NFC North: Armando Allen

Most significant move: Despite J'Marcus Webb making 44 starts in 46 career games, including 32 consecutive starts at left tackle over the last two years, the Bears made the decision to part ways with him, even after reducing his salary to the league minimum for a veteran with three years of tenure.

Webb entered the offseason as the starter at right tackle, and stayed in that spot through the early part of training camp. Then, after the preseason opener at Carolina, the club demoted Webb to the second team behind rookie fifth-round pick Jordan Mills.

The demotion put Webb in competition for a backup role with veterans Jonathan Scott and Eben Britton. A five-year veteran, Britton has 30 games of starting experience on his résumé, but also possesses more versatility than Webb because of his ability to kick inside to guard and center. Scott hasn’t played all preseason, and recently underwent a procedure on his knee. But the team is confident that even a dinged-up Scott is more reliable than a fully healthy Webb.

Webb possesses the physical skillset to be a starter in the NFL for several years, but lacks motivation and passion, which is a no-no for general manager Phil Emery and the new coaching regime. The new staff worked diligently to coax out the best in Webb, but couldn’t do it consistently enough for the team to feel confident in the three-year veteran, even as a backup.

Good outing, bad result: Quarterback Jordan Palmer performed well in the preseason finale against Cleveland despite little preparation after signing as an injury replacement for Matt Blanchard. But a 64.7 completion percent and a passer rating of 102.8 with a touchdown pass in his preseason debut wasn’t good enough to keep the Bears from cutting Palmer.

A big part of that was the team’s reported desire to sign a third quarterback with practice-squad eligibility. Palmer doesn’t have any practice-squad eligibility remaining.

What’s next: With the 53-man roster finalized, the Bears will start to build their practice squad. If the club wants to bring back some of the players it cut, it will have to wait until they clear waivers. The Bears will likely be looking to add a few players cut from other teams to their practice squad, too.

Bears cuts: QB: Trent Edwards, Jordan Palmer. RB: Armando Allen. OG: Dennis Temple, Edwin Williams. LB:Jerry Franklin, J.T. Thomas. WR: Brittan Golden, Terrence Toliver, Josh Lenz. OT:J'Marcus Webb, Cory Brandon. DT:Corvey Irvin, Christian Tupou. S:Tom Nelson, Brandon Hardin. LS: Brandon Hartson. CB: Demontre Hurst. TE:Fendi Onobun. FB: Harvey Unga. DE: Aston Whiteside, Josh Williams.

Note: Brandon and Irvin received injury settlements. Hardin was waived/injured, which means if he clears waivers, he’ll revert to Chicago’s injured reserve.
CHICAGO -- The scene in the locker room minutes after the Bears concluded the preseason finale against Cleveland included several handshakes, pats on the back and man hugs saying goodbye.

Apparently the Bears don’t plan to waste time in cutting the 22 players needed to get down to the mandatory 53-man roster limit before Saturday’s 3 p.m. CST deadline.

“We’ll be at it bright and early tomorrow,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “(General manager) Phil (Emery) and I will sit down early in the morning, (and make decisions) based on the information we gathered from the tape and from the other coaches. It will be a collective process to make those decisions that work out to be the final 53.”

Several players made strong cases during Thursday night’s 18-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Others only reinforced decisions the club had already planned on making. Trestman mentioned that he didn’t think “anyone played themselves out of the roster tonight,” but the truth is quite a few didn’t exactly play themselves onto it, either. Over the next several hours, there’s a good chance the team will start bringing players into Halas Hall to begin cuts.

Here’s a sampling of what some of the on-the-bubble players had to say in pleading their respective cases.

RB Armando Allen: “To me, the reality is you don’t have control over the decision being made. So for me, it’s just I’ve just got to stay positive and keep my mind focused and in the right mindset for whatever comes next. Did I feel like I did enough? I’m probably one of my biggest critics. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I could have done better. If I was pitching myself, for me, it’s just simple. I come to work hard every day; great individual. I know the plays, (and) I’m a great special teams player. So, that’s about all I can say. My work speaks for itself.”

