NFC North: Jordan Mills
“It’s like having a flat tire,” Paea said about the bad toe. “Imagine having to drive on a flat tire.”
Paea will continue to rest and receive treatment on the toe, but he’s unsure how long he’s going to be sidelined.
“It’s just frustrating right now,” Paea said. “It’s the same exact thing injury. I just re-aggravated it. The field was kind of wet (Sunday), so that (probably helped cause) it.”
With Paea down for at least a week, the Bears are expected to welcome back defensive end Shea McClellin (hamstring). McClellin participated fully in practice the entire week and is listed as probable.
Also probable for the Rams game: long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) and right tackle Jordan Mills (quadriceps).
Safety Craig Steltz (concussion) is questionable, and had limited participation in practice on Friday.
Quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle), linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (groin) were all ruled out for Week 12. However, Ratliff practiced Friday (limited participation) and might be ready to make his Bears’ debut in Week 13.
The Bears' roster stands at 52 players (53 is the max). The open roster spot could be used to elevate a defensive back off the practice squad if Steltz is inactive on Sunday.
“Shea practiced full today so we feel good about that,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “[We feel good about] getting some people back. Isaiah worked noncontact [drills] today and was limited.”
Right tackle Jordan Mills (quadriceps) and long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) also practiced without restrictions.
Safety Craig Steltz (concussion) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff were limited. Trestman effectively ruled out Ratliff for the Rams game, but Steltz appears to be making progress after being on the wrong end of a nasty collision while covering a kickoff last week versus the Baltimore Ravens.
Starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) missed practice for the second consecutive day and is unlikely to play Sunday in St. Louis.
The Bears officially ruled out weakside linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) and quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle) earlier in the week, but Cutler seems to be on the mend. The quarterback attended practice again Thursday without a hard cast on his left leg to protect his high-ankle sprain. Cutler simply wore a brace on the ankle and stood on the field for much of the workout that is open to the media.
Trestman was asked if Cutler is permanently out of the hard cast.
“I really don’t have an answer for you,” Trestman said. “It’s really a week-to-week thing. Really, on the cast or the brace he has, it might be a day-to-day thing. But I’m really not any more informed than that. Other than that, I know Jay is going to be week-to-week. I said day-to-day [Wednesday]; I meant week-to-week. … And we’ll see where he is. You see him in practice. You’re getting a good idea of where he’s at. You see him moving around, trying to move around during the individual periods that you’re out there to see and get a good idea of where he’s at. And hopefully he won’t have to have the cast put on.”
“Isaiah’s got a fracture in his hand,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He’s got it casted up. It looks good. It looks like they’ll be able to cast it up [Sunday]. We’ll know more tomorrow. We’re really optimistic on his end.
Selected by the Bears in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, Frey emerged as the team’s No. 1 nickelback when veteran Kelvin Hayden suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. Frey is seventh on the team with 32 tackles, even though he comes off the field when the Bears play their base 4-3 defense.
In other injury hews, defensive end Shea McClellin participated fully on Wednesday and is on track to return to the field Sunday after sitting out the last two games with a pulled hamstring. McClellin hurt the hamstring at practice the week after being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack performance in Green Bay on Nov. 4.
“I feel good,” McClellin said. “I feel 100 percent and ready to get back out there and help the guys out.
“It was pretty disappointing [to miss two games]. But it’s part of the game. Things happen. And you’ve just got to adjust. Sitting out is terrible. It's the worst thing. You just want to be out there with the guys helping out, especially if they're not doing too good. It's hard to watch what they're doing.”
Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday for the first time since he signed with the Bears on Nov. 2. The four-time Pro Bowler has not played in a game since last November, when he suffered a groin injury that eventually required sports-hernia surgery.
However, despite Ratliff’s apparent progress, the veteran defensive lineman will not be physically ready to make his Bears debut this Sunday against St. Louis, according to Trestman.
