock. Unless the Bears find better alternatives over the weekend; all four appear to be in decent shape as the final cut date looms on Saturday. However, the decision to rest Carey and Vereen is somewhat curious. Outside of their draft status as fourth-round picks, neither did much to stand out over the summer. And no, Shea McClellin was never going to be cut. The Bears have not abandoned hope of salvaging the career of the former first-round draft choice.

2. David Fales knows the offense: Fales lacks ideal arm strength, but he does come across as a smart quarterback who understands where the ball is supposed to go. He did a decent job under intense pressure, and showed serious courage by throwing the ball deep on several occasions. The Bears are probably better off keeping only two quarterbacks on the active roster, but Fales showed enough smarts in the preseason to warrant a spot on the practice squad, if he clears waivers as expected.

3. Santonio Holmes can help Bears: Holmes proved he still has some juice left when he broke a tackle to score a 32-yard touchdown, followed by a 30-yard punt return. Granted, Holmes accomplished this against Cleveland backups, but he made the most of the opportunities presented to him. Holmes has too much experience to let walk away. Josh Bellamy had himself a solid first half with two catches for 43 yards in the opening quarter, but Holmes seems a smart choice to be the No. 4 wideout behind Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Morgan, with Spurlock also in the mix. We’ll see how/if Marquess Wilson’s injury complicates the situation when it boils down to determining the 53.

4. FirstEnergy video screens a nice touch: The Browns installed two giant video screens in the upper decks behind each end zone, a move that greatly enhances the in-stadium experience in Cleveland. The Bears need to strongly consider adding similar technology at Soldier Field, because the current video setup is below average for a stadium built in the last 11 years. The fans would love it. And it opens up tons of marketing and sales opportunities for the club. That’s a win-win for everybody involved.

5. Browns took it seriously: Cleveland needed starting quarterback Brian Hoyer to orchestrate a touchdown drive. The Browns are desperate for good vibes heading into Week 1. We all know Cleveland will probably stink again, but this is a franchise that is trying to sell hope to its tortured fan base. They call this place the “Factory of Sadness” for a reason. But the home fans actually seemed upbeat after the first 30 minutes, especially when Johnny Manziel fired a touchdown pass. Mission accomplished for the Browns.
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte improved his standing from a year ago in our #NFLRank project, moving from No. 48 to No. 29 in the latest edition, in which ESPN ranks the top 100 players in the league on both sides of the ball.

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The latest rankings grouped players between Nos. 30 through 21. Receiver Alshon Jeffery was one of 23 players on offense to make his debut in the 2014 #NFLRank project, checking in at No. 31

Forte finished last season ranked third in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (1,933 yards) on the way to being named to his second Pro Bowl. Forte rushed for 1,339 yards, carrying the ball on 71.5 percent of the team’s rushes, which ranked as highest in the league, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Since 2008, Forte ranks third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (9,585), behind Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson.

Forte ranked one spot ahead of San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and one slot behind Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

None of Chicago’s defenders made Wednesday’s offering in the #NFLRank project.
Most significant move: The Chicago Bears officially made Jimmy Clausen the No. 2 quarterback and jettisoned Jordan Palmer, who quickly signed with the Buffalo Bills. While Clausen and Palmer aren’t considered proven commodities, the latter had more familiarity and experience in Chicago’s offense. Jay Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game regular season since 2009, so it’s almost a given that at some point in 2014 the Bears will need to lean on the backup quarterback. That’s not to say the Bears made the wrong move, because Clausen appears to be the better player. Interestingly, Palmer signed with Chicago’s Week 1 opponent: the Buffalo Bills. So there’s a good chance the Bills are pumping Palmer for information on Chicago’s offense.

The end of a career? The Bears signed Adrian Wilson hoping he still possessed many of the physical traits that made him one of the NFL’s most dominating safeties over the years. Had Wilson panned out, he would have given the Bears the type of physical presence on the back end they haven’t had since Mike Brown roamed the secondary. The Bears gave Wilson plenty of opportunities to earn a spot on the team, but he never flashed the brilliance that made him such a force for so many years with the Arizona Cardinals. Wilson says he’s a “prideful person,” but at this point it appears his career is over.

What’s next: The Bears finish out the preseason on Thursday at Cleveland, and upon returning they’ll start to finalize the roster heading into the Aug. 30 cutdown date before beginning preparation for the regular-season opener against the Bills.