RB Michael Ford: “You can’t get into the coaches' head. You’ve got to let the coaches coach and do what they do. The only thing we can go out there and do is play and play hard. I gave it my all. I went into practice and gave it my all, and went into the games and gave it my all. I really can’t worry about it. When you give it your all and did everything you could, you can’t worry about it, because you know you gave 100 percent at what you did.”

WR Joe Anderson: “I’ve always felt confident. I believe in myself regardless of who else does. When you believe in yourself, you win. I believe in me. If you ask me, I believe I made this team. But you never know what someone else is thinking. So I just come to work every day and do my job. I control what I can control, (and) that’s what I do on the field. So upstairs, that’s their job. I’m gonna let them do their job, and I’ll do my job.”

OL Eben Britton: “I feel good about it. I feel really good about it. Yeah, I feel like (I made this team). I’m not the type of guy to beat my chest too much, but I was really proud of myself just about how I approached the whole camp, and what I got out of it. I feel the best I’ve felt in years. It was a great training camp for me, and I feel really good about the future. Now, I feel like I do things without even thinking about it anymore. It’s just starting to become natural because that’s what (offensive coordinator Aaron) Kromer has taught us every day. Even since back in April, I just kept working on the techniques we were taught in the run game and the pass game, stayed focused, and I just feel really good about how far I’ve come since getting here.”
  • Considering the limited prep time given recently signed quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards, the duo performed fairly well against Cleveland, especially Palmer. He completed 11 of 17 for 11 yards and a touchdown to finish with a passer rating of 102.8.“I’ve prepared for this game as much as I’ve ever prepared for a game,” Palmer said. “It was a lot of fun to go out there, and I feel like we moved the ball and did some good things.”Trestman has said his preference is to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. So if that holds true over the next two days, ESPNChicago.com colleague Jeff Dickerson says it would be hard to imagine the Bears cutting ties with Palmer.
  • Rookie cornerback Demontre Hurst didn’t hurt his cause, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Hurst probably didn’t help it much, either. Last year, former seventh-round pick Greg McCoy ran back an interception for a touchdown in the preseason finale at Cleveland, but still wound up among the final cuts. But to Hurst’s credit, his preseason was better than McCoy’s in 2012. In addition to the interception, Hurst posted five tackles in addition to forcing Brian Hoyer into an intentional grounding penalty.
  • Brad Biggs says the Bears are interested in quarterbacks who have practice squad eligibility remaining, and one of them is former Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of Green Bay signal caller Aaron Rodgers.
  • Inconsistency has been the story of training camp for tight end Fendi Onobun. The Bears have a difficult decision to make here, and it will likely take place Friday.Trestman explained that “when the light switch goes on” for Onobun, “he’s got a chance to be a very good player. We have some tough decisions to make, and certainly Fendi is going to be in the mix when we make these decisions because of what he showed tonight again, and what he’s shown in practice.”What I saw was merely another up-and-down performance.
  • Here's my take on J'Marcus Webb from Thursday night's game. Not good, not bad, just mediocre, which likely won't be good enough for him to make this team. Obviously, everyone wanted to speak with Webb after the game. But once officials opened the locker room, Webb was already gone, his locker cleaned out.

Webb mediocre, Onobun struggles

August, 29, 2013
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CHICAGO -- J'Marcus Webb's fortunes seemingly turned as quickly as the defensive ends in recent years rounding the corner past him for sacks.

Having started 32 consecutive games at left tackle, Webb entered training camp as the first-team right tackle. In a matter of days, though, Webb could be among the team’s cuts as it whittles down to 53 players.