“Ratliff got some work; he’ll be a week-to-week thing,” Trestman said. “He got some reps in practice. It was good to see him out there moving around. I would not say [his debut] will be this Sunday, and we’ll re-evaluate it next week. To be fair with the situation, I’d say we are still a little bit away [from Ratliff playing].”
Trestman calls defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) “very questionable” to face St. Louis. Paea re-injured the toe that forced him to miss two games in early November; he did not practice on Wednesday.
Long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) practiced without restrictions, while right tackle Jordan Mills was limited with a sore quadriceps. Safety Craig Steltz (concussion) was held out of practice but was able to do some conditioning work on the side.
Bennett rested his sore ankle on Thursday, but returned to the field in limited fashion on Friday.
“He (Bennett) worked probably 50 percent of the practice,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We were trying to be smart with him, but he got work in today and did well. Hopefully with 48 hours (until kickoff on Sunday) he’ll feel even better. But we got some execution done with him, so it was good.”
Bennett has battled through nagging injuries much of the season, but has still managed to start all nine games and catch 40 passes for 421 yards and four touchdowns.
McClellin was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack performance against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 4, but he tweaked his hamstring at practice last Thursday and was inactive for the Bears’ Week 10 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
McClellin worked on the side with the training staff the past three days during practice but did not officially participate.
In other injury news, linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder), quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) were all ruled out for Sunday.
The Bears believe Ratliff will be in a position to contribute sometime in the next couple of weeks. The veteran defensive tackle participated in conditioning drills on Friday while his teammates practiced. Ratliff has not played in an NFL game since last November as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Bears also list long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) as doubtful and right guard Jordan Mills (quad) as probable.
“The doctors and the trainers talked about just making sure that it’s stabilized,” Trestman said Thursday. “It wasn’t swollen after the game [on Sunday]. It was swollen certainly on Monday, and they just wanted to make sure it was stabilized. That’s really the only thing I know about it at this time. It is a hard cast.”
In other injury news, tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle) didn’t participate in Thursday’s practice inside the Walter Payton Center, but Trestman said the team is “hopeful that a day off the ankle will give him a little relief, and he’ll be back at it.” Long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) also missed practice, and is considered week-to-week in his recovery.
Trestman said that defensive end Shea McClellin (hamstring) “worked with trainers today” and that defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff “worked on the side, but not in the practice.” Rookie right tackle Jordan Mills took limited repetitions during Thursday’s session due to “a little bit of a quad.” Ratliff isn't expected to play this week, and it's unclear whether McClellin will recover enough to be able to contribute in Sunday's game. Mills isn't expected to miss time.
As for Cutler, the quarterback remains “week to week,” according to Trestman. But Cutler has spent his days of inactivity working with Josh McCown and Trestman to ensure the backup quarterback plays at his best Sunday when the Bears host the Baltimore Ravens.
“He’s in every meeting,” offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “He comes to the extra protection meetings to make sure he knows who we’re picking up in blitzes. He’s at every quarterback meeting. He’s in practice. He’s helping Josh. You saw him on the sideline in Green Bay. He’s helping coach. He’s not missing a rep, other than physical.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aided by terrific protection from the offensive line, Josh McCown pulled off a rare feat for a Chicago Bears’ quarterback on Monday night: win a game at Lambeau Field.
For the second consecutive game, McCown displayed remarkable poise and confidence in relief of Jay Cutler, completing 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 90.7, guiding the Bears to a 27-20 victory -- their win in Green Bay since 2007.
“It would be hard to find a (better win), but they are all special through every level from back at high school to Sam Houston to now,” McCown said. “They are all special. This is neat. This is really neat because it means so much to our team, because it is a divisional opponent, and it is for the divisional lead. All those things factor into this. So it is special and I am very thankful.”