Bears' cuts: QB Jordan Palmer, KR/PR Darius Reynaud, LB Jordan Senn, RB Michael Ford, WR Greg Herd, WR Kofi Hughes, OT Joe Long, RB Derricus Purdy, DB Peyton Thompson, DT Nate Collins, OG Dylan Gandy, S Adrian Wilson, S Craig Steltz, OG James Brown, B Isaiah Frey.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Apparently, a pair of tennis rackets dangle from Alshon Jeffery's wrists, and the Chicago Bears just hope the receiver continues to serve up the love in the form of receptions to the club's offense.

Jeffery
"There are a couple of things that make Alshon Jeffery special," explained offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. "No. 1 is his size. No. 2 is his size and ability to get in and out of routes at that size; that's the thing that impresses you the most. No. 3, the balls he can catch away from his body. It looks like he puts up two huge tennis rackets to catch these balls. He pulls them in, and his hand strength is exceptional."

So was Jeffery's production in 2013, allowing him to come in at No. 31 on this year's NFLRank project in which ESPN ranked the league's top 100 players on offense and defense. In all, 23 players on offense made their debuts on this year's NFLRank project.

After a difficult rookie season in which he suffered a broken hand right hand, in addition to being sidelined with an arthroscopic knee surgery, Jeffery produced a gem in 2013, catching 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns, combining with Brandon Marshall for 2,716 yards and 19 TDs.

"I think part of it is the chemistry he has with this team," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "His work ethic hasn't changed. That's a sign to be able to stack a good year on a good year. He's done it for one year. He knows he's got to prove himself. He's got to stack years and years together to be a great player like Brandon has. If you could see him work here on a daily basis, he's doing all the right things to put another good year together."

Jeffery was one of two receivers in 2013 to produce two 200-yard games (Gordon was the other), and the only one to put together a 200-yard game on the road (a single-game franchise record 249 yards against the Vikings in Week 13). Jeffery attributes the bump in production from his rookie season to 2013 simply to learning the intricacies of the offense.

Jeffery also spent the majority of the offseason training with Marshall in Florida.

"My first year here, I would say it was just a learning process. It was about learning and knowing the NFL," Jeffery said. "Just staying on the field [in 2013] and staying healthy helped last year. But like I said, it was a big learning curve from my first year to my second year."

Potentially on the verge of stardom, Jeffery prefers not to look too far ahead. Asked where he sees himself in three years, Jeffery said, "Ask me that question three years from now, but I'd say the sky is the limit."

That certainly seems to be the case with Jeffery and the rest of the Bears coming off a 2013 season in which offense set multiple franchise records. Interestingly, Jeffery is the only player in Bears' history to produce two 200-yard receiving games, and is one of eight players in NFL history to accomplish that feat in the same season.

Over his first two years, Jeffery has caught 113 passes for 1,788 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"My mentality when that ball goes up in the air is it's my ball," Jeffery said. "I've got to make the play."
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears terminated the contract of vested veteran safety Craig Steltz on Monday, the team announced.

Steltz
The Bears' roster now stands at 77 active players in advance of Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT deadline to trim the roster to 75.

Steltz had re-signed with the Bears on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum on March 18.

Steltz spent the first couple weeks of training camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) after undergoing offseason groin surgery, but returned to action last Friday in Seattle where he recorded a tackle on special teams.

Steltz proved to be a valuable special teams contributor over the past six years with 58 total tackles, the second-highest total of any Bears player since 2008. The safety's veteran production and experience will be missed on a special teams unit that has woefully underperformed throughout the entire preseason.

Steltz appeared in 77 career games with eight starts. In his lone start on Dec. 1 2013, Steltz registered 12 tackles versus the Minnesota Vikings. His best stretch in a Bears' uniform occurred in 2011 when Steltz started the final five games and posted career-highs in tackles (42), sacks (1.0) and forced fumbles (2).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte missed practice Monday as he goes through the NFL's return-to-play concussion protocol, while Jared Allen (shoulder), Eben Britton (hamstring), Kyle Fuller (ankle) and Isaiah Frey (hamstring) returned to workouts inside the Walter Payton Center as the team preps for the exhibition finale at Cleveland.

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Conte suffered a concussion during the second half of the club's loss Friday at Seattle. It was his first live action since missing the entire offseason and much of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Bears coach Marc Trestman declined to give a timeframe for Conte's return, citing the fluidity of the NFL's concussion protocol.