After taking a demotion and a pay cut recently, Webb was among the bottom-of-the-roster types featured Thursday night in Chicago’s 18-16 loss to the Browns, struggling in a last gasp to make the team. With the starters sitting to prevent injury, Webb started at right tackle, and played every snap.

His performance seemed underwhelming. Officials called Webb for false start on third and 6 in the opening quarter. That moved the Bears from the Cleveland 33 to the 38, and after a failed third-down conversion, Robbie Gould kicked a 52-yard field goal.

Webb later gave up a pressure when he and right guard Derek Dennis were bull-rushed into Jordan Palmer.

The performance wasn’t all bad, but it likely didn’t convince the Bears to keep Webb.

Here’s a look at a couple other performances by on-the-bubble players battling for some of the final roster spots:

TE Fendi Onobun: After a training camp filled with drops and inconsistency, Onobun seemed poised for a rebound. Onobun caught the first pass thrown his way, but was later called for holding with eight minutes left in the second quarter. Onobun caught a 4-yarder the very next play. But in the second quarter, he dropped a slightly underthrown ball from Palmer. In the third quarter, a catchable Trent Edwards pass skipped off Onobun’s hands, resulting in an interception by James-Michael Johnson. Onobun did pull in a 20-yard reception in the third quarter. But the negatives outweighed the positives. It would be a surprise if Onobun makes the roster.

Allen vs. Ford: In this battle of the running backs, Michael Ford, an undrafted rookie out of LSU, seemed to emerge the victor. Ford ran for 48 yards on nine attempts, while Armando Allen, his main competition for the No. 3 running back job, gained 39 yards on 10 attempts. Allen was at a disadvantage coming into Thursday because he had missed time due to a hamstring injury.

S Brandon Hardin: Perhaps the long layoff was too much to overcome. Going into last season, Hardin hadn’t played in a football game since 2010. Then, last preseason, he suffered a neck injury on Aug. 26 that landed him on the injured reserve.

Hardin played the entire game Thursday, and didn’t make enough plays to turn heads. Hardin also gave up a 14-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
CHICAGO – Offensive starters for the Chicago Bears in tonight’s preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns:

WR – Joe Anderson
LT – Cory Brandon
LG – Edwin Williams
C – Taylor Boggs
RG – Derek Dennis
RT – J’Marcus Webb
TE – Kyle Adams
HB - Fendi Onobun
WR – Terrence Toliver
QB – Jordan Palmer
RB – Armando Allen
Here are three positional battles to monitor heading into the Chicago Bears’ preseason finale versus the Cleveland Browns:

1. Running back: Undrafted rookie Michael Ford is making a strong push to grab one of the final spots on the 53-man roster after returning a kickoff 100 yards in the second preseason game against San Diego, then following up that performance with 58 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries last week in Oakland. If the Bears decide to keep just three tailbacks, it means either Ford or veteran Armando Allen has to go. Allen played well last season for the Bears, appearing in 15 games and recording seven special-teams tackles. But Allen has been working his way back from an injury the past couple weeks, which has opened the door for the less expensive rookie out of LSU to showcase himself in these preseason games. Both figure to receive ample playing time tonight at Soldier Field.

2. Quarterback: The Bears’ offense is entirely in the hands of veteran quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards after Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced last week that starter Jay Cutler and No. 2 Josh McCown would not see the field in the final preseason contest. If the Bears open the season with three quarterbacks, and that is still an if, the final spot could be determined by which of the two reserves has a better game against the Browns, plus what each accomplished on the practice field the past two weeks. The Bears got a brief look at just Palmer last week in the fourth quarter (1-for-1, five yards), but both quarterbacks will get an extended look tonight. Even if the Bears decide to go with just two quarterbacks to start the year, the team might still find themselves in need of another QB later in the season -- that’s why this is still an important game for Palmer and Edwards, regardless.

