NFC North: Willie Young

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears officially placed defensive end Willie Young on injured reserve due to a torn left Achilles on Tuesday, and brought back defensive end Austen Lane, who spent the preseason with the club.

“That’s a tough one,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said of Young’s injury. “He has kind of been an inspirational leader. You guys know him in the locker room -- he’s a charismatic guy. He keeps people up. He’s fun to be around. He’s a guy who is always up and around the building, and has played well and gotten better throughout the season. He’ll be missed on Sunday, certainly.”

Young posted a career-high 10 sacks in 2014, which also leads the Bears, and he’s tied for 13th in the NFL and tied for sixth in the NFC in sacks. Young played in 15 games with eight starts this season, registering 55 tackles, one forced fumble, three pass breakups and 13 quarterback pressures.

A five-year veteran, Young also blocked a field goal this season. He’s now posted 127 career tackles, 16 sacks, 10 pass breakups and 14 tackles for lost yardage.

Lane, meanwhile, has appeared in 30 games with 17 starts over four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2010-12) and Detroit Lions (2013), contributing 64 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble, 13 quarterback hurries and five tackles for lost yardage.

A fifth-round pick of the Jaguars in 2010, Lane spent training camp with the Bears, but was released at the end of the preseason.
Despite rumors circulating regarding tenuous job security, Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker isn’t coaching like a man fearful of losing his job, according to defensive end Willie Young.

“Mel Tucker, he’s been consistent since Day 1,” Young said Tuesday night during “Chicago’s GameNight” show on ESPN 1000. “Mel has not changed one bit, nor did I expect him to change one bit. We had a meeting Monday and the biggest thing we know is we know the things we can control and the things we can’t control, and Mel does a really good job of leaving that in our control. I think he’s respected throughout the entire defense. He puts us in the best possible situations to make plays and to try to contain guys. He hasn’t changed one bit as far as the rumors out there or whatever it might be.”

[+] EnlargeMel Tucker
AP Photo/Scott BoehmMel Tucker's Bears defense is having another tough season, but a rugged schedule could be partially to blame.
Obviously, the results haven’t panned out the way the team expected coming off a historically bad defensive performance in 2013, when the Bears ranked last in run defense, sacks and yards per play allowed.

The Bears allowed the most points in franchise history (478) in 2013 as well as total yards (6,313) and rushing yards (2,583), and we all remember the way the team’s season came to a disappointing end on a mental bust in the secondary.

Despite a revamped front four in 2014, not to mention several additions made in the secondary and up front through the draft and free agency, the Bears continue to struggle, ranking 28th in total yards (377.8 per game), 30th in passing yards (265.5), 16th in rushing yards (112.3) and last in points allowed (29.1). Some of the 378 points allowed by the defense this season can be credited to Chicago's offense. After all, opponents have scored a total of 92 points off the Bears' 25 turnovers.

“The big plays that you see the defense give up, the teams that we’ve played this year are all just about contesting for a playoff shot,” Young said. “You can just start naming them off. Miami, they’ve been playing some pretty good ball over there. You’ve got New England. That’s a no-brainer. You’ve got the Packers twice. You’ve got Detroit. They’re in the race for the wild card. Everybody that we’ve played this year, those teams have been together for a while.”

All of Chicago’s losses came against teams that are currently leading their divisions, in contention for division titles, or are still in the hunt for a postseason berth. The combined record of the teams defeating Chicago this season is 56-34-1, a group that includes four teams that currently own at least nine victories (Dallas, Detroit, New England and Green Bay) with three games remaining.

“I feel that a lot of the plays we gave up, it’s not that guys weren’t covered or guys didn’t know where they were supposed to be,” Young said. “You had some instances where … for instance, the Dallas game, where I come off the edge free and [Tony] Romo just somehow eludes me outside, and lobs this ball up into the air. That ball was off the fingertips of [safety Chris] Conte, I think it might have been. It was just like, wow. That was a touchdown pass, I think it might’ve been. So those are the kinds of plays we’ve been dealing with this year. Not having Charles Tillman back there, not having Lance Briggs, it’s not excuses. But it obviously has an impact on this team.”

Tillman made similar remarks Monday during “The Brandon Marshall Show” on ESPN 1000, and called the team’s 2014 campaign his most frustrating season as a pro.

“Just frustrating from the standpoint of no matter what you do, nothing’s going our way,” Tillman said. “It happens like that. That’s our business.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman chose not to address his team about its official elimination from postseason contention on Sunday, and opted instead to continue a one-day-at-a-time approach Monday when the players convened at Halas Hall.

“The only thing I addressed with the playoffs today was getting better today,” Trestman said. “Our whole focus is giving them some substance in what to do over the next couple of days to get ready to play New Orleans.”

That didn’t stop players from venting frustration about a 2014 season the team entered with high expectations after an 8-8 finish in 2013, Trestman’s first year as head coach of the Chicago Bears.

[+] EnlargeMarc Trestman
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh"It's frustrating that it hasn't worked the way that we wanted it," coach Marc Trestman said of the Bears missing the playoffs, "but that doesn't change our focus or our level of intensity to try to improve it and make it better."
Without playing a game, the Chicago Bears became officially eliminated from postseason contention on Sunday, marking the fourth consecutive season the club failed to advance to the playoffs.