Asked about the severity of Conte's concussion, Trestman said, "I can't answer that. I can't. It's a day-to-day thing. He's going through the protocol. I saw him after the game, and he was in a good place. But obviously he's going through the protocol right now, so I don't have an answer to that question."

Conte's latest setback brings about another question as to whether he's done enough to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster given his limited exposure in the evaluation process. The Bears opened up training camp with an open competition for both starting safety spots, and Conte -- given his experience -- seemed to be one of the favorites to win a job.

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker liked what he saw from Conte against the Seahawks.

"I thought Chris played fast. He was aggressive. He made a nice play in the end zone. He was excited to be out there," Tucker said. "There was no hesitation with Chris in his reads and his progressions, and I thought that was positive. With the amount of evaluation time available, we felt like that was enough time to make a clean evaluation on him, and we don't feel differently."

Against the Seahawks, Conte was credited with one assisted tackle and a pass breakup when he laid a vicious hit on Luke Willson in the end zone to prevent what would have been a touchdown.

Although Britton, Fuller, and Frey returned to practice Monday along with receiver Chris Williams, Trestman was unsure of their availability for the exhibition finale, and called Fuller and Frey day-to-day. Right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) also took part in Monday's practice, but hasn't yet played in a preseason outing. Brian de la Puente (knee) was also held out of Monday's workout.

Conte, meanwhile, started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, and didn't take part in his first practice until Aug. 10.

Conte finished third in tackles last season (95), and tied for second with three interceptions. Conte struggled tremendously through the 2013 season, highlighted by him playing the wrong coverage on a late fourth quarter Randall Cobb touchdown in the team's Week 17 loss to the Green Bay Packers which knocked the Bears out of the playoffs.

Conte said the 2013 season led to "a lot of soul searching" in the offseason.

"It was a good time for me to get better in a lot of different areas," Conte said during training camp. "Hopefully I'm a better person and a better football player. I learned to keep people close to me that I care about and to always know the people that support me are the only people that really matter. I'm not even thinking about last season. I'm thinking about this year. I don't even know what happened last season."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Having played in the background the majority of the preseason as the No. 3 quarterback, rookie sixth-round pick David Fales preps for his most significant action to date as the Chicago Bears plan to play him the entire preseason finale Thursday against the Cleveland Browns.

[+] EnlargeDavid Fales
Stephen Brashear/AP PhotoQB David Fales will get the chance to showcase his skills in the Bears' preseason finale at Cleveland.
Fales played sparingly in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, but hasn't seen action since. So Thursday's game at Cleveland presents the perfect opportunity for Fales to earn a spot on the 53-man roster as opposed to being waived and later brought back to the practice squad.

"Fales, he's gonna start the game and we'll see where it goes," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "I'd like to see him play a lot of the game. I just wanted to get David in a position where he was getting [in] on the [preparation for the] Browns and was really taking some time to prepare for this on really what is a short week for us."

Fales completed five of his seven throws for 68 yards against the Eagles, playing mostly mop-up duty in the fourth quarter. Fales tossed an interception in the game, but also led the team on a long drive that resulted in a field goal.

Fales said he's "definitely excited" for the chance to start at Cleveland. If Fales fails to impress enough to land a spot on the 53-man roster, he could wind up on Chicago's practice squad if he isn't snatched up by another team during the waiver process.

Despite lacking somewhat in arm strength, Fales makes up for that deficiency with strong anticipation skills. He possesses limited mobility, but Fales is courageous enough to stand in the pocket and deliver under pressure.

Entering the draft, Fales projected as an ideal fit for the West Coast offense, which is what the Bears currently utilize.

Fales was the first quarterback drafted by the Bears since 2011. He started in all 45 games he played in at San Jose State, hitting on 65.9 percent of his passes for 12,727 yards, 101 touchdowns and 35 interceptions.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A combination of experience, preseason performance and upside landed Jimmy Clausen the No. 2 job at quarterback, according to Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman.