3. Offensive line: If the Bears retain eight offensive linemen, as offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer hinted earlier in training camp, then two spots might still be available. That means Jonathan Scott, Eben Britton, J’Marcus Webb and Taylor Boggs are probably the guys still alive to make the team, although sometimes these calls are already made before the final preseason game. Scott has actually pulled off the rare feat of improving his position on the team despite missing the past several weeks with a knee injury that required a procedure to clean it out. That’s because Webb has continued to struggle ever since being demoted to second-team left tackle. Webb is a mystery. He has all the physical gifts, but his inconsistency coupled with his strange behavior and apparent lack of passion toward the game, makes him a strong candidate to get cut. If Scott’s knee is OK for Week 1, then it might make sense to just keep him and Britton, try and sneak Boggs on the practice squad, and send Webb on his merry way. But if Webb wants to make one final stand, he better make the most his opportunities tonight.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The early returns on Devin Hester's transition to full-time special teamer have been encouraging.

[+] EnlargeDevin Hester
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneDevin Hester has two kick returns for 68 yards during the preseason.
Without the responsibility of having to take a single rep at wide receiver, Hester has looked fresh and re-energized when given the opportunity to return kickoffs during the preseason. The NFL record holder for combined kick-return touchdowns with 17, Hester almost broke the opening kickoff last week against the San Diego Chargers, but he was tripped up after a 45-yard return.

"He was pretty close," Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. "The kicker made a nice play and then also the safety from the back side. It was just good to get him some action, some real action. It was good to see those guys blocking the way they did, too, because there was definitely some holes out there, which was nice to see."

Hester also was credited with a 23-yard kickoff return in the Bears' preseason opener in Carolina when he decided to run the ball out after fielding it in the back of the end zone. The Bears have given Hester the green light on kickoff returns in both exhibition games. That aggressive style doesn't just help Hester, it allows the rest of the return team members to practice setting up their blocks.

"Even when Devin was having those big years, Devin had some big holes to go through," DeCamillis said. "We just got to do a better job of getting some holes for him at the start, and then, you know, he's gotta go and play better also. So it's a combination of all of those. I've got to help him schematically with what we're doing. Guys gotta block better, and he's gotta return better. That's what we've been working on all camp, and hopefully it starts to show up."

DeCamillis also has taken notice of undrafted rookie Michael Ford, who is fighting to earn a roster spot at running back. With Armando Allen sidelined last week due to a hamstring injury, Ford helped his cause with a 100-yard kickoff return against the Chargers. He finished the game with three returns for 160 yards.

"It would be tough not to like what you saw in a Michael Ford," DeCamillis said. "He did a great job. On his long one, that wasn't one of the better blocked returns that we had all night. He made a guy miss right in the hole. So that was a great run by him, and he did a better job on coverage, too. So he's making it tough. He's doing a good job of what we need to see from him, that's for sure."
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers will be sidelined for the second time this preseason Thursday against the San Diego Chargers, the team announced before the game.

Bears coach Marc Trestman said on Tuesday he anticipated Peppers and wide receiver Brandon Marshall making their preseason debuts against the Chargers, but the veteran pass-rusher was a late scratch due to coaches' decision.

Peppers, who has been battling a minor hamstring injury the past week and a half, was on the field watching the rest of his teammates going through pregame warm-ups.

However, Marshall and defensive end Corey Wootton are in uniform and scheduled to see action with the Bears starters for at least one quarter.

Also sitting out for the Bears: running back Armando Allen (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), defensive tackle Henry Melton (concussion), wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion), long snapper Patrick Mannelly (ribs), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee), fullback Harvey Unga (ribs) and tight end Kyle Adams.

San Diego rookie linebacker Manti Te'o has previously been ruled out due to a sprained foot.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Here are a few quick thoughts from Chicago's 24-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Friday in the preseason opener:

What it means: There's still work to do on both sides of the ball. What's most important is the team came out of the game relatively injury free while still managing to get in some much-needed work.
On offense, the protection was somewhat inconsistent, which led to a sack of Jay Cutler, who also tossed an interception on the group's first play of the game.