“He’s got a lot of energy in the huddle,” Bears center Roberto Garza said. “Every now and then we have to calm him down a little because he starts screaming and we don’t want the defense hearing the play. But we had a lot of fun and he did a great job leading us. That is what this game is all about; you prepare and when it’s time to play you go out there and let loose. We were able to do that today.”
On the season, McCown has connected on 36-of-61 throws for 476 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
According to Bears rookie right tackle Jordan Mills, McCown’s experience and understanding of the offense had a calming effect on the team the entire evening.
“Josh is a 12-year veteran,” Mills said. “He’s been through everything and has experienced all the ups-and-downs and has learned from it. He’s a true leader. Just to see him stay poised and calm in the pocket like that and show no fear towards anyone: that just left me speechless.
“I knew that he could do it. He knew that he could do it. But we had to show the world that he could do it. After seeing on Monday night how he is able to stand in pocket as cool as a summer’s day, it was really calming for me.”
As right tackle Jordan Mills and right guard Kyle Long continue to hold their own, the constant tracking of their progress seems to be less relevant.
“You know we’re just taking it one day at a time, one game at a time, one practice at a time,” Mills said after practice Thursday. “Me and Kyle never pay attention to that. That’s the point of fans and media to give us that hype.”
“We’re new to this and sitting back watching, humbled and shocked,” Mills said. “We have kept each other grounded and never let our heads get too big. It’s starting to settle down and get normal and we just want to get better working together, working as an offensive line and working as an offensive team to get this from a good team to a great team.”
Also keeping them grounded is an NFL schedule that offers one unique test after another, with the Washington Redskins the next challenge. On Sunday, the Bears’ young offensive line will see another 3-4 defense (the third the Bears have faced this season), and some third-down blitzes that figure to come from all angles.
It has only helped the Bears that the first 3-4 defense they faced, way back in Week 3, belonged to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“It was good because Pittsburgh’s 3-4 is probably one of the greatest 3-4 defenses that ever played and they have one of the greatest defensive coordinators [Dick LeBeau] that has coached,” Mills said. “To see that and go off of that game, they do some things similar. They try to confuse you on third down and any down they can put five bigs in the game. To have that [Steelers] game you can go back and watch because they do similar things.”
Most important when it comes to the growth of the line could be that quarterback Jay Cutler continues to grow more confident in the group that blocks for him.
“They’re playing great,” Cutler said. “I think Kyle gets most of the hype and the attention but Jordan is over there really locking down that side through the first six games of the season. There is a comfort level he gives Kyle. They are a little bit of yin and yang. Kyle is a little more upbeat and Jordan is the calmer of the two. The front five deserves a lot of credit through these first six.”
The encouragement from Cutler is nice, but Mills promises it won’t go to his head.
“Me and Kyle always talk about it, and the veterans talk about not becoming complacent,” Mills said. “Just because you overcome something there is always something bigger coming so you just take it one step at a time and you should be fine.”
What can be expected of the second-round pick who has played almost entirely on special teams to this point? Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: The Bears won't lose much with rookie Jon Bostic taking over for the injured D.J. Williams.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Everyone was excited in the preseason because Bostic is athletic and knows how to play in an aggressive, takeaway-hungry defense. But this is about more than storylines and draft status. Bostic lacks Williams' experience in the NFL. That's a pretty simple statement, but it's the real issue. Bostic can't learn experience, that intuition you earn by playing in enough games to let muscle memory take over. Bostic told me in training camp about watching Lance Briggs with admiration, as the veteran knew exactly where the play was going. Bostic doesn't have that yet, and the Bears have to hope he's a quick learner so he can realize the right fits between the gaps. Williams knew them. After missing the entire preseason, he slid right in without missing a beat.
Fact or Fiction: The Lions are a bigger threat to the Bears in the division than the Packers.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Both are threats, of course, but the road to the division goes through Green Bay. Detroit obviously has the edge on the Bears, but they still have to win at Soldier Field. The Bears need to take one of two against the Packers this season. And if Cutler can just play a clean game in Green Bay in two weeks, that will exorcise some of his demons with the NFC North titans. Cutler needs to aim for the Packers.