The Bears released Clausen's primary competition, Jordan Palmer, on Sunday, leaving the former, Jay Cutler, and David Fales as the quarterbacks remaining on the roster.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsJimmy Clausen, who was drafted by Carolina in 2010, will back up Bears' starting QB Jay Cutler.
"They both competed really hard for the job," Trestman said. "As I told Jordan, Jimmy played at a consistent level, as did Jordan. I really threw out the five or six plays Jordan had the other night backed up. I know Jordan was terribly upset about that situation. That really didn't come into the consideration. Jimmy's played a lot more football in this league. He's younger, and I thought the competition was very close. But I thought at the end of the day, I think the upside for Jimmy, his age, his experience, and he came highly recommended from some people I trust in Carolina."

Clausen and Palmer put up similar numbers through the first three games of the preseason. Palmer completed 70 percent of his passes for 225 yards, a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 88.9. Clausen hit on 64.9 percent of his throws for 280 yards, two touchdowns, an INT and a passer rating of 94.4.

But Clausen has started in 10 of the 13 regular season games he's played in the NFL, while Palmer has thrown just 15 passes in the four games he's played. Clausen is 26. Palmer is 30.

In what proved to be the final test pitting Clausen against Palmer on Friday night in Seattle, neither produced stellar numbers. Palmer completed 7 of 10 for 48 yards to finish with a passer rating of 80.4. Clausen hit on 6 of 9 for 36 yards and a 74.3 passer rating.

"It's good that the coaches have the confidence in me to name me the No. 2 behind Jay [Cutler]," Clausen said. "But we've got a long way to go. I don't even remember the last game I played, my rookie year. But it's a great opportunity like I said from Day 1. [I've] just got to keep going out each and every day, getting better and doing everything I can to help the team win."

Clausen put together a solid workout in June at Halas Hall, in addition to a reassuring personal interview and X's and O's session on the board, prompting the Bears to add him to the mix in their search for a primary backup to Cutler.

The team liked Clausen's experience, mechanics and football smarts, as well as his mental toughness. In addition to handling injuries and a lack of success as a rookie, Clausen quietly weathered the disappointment of the Carolina Panthers drafting Cam Newton and immediately inserting him as the starter.

"His ability to handle the adversity that he had in his first year, his leadership qualities, he stood up tall through a lot of tough times in Carolina, and gained the respect of his teammates and the team there with the way he handled himself in a very, very difficult year," Trestman said. "So that, plus performance, plus experience, plus youth were a lot of the reasons if I can give you some content. It wasn't everything. At the end of the day it really comes down to how you feel about things. You weigh some content there that I gave you to make that decision. We wish Jordan the best. He not only competed hard, he really invested in our football team. He emotionally invested. He coached. He shared. He coached other guys up, guys at his position. He's a tremendous young man, and we'll look forward to him landing on his feet somewhere."

Palmer expressed gratitude for the opportunity in Chicago on Twitter on Sunday, posting "I'll be wearing #Bears gear and supporting the Bears for the rest of my life. Regardless of what happens. This is the best org in the NFL."

Clausen, meanwhile, believes his experiences in Carolina -- while negative -- might have helped with the latest situation.

"One of the big things is sitting and looking back on the sidelines the past few years in Carolina just sitting and learning really did help," Clausen said. "I didn't have that in college. I didn't have that in high school. Just to sit back and take a step back and look at everything helped the game slow down a little bit for me, and [I] just learned how to play in the NFL because it's totally different from college."
The NFLRank project rolled into Friday with Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs coming in at No. 56, as ESPN continued to list the top 100 players around the league on offense and defense.

The latest rankings grouped players between Nos. 60 through 51. Charles Tillman checked in at No. 66 in the project on Thursday, while tight end Martellus Bennett made the list on Tuesday with a No. 82 ranking. Defensive end Lamarr Houston became Chicago’s first defender to crack the top 100 (No. 80)

Having earned Pro Bowl recognition on seven consecutive occasions, Briggs finds himself in unique company considering the only Bears with more trips to the league’s annual all-star game since the merger are Mike Singletary (10) and Brian Urlacher (eight).

Interestingly, Briggs ranked one spot above Seattle linebacker Cliff Avril. The Bears face the Seahawks on Friday night at CenturyLink Field in preseason game No. 3.

Briggs played just nine games last season, but finished with 10 stuffs -- a tackle of a rusher for negative yards, according to STATS LLC -- which tied for seventh most in the NFL. Since coming into the league in 2003, Briggs has collected and NFL-high 81 stuffs for 197.5 lost yards.