"It was an unfortunate start," Cutler said. "I have to put the ball on Alshon’s [Jeffery] other shoulder. We had some good stuff after that; we had some bad stuff. Typical preseason game. We just have to take a look at it and get better next week."

The first team managed to gain just three first downs in three series, but there's no denying that outside of the interception, Cutler was pretty much on target with his throws.

Cutler completed 6 of 8 passes for 56 yards and finished with a passer rating of 54.2.

"Well, other than the pick we had, we moved the ball a little bit," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We got a few throws in. Jay made some great throws. We caught some slants in contested throwing areas. We got a few runs in. Matt [Forte], got a couple of catches, moved the ball around. Certainly didn't do what we wanted or up to our expectations. But other than the first play and the one sack -- we've got work to do."

Defensively, the bad news was the group gave up one touchdown trying to defend a short field created by Cutler's interception, combined with a pass-interference penalty on James Anderson on the next play as he tried to cover former Bears tight end Greg Olsen. The Anderson penalty put the Panthers at the Chicago 4. Three plays later, Cam Newton hit Brandon LaFell for a 3-yard touchdown at the 10:14 mark to give the home team an early lead.

The good news is the defense put points on the board with Jon Bostic's 51-yard interception return at the 6:09 mark of the first quarter. Bostic filled in for injured starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams (calf) and while it's too soon to definitively gauge his performance (that comes after film study), the showing appeared promising.

"There were a lot of things we could do better," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "There were some things we did well. When we put on the tape, we'll all evaluate the things to improve on. All in all, when you are getting turnovers in the game that is very big."

Injury update: Long-snapper Pat Mannelly suffered injured ribs when he was blindsided on a punt in the first half. The severity of that injury wasn’t immediately known. Team officials took defensive tackle Henry Melton back into the locker room in the first quarter, where he was diagnosed with a concussion. He’ll have to follow the NFL's new concussion protocol before he's allowed to practice again. It is possible Melton could be back on the field for Chicago's next practice at training camp, but unlikely given his importance to the defense. There's no need to rush him back into action.

Webb of inconsistency: J'Marcus Webb performed inconsistently in 2012 at left tackle, and his move to the right side for 2013 wasn't promising in the first preseason game.

During Chicago's third series of the night, Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson blew past Webb on the outside. In his attempt to recover, Webb overstepped outside, and Johnson cut back inside to sack Cutler along with Kawann Short.

Don't count out Webb just yet though. It's only the first preseason game.

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Second-team sloppiness: Josh McCown zipped a near perfectly thrown ball to tight end Fendi Onobun in the end zone for what should have been a touchdown in the second quarter, but he dropped the pass. On the next play, running back Armando Allen fumbled after catching a pass from McCown, with Anderson Russell recovering for Carolina at the Panthers' 12.

Onobun has struggled to catch the ball throughout the preseason, but seemed to come on in recent practices after the team had brought in Leonard Pope to compete for the job. The Bears rave about his consistency, but the truth is Onobun needs to be more consistent at catching the ball if he expects to make the 53-man roster at the end of camp.

Lopsided time of possession: Both teams played the majority of the first quarter with starters on the field on both sides of the ball, and the Panthers dominated time of possession. Carolina was 2-of-5 on third-down conversions, while the Bears finished 0-for-2 in that category. The Panthers held the ball for 9 minutes, 31 seconds in the first quarter, and the Bears held possession for 5 minutes, 29 seconds.

Bostic time? Not yet, but the rookie definitely showed why the Bears made him their second-round pick in the draft. In addition to the 51-yard interception return for a touchdown, Bostic was credited for two tackles and a pass breakup. He's probably not ready to take over D.J. Williams' starting job in the middle, but his play should definitely raise the comfort level of the coaching staff if the rookie is forced to play in a pinch.