Fact or Fiction: Marc Trestman's system is most responsible for Cutler being sacked only nine times this season.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Of course his play calling, getting the ball out quicker and such, is a big factor, but you can't discount the play of the offensive line and Cutler's trust in his receivers. While coaching is a bigger factor in the NFL than in the other major professional sports, the guys on the field are still the ones who have to execute. For most of the first six games, Cutler has had time to throw because his linemen, and additional blockers, have held up their end. It helps that Cutler isn't locking in on one player or one option. Kromer has certainly helped there, too, but give credit where credit's due here.
Fact or Fiction: The Bears will beat the Redskins if they hold Robert Griffin III in check.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. Griffin showed more athleticism last week, albeit in a loss to Dallas, but he's scary because of his arm, not just his legs. With time Griffin is still very, very dangerous. And the Bears' defense is giving quarterbacks time with a flaccid pass rush. With their ballhawks in the secondary, the Bears need to force him into some quick decisions, and they especially need to force him into some third-and-long situations. Julius Peppers, for one, needs to make an impact this week.
Cutler’s poise: Crowd noise should be a factor, along with Detroit’s formidable defensive line, which in the past hasn’t been immune to engaging in extra-curricular activity, whether verbally or through rough play. Quarterback Jay Cutler is also known to be chatty with opposing defensive linemen. But don’t expect him to be drawn into whatever Detroit’s defense tries to instigate. Cutler needs to do what he’s been doing through the first three games: play sound, fundamental football within the confines of the system, and not take unnecessary chances.
“[Detroit’s] front four are good,” Cutler said. “So we have to take care of that. I’ve got to be on time. The receivers have got to get to their spots. Everyone, collectively, we can’t let down this week.”
If Cutler and the offensive line successfully weather Detroit’s initial punch, the Bears could be in for an afternoon of high production on offense. For the most part, Cutler picked apart the Lions in the past with a bad offensive line. Now that he’s got a solid line, Cutler could be deadly in this one.
“Sometimes we can slide the line [toward Suh]. Sometimes we can do it with the back. Sometimes, the guards are going to have to handle [Suh] by themselves,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Then you can help with play selection, where you’re running the football, moving things around and making it a little more difficult in terms of where Jay is going to finally be in a passing spot, and throwing the ball quickly.”
CB Charles Tillman: Normally, there wouldn’t be reason for trepidation regarding Tillman’s matchup with Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson. After all, in the past six meetings between these teams, Johnson has produced only one 100-yard outing against the Bears (Oct. 10, 2011), while scoring just two touchdowns. Johnson averages 4.5 receptions per game against the Bears since 2010 for an average of 71.3 yards with Tillman as the primary man in coverage. Tillman, meanwhile, has racked up 37 tackles, broken up eight passes and intercepted two in addition to forcing two fumbles in that span. The problem now, however, is that Tillman is banged up, having missed two days of practice due to an injured right knee and sore groin. It’s likely Tillman will start on Sunday, but how long will he be able to play, and more importantly, how effective will he be?
Pass rush: Chicago generated more pressure from the front four last week at Pittsburgh, but the group needs to be even better against Detroit’s fourth-ranked offense. With defensive tackle Henry Melton out of the picture, that task becomes tougher with Stephen Paea playing the three-technique and Nate Collins moving to nose tackle. But defensive coordinator Mel Tucker showed against the Steelers he can manufacture pressure with blitzes from the linebackers and stunts up front.
“Whether it’ll be more coverage, more pressure, base, blitz or whatever it is, it’s whatever we think we need to do to get the job done to get them stopped. That changes sometimes from game to game or within a game. So we’re equipped to do whatever we need to do to get them stopped.”