With 1,501 tackles over his 11-year career, Briggs ranks No. 2 in franchise history behind Urlacher. Briggs moved past Singletary last season, and posted 87 stops despite playing in just nine games.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – With the No. 2 quarterback spot still up for grabs, Jordan Palmer will be the first quarterback off the bench to replace starter Jay Cutler when the Chicago Bears travel to Seattle on Friday night to face the Seattle Seahawks.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced on Wednesday he planned to switch the quarterback rotation after Jimmy Clausen relieved Cutler last week at Soldier Field against Jacksonville.

Palmer
Clausen went 11-of-15 for 94 yards and one interception before giving way to Palmer, who completed 6 of 9 throws for 73 yards and one touchdown.

“Jay will work certainly into the second quarter and we'll make a decision during the second quarter what we're going to do with him,” Trestman said. “That will be dependent on a number of different things. And then after that we'll have Jordan, so expect Jordan to play the third quarter and Jimmy to play the fourth. We'll continue to rotate these guys around. We've got another week after this one and that's the way we'll operate this week.”

Trestman hinted the quarterback competition might run through the final preseason game next Thursday in Cleveland. NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 30. It’s unclear if the Bears plan to keep both Clausen and Palmer on the final 53-man roster. One might have to go if the Bears decide to keep just two quarterbacks, and perhaps rookie David Fales could make the 10-man practice squad if the rookie clears waivers.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Nearly five months since undergoing shoulder surgery, Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte will make his preseason debut Friday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

“I feel good. I’m excited to go out there and play,” Conte said Wednesday. “I can’t wait to get back out there on the field and play football.”

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Conte
Conte, along with fellow safety Craig Steltz, were activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 10, but both sat out against Jacksonville. Safety remains unsettled, although Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray have started in each of the two previous preseason games. Veteran Adrian Wilson is another candidate in the mix, but no final decision can be reached at safety until the Bears determine if Conte can bounce back from a difficult 2013.

Conte has been a mainstay in the Bears’ secondary the last three seasons, recording 230 tackles, six interceptions and one forced fumble in 40 career starts.

“Chris had a good week of practice,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “He's running around. He's involved in terms of what we're doing. So we'll see. He's going to play. It looks certainly that he's going to play. And we haven't decided how much yet. But he'll be out there and he'll be competing and he's back in it to try to show us what he can do and we're excited to have him back.”

Barring a setback, Steltz is also expected to play on Friday, along with wide receiver/kick returner Chris Williams, who seems to be recovered from a hamstring injury that he suffered in the preseason opener.

The Bears held five players out of Wednesday’s practice: cornerback Kyle Fuller (ankle), guard Eben Britton (hamstring), center/guard Brian de la Puente (knee), cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Mundy (excused).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Santonio Holmes expects to see action in some spots Friday night when the Chicago Bears face the Seattle Seahawks, but the staff wants to make sure to put the receiver into positions he’s comfortable with as he learns the new offense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more on Bennett and his ranking, here.

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

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

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

A fifth-year veteran, Houston is coming off a 2013 season in which he racked up a career-high six sacks for 52 yards in losses. Houston led Oakland’s defensive linemen last season with 71 tackles, forced two fumbles and collected 10 tackles for lost yardage.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler's interactions with teammates and the media always seem to creep into the narrative about the quarterback, and on Tuesday Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said "we've absolutely noticed a difference in Jay."

Cutler admits he's changed, too.

Cutler
"It might be true. Anytime you are in an offense and have the same group of guys around you, it's going to be more comfortable. It is for me anyway," Cutler said. "I like the group of guys we have in the locker room, understand what we are doing offensively. And it's early. It's still preseason with you guys."

Described as petulant to the media in the past with televised on-field blowups with teammates and coaches as evidence that he's been difficult to get along with, Cutler hasn't displayed such qualities so far. But to Cutler's credit, he didn't in 2013 either.

Going into 2014, Kromer believes Cutler is taking on more of a leadership role. He's moved on to a new staff led by an offensive-minded head coach in Marc Trestman. He's finally protected well, and not taking unnecessary punishment every time he drops back to pass. He's surrounded by a bevy of weapons on offense, and playing in an offensive system he believes in strongly on a new seven-year contract.

"I think everyone in the building has noticed a difference in Jay," Kromer said. "None of us knew Jay very well before getting here last year, and we worked through the year and that first year is always hard on everybody. But what I see in Jay Cutler right now is a guy that's the leading the group; a guy that is approachable, and is working to make everybody better because he realizes it's important that everybody is on the same page with him."