Bostic wasn't the only rookie to show promise. Fourth-round pick Khaseem Greene came into the game during the team's third defensive series and contributed two tackles, including one for lost yardage.

Frey maintains: Second-year veteran Isaiah Frey maintained the momentum he's been riding throughout training camp practices with a solid outing in his first preseason game. Frey took over at the starting nickel corner when Kelvin Hayden suffered a season-ending hamstring injury. The youngster hasn't disappointed.

Virtually every day of practice at training camp, Frey has made a head-turning play, whether it's an interception or a pass breakup. Against the Panthers, Frey nearly picked off a Derek Anderson pass in the second quarter.

Briggs makes calls: With Brian Urlacher now out of the picture, Briggs has taken on the responsibility of making the club's defensive calls. Briggs said it went well.

"It went smooth. I got the call, called it out to teammates, they heard it, they received it, and they played the play," Briggs said.

What’s next: The Bears receive a day off on Saturday, before hitting the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University on Sunday for the final week of training camp. Chicago hosts the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night at Soldier Field for the second game of the preseason.

NFC North links: Hanson wants to return

March, 29, 2013
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Chicago Bears
Running back Armando Allen signed his exclusive-rights tender, keeping the two-year veteran from becoming a free agent.

GM Phil Emery needs to set aside the "best player available" approach in the first round of next month's draft and strengthen the Bears' offensive line, argues Dan McNeil of the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune's Brad Biggs has the contract details for recent free-agent signees James Anderson, Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Scott.

Detroit Lions
Kicker Jason Hanson wants to return to the Lions for a 22nd NFL season, the Free Press reports, though the team has given him a "minimum-salary offer" and plans to host free agent David Akers next week.

NC State cornerback David Amerson and Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher visited the team facility as the Lions continued to mull what they might do with the No. 5 overall pick.

Green Bay Packers
Expect big new deals for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews to get done in the not-too-distant future, Tom Silverstein writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, now that the Packers have taken care of other business.

Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette takes a look at Purdue's Kawann Short, a defensive lineman the team could consider with its first-round pick.

Coach Mike McCarthy has set his offseason schedule, and Packers will hold their mandatory, full-squad minicamp in the midst of their organized team activities for the first time, writes ESPNMilwaukee.com's Jason Wilde.

Minnesota Vikings
The team's official web site takes a look at whether the Vikings might look at Brian Urlacher or Manti Te'o for the middle-linebacker spot.

The Vikings' stadium deal was "fool's gold" and legislators should scrap it and start over, argues The Pioneer Press' Ruben Rosario. "This already was corporate welfare at its worst. Then news broke this month that confirms that Minneapolis and state taxpayers will be getting hosed for more than the $498 million in public contributions to the estimated $975 million stadium project," Rosario writes.

NFC North Thursday practice report

December, 27, 2012
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Let's take a quick look through Thursday's news in the NFC North:

Chicago Bears: Tailback Matt Forte (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis, giving him a chance to play Sunday at Ford Field. Cornerback Charles Tillman (ribs/elbow) also returned to practice. The Bears won't have safety Chris Conte (hamstring) for Sunday's game, and it's beginning to look like linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring) won't make his return this week, either. He has yet to practice. Running back Armando Allen (knee) hasn't practiced this week, either.

Detroit Lions: Returner Stefan Logan told reporters that he has been benched for Sunday's game against the Bears after a series of mental mistakes in last week's loss to the Atlanta Falcons. As we discussed earlier this week, the Lions had no choice but to demand accountability. Earlier this week, coach Jim Schwartz implied that receiver Mike Thomas and running back Joique Bell were potential replacements. … Center Dominic Raiola responded to public criticism from Bears defensive lineman Henry Melton, questioning Melton's Pro Bowl qualifications and calling him "a clown." So there's that. … Schwartz said Thursday that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has done "a great job" this season, quelling speculation that he could be replaced this offseason.