Interestingly, the Lions are converting just 32.4 percent of third downs. If Chicago applies sufficient pressure against Detroit, that number is likely to drop even lower, which drastically increases the Bears’ chances for victory.
LB’s versus Bush: Detroit hurt the Minnesota Vikings substantially with the screen pass to Reggie Bush in the season opener. In addition to rushing for 90 yards on 21 attempts, Bush caught four passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in that game.
“Reggie Bush is a talented running back,” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. “Not only does he run the ball well but he catches the ball well. He runs well in space. He knows how to make defenders miss. He's a tough guy to also bring down. He's good. He can create mismatches, if you split him out and put him against some linebackers. But he's someone that you need to be aware of and know where he is on the field.”
With the additions of James Anderson and D.J. Williams to play next to Briggs, the Bears certainly became a more athletic group of linebackers which might be better equipped than most teams to handle Bush. If Chicago neutralizes Bush it basically shuts down Detroit’s second-most dangerous player behind Johnson.
PITTSBURGH -- Rookie right guard Kyle Long described Jay Cutler as “reptilian” and “cold blooded” Sunday night in the aftermath of the quarterback’s clutch play in leading the Chicago Bears to a 40-23 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the background, rookie right tackle Jordan Mills whispered: “He’s Mr. Fourth Quarter.”
“He has that ability, when everybody’s nerves are kind of on edge and people have that heightened sense of whatever, Jay’s just cool, just flatline out there,” Long said. “In the huddle, on the sideline, in practice, Jay is a cool cat."
He just caught fire at precisely the right moments Sunday at Heinz Field.
Aided by a defense that produced five turnovers and a couple of touchdowns, Cutler slammed the door on a potential Steelers comeback early in the fourth quarter with three game-clinching plays.
Having gained some momentum on a 44-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham that cut their deficit to 27-23, the Steelers looked to shut down Cutler and make their move to avoid starting 0-3. And it appeared the Steelers would be able to do so. On the Bears' final two drives of the third quarter, Cutler hit on 3 of 6 passes for 8 yards in addition to absorbing a sack for a 6-yard loss.
Through the first two quarters, Cutler had completed 12 of 18 for 75 yards for a passer rating of 75.0 and a sack in the face of seemingly constant Pittsburgh pressure.
But Cutler stepped into the thick of it and delivered when the Bears needed it most. With 9:15 remaining in the game, on third-and-10 from the Chicago 26, Cutler scrambled 13 yards and nearly ran over safety Robert Golden to gain extra yardage. Three plays later, he fired a 41-yard completion to Brandon Marshall.
“Really, it’s all Jay,” Marshall said. “Jay threw a 50-yard back-shoulder [throw]. I’ve never seen that happen before. The guy’s arm is amazing. Jay put it in the right place.”
Cutler did it again three plays later when he found Earl Bennett for a 17-yard touchdown with 5:48 remaining. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but Chicago successfully challenged to get the call reversed. Bennett’s score capped a nine-play, 74-yard drive, and with the extra point Chicago had a 34-23 advantage.
The drive essentially extinguished Pittsburgh’s chances for a comeback, while notching another outing in which the Bears received strong play from Cutler with the game on the line. Prior to Sunday’s contest, Cutler had led the Bears to consecutive come-from-behind victories over Cincinnati and Minnesota.
This time -- despite the Bears building a 24-3 lead in the second quarter -- Cutler found himself trying to hold off a comeback on the road that started with Ben Roelthisberger’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown just before intermission.
Cutler admitted it was difficult to remain patient with the Steelers starting to rally. But by doing so, he finished the game having completed 67 percent of his passes, with no turnovers and a passer rating of 90.8.
“It’s not something I’m used to,” Cutler said. “We have been practicing ball security a lot. We were sitting pretty good early on and we didn’t want to give them anything easy, especially when they started getting a little momentum. We didn’t want to force the ball. We didn’t want to give them positioning in our territory. We just wanted to be patient, and we caught man [coverage] there that last play, and we were able to get a big one to Earl.”