New receiver Santonio Holmes admitted as much Monday, saying the quarterback has "taken me under his wing, talked to me, and kept me close." The expectation is Cutler's approach will translate into victories this season. During training camp, Brandon Marshall called Cutler "a totally different person," adding that "I think he has great balance in is life now."

"He's talked with receivers. He's talked with linemen. He's working with running backs constantly," Kromer said. "That's a maturity on his part of knowing the offense, knowing what we want as coaches and feeling good about being the leader that he is. It's been a very good start of the year that way."

Will it continue? Well, it did in 2013 despite the Bears finishing 8-8 in a season in which Cutler was forced to miss time due to injuries on two occasions.

Cutler seems to now totally understand the value of making everyone else around him better, which is part of the reason that within an hour of Holmes signing his contract on Saturday, the two were on the field together working on plays to develop a rapport as quickly as possible. Cutler displayed similar qualities in 2013, too.

"If Santonio Holmes is going to play, Jay's going to rely on him," Kromer said. "Jay knows he has to be on the same page with him. So the faster he can get to know him, the better off he's going to be and that's Jay's goal."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears continue to ponder whether to play recent signee Santonio Holmes on Friday night at Seattle due to the receiver's limited exposure to the offense.

Bears coach Marc Trestman said he hasn't yet made a determination.

"I can't say that right now," Trestman said. "I think we're trying to get him to that place. I think I'll know a little bit more after practice tomorrow. We'll see where he's at. We'll talk to him and we'll see if he's ready to go and get some playing time."

Holmes
Holmes participated in the club's Tuesday workout inside the Walter Payton Center and Trestman "thought he worked positively today." Within an hour of signing his contract with the Bears on Saturday, Holmes and quarterback Jay Cutler were on the field working together; the quarterback administering a crash course to the receiver on the nuances of the club's offense.

What Cutler notices is Holmes still possesses the speed and explosion that made him one of the league's most feared deep threats at one time, but it might be too lofty an expectation -- despite recent efforts -- for the duo to strike on-field accord by the time takes the field to face the Seahawks.

"He obviously knows how to play football," Cutler said. "He's been around a long time, been in a few different systems and been successful. It's just a matter of getting him caught up with our verbiage, how we like to do things, the little tweaks we like, and just kind of get in a rapport with him timing wise. It just takes time. He's explosive. He'd probably be honest [and tell you] he's a little bit rusty. He's been out of football. But getting in and out of cuts, [he] catches the ball well, extremely explosive, fast. He's exciting. It's hard coming in where we are offensively and just kind of throwing him into the mix."

With second-year receiver Marquess Wilson out of action due to a fractured clavicle suffered in training camp, the Bears hope to find a suitable slot receiver to complement Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Trestman said veteran Josh Morgan deserves the first opportunity to work with the starters Friday at Seattle, but Cutler believes the team could have Holmes ready to play by the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against Buffalo.

Morgan has caught five passes for 77 yards through the first two games of the preseason, and outside of Holmes, appears to be the most capable fill-in option at the No. 3 receiver spot.

"He's had two good weeks of practice, two good games, productive games," Trestman said. "He's made plays out there. I think he deserves a chance to step up now and get the first opportunity to do that. He's a powerful guy. He's explosive. He's got straight-line speed, and he's got experience. He's the most experienced, other than Santonio, of any of the receivers that we have."

If Morgan falters, the club appears confident it can get Holmes up to speed quickly enough for him to have an immediate impact in the regular season. Kromer said Holmes "has been impressive in practice. Especially today, he stood out."

Still, Trestman wants Holmes to develop enough of a comfort level with the system before the club rushes him out onto the field.

"I just want him to feel comfortable to be able to go in there and perform and not put our team in a position where his mistakes would create mistakes around him," Trestman said. "We want to give him the best chance to succeed on an individual basis as well."

A ninth-year veteran, and the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII, Holmes has caught 381 passes for 5,963 yards over eight years with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2006-09), and New York Jets (2010-13). Holmes could also become a contributor on special teams, as he's returned 66 punts for 636 yards and a touchdown in addition to 18 kickoffs for 436 yards.

But do the Bears have enough time to prepare Holmes for the limelight?

"We'll find out," Cutler said. "I think [we do]. We might have to help him along in the huddle and make sure he knows what he's doing. But we've got enough veteran guys. We can get him to where he needs to be."

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