Green Bay Packers: Receiver Randall Cobb told reporters he will test out his sprained ankle Friday in practice. It's not yet clear whether he will play Sunday at the Metrodome, but it's possible he'll pass the baton to receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring), who has been practicing this week. Right guard Josh Sitton (concussion) returned to practice on a limited basis.

Minnesota Vikings: Defensive end Brian Robison (shoulder) participated in a limited portion of practice and has a chance to play Sunday. The Vikings held out tailback Adrian Peterson (abdomen/groin) and cornerback Antoine Winfield (hand), but there is no question about either player's availability for Sunday.

Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

December, 24, 2012
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After the Chicago Bears' 28-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Free Head Exam
    ESPN.com
    More than anything, Sunday's game reinforced how reliant the Bears are on their special teams and defense in staking them to a lead and in some cases maintaining it as well. The Bears offense couldn't move the ball on their first drive, but Zack Bowman downed a punt at the Cardinals' 4-yard line, and two plays later, he recovered a Beanie Wells fumble for a touchdown. Quarterback Jay Cutler started the game with 10 incompletions in his first 11 attempts, a performance that could have scuttled the Bears' chances had the defense not started strong. Overall, the defense scored two touchdowns, had four sacks -- three by defensive end Julius Peppers -- and forced three turnovers in a game the Bears won by 15 points. For as much as the Bears thought their offense would carry their share of the load this season, it just hasn't developed.
  2. The Bears' offensive line has gotten so much grief this season that it's worth noting it limited the Cardinals' aggressive and productive pass rush to one sack. Based on press statistics, that sack was the only hit Cutler took in the game. That's a pretty amazing statistic considering the Bears were starting their fifth different combination of linemen in this game because of right tackle Jonathan Scott's hamstring injury. Rookie James Brown started at left guard, Chris Spencer started at right guard and Gabe Carimi was back at right tackle. We'll see if Carimi earned back his starting job and if he can re-establish himself at this position before the offseason begins.
  3. The Bears will be in some trouble if tailback Matt Forte doesn't make a quick recovery from sprained ankle that was significant enough to require a walking boot Sunday. Backup Michael Bush is already on injured reserve because of a rib injury, leaving the Bears with Kahlil Bell and Armando Allen as their remaining healthy running backs. Both have experience, but the Bears are literally in a must-win situation and Forte is one of their best players. Forte is pledging to be ready for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions, but willpower alone can't get it done.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
We know the Bears must win this game to get in the playoffs. Do they need to win in order to save coach Lovie Smith's job as well? A loss would leave the Bears out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons since they reached the Super Bowl in 2006. They would become just the second team in the 23-year history of this playoff structure to miss out on the playoffs after a 7-1 start, and at best Smith would be looking at a lame duck contract for 2013. We have no idea what the McCaskey family and general manager Phil Emery are thinking, but the possibility exists that Sunday could be Smith's final game with the team.

No surprise: Bears rule out Matt Forte

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
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I tried to spare you minute-by-minute updates this week on the condition of Chicago Bears tailback Matt Forte. As we discussed, Forte's status for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams seemed in doubt from the moment the Bears re-signed veteran Kahlil Bell last weekend. Forte's injured ankle might not be of the high-sprain variety, but there never seemed a realistic chance he would play Sunday.

So it's not surprising that Smith moments ago declared Forte out for Sunday's game. Michael Bush will start against the Rams, with Bell and Armando Allen in reserve.

The real question is whether Forte can get back, with one extra day of rest, in time for the Bears' game next Monday night (Oct. 1) against the Dallas Cowboys. Stay tuned on that one.

Matt Forte's right ankle injury might not be of the more severe "high" sprain, as Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said Monday morning. But to me the team already revealed its concerns about Forte's short-term availability by re-signing veteran Kahlil Bell over the weekend.