He returned five kickoffs for a Bears-record 249 yards against the Vikings in Week 2 -- including a 76-yarder and an 80-yarder -- and brought back his only kickoff return 31 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.
If Hester, who will be a free agent after the season, continues to be a difference-maker for the Bears in the return game, will his career in Chicago extend beyond this season?
Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: Devin Hester will play his way into a new Bears contract after this season.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. A confident and healthy Hester is a great weapon for the Bears to have under contract moving forward. If Hester has a Pro Bowl caliber year returning kickoffs and punts, why wouldn't the Bears make an attempt to re-sign him in the offseason? The question, of course, is compensation. Hester is making a total of $2.1 million in 2013 to be strictly a specialist. Are the Bears comfortable paying him the same amount in a new contract? Will Hester want more? These are difficult topics to discuss because we really don't know how it's all going to shake out. But put it this way: After two weeks Hester has done nothing to hurt his chances of landing a new deal from the Bears in free agency, or maybe even before that.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Like Marc Trestman, I'm an admitted Hester fan. Watching him return kicks is like watching Derrick Rose drive the lane, pure athletic joy. But I don't know that the Bears will be able to afford a full-time kick returner. I think Hester will have a very good season, and I think he's worth a good deal just as a return man, but I bet the Bears let him get that money on the open market and invest in other positions. It'll be a sad day when Hester is no longer a Bear, so enjoy him now.
Four new members of the line, not to mention two rookies on the right side, could have been a recipe for disaster, but so far it has been good enough to allow Cutler to pass for 532 yards and five touchdowns in the Bears' 2-0 start.
It wasn't a problem last season, when the offensive line included guys like J'Marcus Webb, Gabe Carimi, Lance Louis and Chris Spencer.
When protection goes bad, quarterbacks can often feel pressure that's not there. At its worst, it can result in phantom sacks -- when the quarterback crumples simply expecting to get hit. Cutler seems to be moving as far away from that stage as he ever has.
"I think we do a good job of protecting me early in the game so I can get that trust level and can feel protected in there," Cutler said. "But the more I watch film, and the more I'm (playing) with these guys, they are doing everything they can to protect me, and I just have to do my job back there and deliver the ball for them because they're fighting their (tails) off."
As rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills hold their own on the right side, they are also gaining a respect for the guy they are protecting.
"He's so cool," Long said about Cutler following Sunday's 31-30 victory over the Vikings. "I wish I was as cool as Jay Cutler. I was all fired up, and Jay, his heart was going two beats a minute like nothing was going on. He does a great job. He's our leader on the offensive side of the ball and we'll follow him to the promised land. Today it was the end zone."
The typically unfazed Cutler said it's all in a day's work.
"I've got to have a sense of calm in the huddle," Cutler said. "If I was going crazy and all frantic, the guys will do the same. As long as I'm calm and have everything under control, that will perpetuate to the rest of the guys and they will be calm as well."
Although it wasn’t a flawless performance and there were issues in the running game, rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari and second-year right tackle Don Barclay held up well, especially considering their pedigree.
Bakhtiari was at least partially responsible for both of Aldon Smith's sacks, but otherwise was solid in his debut. Meanwhile, Barclay, in just his seventh career start, showed significant improvement over last season.
A study of all 64 opening-day tackles showed that the Packers trotted out one of the most unheralded combinations in the league. Bakhtiari was a fourth-round pick, while Barclay was undrafted.
Only two other teams had both of their Week 1 starting tackles taken in the fourth round of the draft or lower. They were: the Chicago Bears (Jermon Bushrod, fourth round; Jordan Mills, fifth round), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Demar Dotson, undrafted; Donald Penn, undrafted).
Based on Week 1 starting lineups, 28 of the 64 starting tackles were first-round picks. Another 13 were drafted in the second round. That accounts for 64.0 percent of the opening-day starting tackles. Only 15 were drafted in the fifth round or later (or were undrafted).
“I know that when you get players that are doing a good job, that’s a tribute to them, not where they were picked,” Packers offensive line coach James Campen said. “It doesn’t matter to me where they were picked as long as they can play.”
Bakhtiari was one of only six rookies who started at tackle in Week 1. Four of them -- Eric Fisher of the Kansas City Chiefs, Luke Joeckel of the Jacksonville Jaguars, D.J. Fluker of the San Diego Chargers and Justin Pugh of the New York Giants -- were first-round picks. Of the six, only the Bears’ Mills was drafted lower than Bakhtiari.
Of course, the Packers didn’t envision a Bakhtiari-Barclay starting tackle combination. Like many teams in the NFL, they used high draft picks on tackles. In 2010, they took Bryan Bulaga at No. 23 overall. A year later, they picked Derek Sherrod at No. 32. Together, they were supposed to be the starting tackle combination for the foreseeable future. But Sherrod still hasn’t recovered from the broken leg he suffered as a rookie and remains on the physically unable to perform list, and Bulaga was lost for the season to a knee injury on Aug. 5.
Tackles are often the key to pass protection, and other than Smith’s two sacks, one of which came when Bakhtiari whiffed on a cut block, the Packers kept Aaron Rodgers fairly clean against the 49ers. The running game, however, was another story. The Packers had only 63 yards rushing against the 49ers.
“Didn’t notice them that much, so that was good,” Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements said of the starting tackles. “They both played well. They got after it, and they were playing against excellent players, and they moved their front four around at times to get different defenders on them, and they reacted well.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Add offensive line play to the reasons the Chicago Bears might be willing to open up the playbook even further this week.
The somewhat conservative game plan Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals was not just because the Bears are still learning a new playbook under new coach Marc Trestman. With four new offensive linemen, two of them rookies, it was no time to get fancy.
"I think at the end of the day we want to make sure we protect and we're able to get rid of the ball," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We don't want to take sacks. We want to keep the front five confident, keep myself confident and believing in those guys, but at the same time we have to play football. We have to take advantage of things defenses are giving us. If that requires us taking a shot or getting five out, that's what we have to do."
Of course looming on the other side of the ball this week will be Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, not to mention defensive tackle Kevin Williams. The responsibility for keeping Allen in check Sunday will fall to Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod.
"I thought we did well (last week)," Bushrod said. "I thought we had a lot of ups and we had some downs, but as a line, as a unit, we corrected them for the most part. We tried to minimize our individual mistakes and our playmakers made plays. That's what it's all about."
Of course, none of those positives happen if rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills don't step up and play like experienced linemen. Long graded out slightly lower than Mills, but was effective nonetheless.
“We’re not finished, we got more questions for him,” Frazier said during a conference call with Chicago media members. “We’re going to be with him all week long so we got more questions for him. We got to keep asking him more and more.”
Frazier reported that Webb’s transition to Minnesota has been incident-free.
“I think it’s been relatively smooth,” Frazier said. “(He’s been) trying to get acclimated to this environment and finding a place to live and all the things that go along with moving. I think he’s handled it fairly well. His teammates seem to have accepted him. He’s getting along with them well. He’s picking up our system. Coaches are relating to him well. So, so far I think it’s been pretty smooth.”
Webb is currently listed on the Vikings depth chart as the No. 2 right tackle behind Phil Loadholt. Minnesota does not list a second-string left tackle behind starter Matt Kalil, but Frazier said Webb has the necessary experience to fill that void if called upon.
“We’re hoping at this point he’ll be a solid backup tackle for us at right or left,” Frazier said. “If we were to have a situation where he had to play, his experience should help him and help us. So that is what we are counting on. If he gets a better grasp of our system and what we are asking of our tackles, then he’ll be a solid backup guy who can really fill in and help us if we get in that situation.”