If the Bears thought Forte would be ready for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, they probably would not have felt compelled to make a roster move. Backups Michael Bush and Armando Allen are healthy and available for extended duty if necessary, but it's reasonable to think Forte might not play. Smith, in fact, acknowledged Forte was still "sore" Monday morning.

The Bears are scheduled to resume practicing Monday afternoon after a three-day layoff following last Thursday's 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
The Chicago Bears aren't scheduled to hold media availability until Monday, so we haven't gotten any official word on the status of running back Matt Forte -- who did not return to Thursday night's 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers after suffering a right ankle injury.

But we can tell you this much: The Bears appear set to fortify their depth over the weekend, an indication that Forte is unlikely to make an immediate return. Former Bears running back Kahlil Bell, waived last month, tweeted Saturday afternoon: "I'm taking my talents back to Chicago. So happy to be back. Never wanted to leave."

Bell would join Michael Bush and Armando Allen in the Bears' backfield this week.

Update: The Bears officially signed Bell to a one-year contract and waived safety Jeremy Jones this afternoon.

BBAO: High ankle sprain for Matt Forte?

September, 14, 2012
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

SOMEWHERE IN WISCONSIN -- I started the trek back to NFC North headquarters after Thursday night's affair at Lambeau Field but have stopped for a few hours to bring you some Friday nonsense here on the blog. Don't ask me what time or day it is, let alone where I am. It's all a blur at the moment.

Here's what I do know: ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting the Chicago Bears believe tailback Matt Forte has a high ankle sprain, another blow after an ugly 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Forte did not return to the game after suffering the injury in the third quarter.

It's not clear how much time Forte will miss, but high ankle sprains for running backs are no joke. The Bears' depth at the position for the moment is Michael Bush and Armando Allen.

Let's take a quick stroll around the division before getting to our Free Head Exams and Final Word:
  • ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "Those of us who wondered aloud if the Packers were on the verge of trouble need to wipe the egg from our faces, because they're not … not after the Bears' visit amounted to a delivery of chicken soup. In fact -- and here's how quickly things change dramatically in the NFL -- the Packers now have another victory over the Bears, who appear as though they ought to pull the car back into the garage and have an overhaul since they don't play again for 10 days."
  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler: "Nothing wrong with an NFL quarterback showing bravado. Confidence can be as important as a quick release. But Cutler's mouth wrote a check his body couldn't cash ...."
  • Dan Pompei of the Tribune: "It's one thing to block the Colts, without Dwight Freeney and with the comforts of playing at home. It's quite another to block the Packers, with Clay Matthews and the thunder that some 70,000 lathered-up Cheesies can create. The offensive line of the Bears might be good enough for some assignments, but not for others."
  • Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com breaks down the Packers' fake field goal. I'll have more on it in our Packers Free Head Exam as well.
  • Packers general manager Ted Thompson via Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "This was an old-school, Black and Blue division game. Typical Green Bay-Chicago game."
  • Mike Woods of the Appleton Post-Crescent on the Packers' offense: " This was the unit that was expected to do the heavy lifting -- again -- this season. But through two games, the offense has had as much rhythm as a sixth-grade band."
  • The Detroit Lions will need a balanced offensive approach to beat the San Francisco 49ers, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com: "Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young has developed a reputation for being unable to control his emotions, but teammates and coaches are not worried about him losing his cool again heading into Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers." Hmmmm.
  • Neat column from Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated on coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz. Rosenberg: "Jim Schwartz often seems like he thinks he knows everything. But that isn't really the case. If he thought he knew everything, he would not be such a good coach."
  • The Minnesota Vikings have the NFL's lowest payroll this season, reflecting their youth movement rather than frugality, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
  • Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson believes he is 95 percent of his peak eight months after major knee surgery, notes Mark Craig of the Star Tribune.
  • Vikings center John Sullivan is expected to play Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts despite an ankle injury that forced him to sit out Thursday's practice, notes Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

 

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Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22