The Detroit Lions made that happen with their 34-17 triumph over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both NFC wild card teams will now have at least nine victories, and the best record the Bears can hope to achieve is 8-8 if they win the remainder of their games.

“It’s very disappointing for sure,” safety Ryan Mundy said. “Coming into the season, we had very high expectations. This is the bed we made. So we have to lay in it now. It’s very frustrating and disappointing, but we still have three games left. We still have an opportunity to play the game that we loved as children. We’ll go out there and play with passion and have fun and enjoy working with these guys for three more games.”

With matchups on deck against the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings, Bears defensive end Willie Young said now is the time the club embraces the spoiler role. In fact, now it’s time to start playing for jobs in 2015, according to Young.

“We’ve got everybody we need in place; playmakers, guys giving us great looks in practice every day,” Young said. “Everything is in place, you know? Like you said, you look back, and everything we have, our record doesn’t add up to anything we’ve done since offseason workouts beginning in April.I’m very disappointed with where we’re at right now. Who isn’t? But it’s important we stay together as a team. We can’t come in frowning, moping around, you know poor body language. We can’t do that. That’s not what we’re about here. The approach I take personally is that this is the beginning of next year. Right now this is the first week of next year, 2015 for us.”

Tight end Martellus Bennett agreed.

"I think everybody's job is always on the line," Bennett said. "For me, it's not really a distraction."

When Trestman addressed the Bears at Halas Hall on Monday, the coach said he reiterated “the most important thing is doing the best we can today, focusing on the next game and preparing for the next game.” By doing that, the players can show “what it is to be a professional” during difficult times, he said.

“It’s frustrating that it hasn’t worked the way that we wanted it, but that doesn’t change our focus or our level of intensity to try to improve it and make it better,” Trestman said. “Our purpose is to make our players better, and put them in position to win on Sunday and Monday night, and that’s what we’re going to try to do this week. That hasn’t changed since Day 1.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Willie Young heard Matthew Stafford called him “one of my favorite teammates” Tuesday and the former Detroit Lions defensive end -- now with the Chicago Bears -- started to laugh.

Young, who left the Lions in free agency during the offseason, was actually one of the more well-liked players in the Detroit locker room during his four years with the Lions, but, yeah, Young thought Stafford might be trying to fete him just a little bit.

“Absolutely, yeah,” Young said, laughing. “Yeah. He’s buttering me up on that one. Matt Stafford, man, he was a cool guy. He came to work every day, put the work in. Obviously he’s a very talented quarterback. He doesn’t make too many bad decisions, I would say. I know this year he hasn’t been because they’ve been on the winning side of things.

[+] EnlargeWillie Young
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsFormer Lions defensive end Willie Young has been a force as a Bear, compiling eight sacks.
“He’s obviously a respected quarterback, get rid of the ball fast, make pretty good decisions, has some good guys in the backfield running the ball for him. But I could see why he might be trying to be kinda nice to me right now because he’s a little low on protection right now. I don’t blame him for being nice right now.”

Stafford is smart to try to get on Young's good side, as Young has flourished since leaving Detroit in the offseason. Finally getting a chance to be an every-down defensive end in his fifth NFL season, he is 13th in the NFL in sacks with eight -- two more than he had in his four seasons with the Lions. Considering the Lions could end up starting two rookies on the offensive line Thursday if Cornelius Lucas replaces the injured Riley Reiff at left tackle, and Young could have a big return to his old stadium.

Young was a seventh-round pick out of North Carolina State, but ended up as mostly a rotational player until last season, when he played every game after a season-ending injury to Jason Jones. Having had to learn behind Kyle VandenBosch, Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Andre Fluellen in various forms helped him as he watched from the sidelines.

“Don’t get it wrong now, is it tough sitting on the sidelines, not playing, knowing that you have what it takes to be a player, yeah, it’s tough, it’s real tough,” Young said. “But I was able to figure out a way to deal with that and take everything that I could from the game, from the sideline standpoint. It just bettered me as a person and obviously as a player.”

It’s a progression Lions players expected when Young received more snaps, especially after he made the leap from 11 tackles in 2012 to 47 in 2013, which helped set up his free agency move.

Young said Tuesday he didn’t know if the Lions made him an offer during free agency or if they even called his agent to inquire about his services. He just knows his agent told him he was headed to Chicago on a new deal.

When asked about Young and free agency, Lions coach Jim Caldwell wouldn’t say whether or not he had wanted to bring Young back this season or not, but complimented his pass rushing ability.

His old teammates, though, saw exactly what Young could do from the beginning and figured this type of leap might come from him.

“Everybody saw what he could do from the jump,” Fluellen said. “I’m actually not surprised at all. He has a special talent and he has a really good attitude for the game.

“I’m not surprised at all.”

Lions vs. Bears preview

November, 26, 2014
When: 12:30 p.m. ET, Thursday Where: Ford Field, Detroit TV: CBS

The Detroit Lions broke their Thanksgiving Day hex last season when they annihilated NFC North foe Green Bay. At the time, the Lions looked like a team potentially heading for the playoffs after stopping a two-game skid.

The Lions didn't win a game the rest of the season.

This season, the Lions face a Chicago Bears team that has won two straight and, much like Detroit, has a bunch of offensive talent currently failing to meet expectations. Does one of these teams break out Thursday?

ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and Lions reporter Michael Rothstein break down what could happen in this divisional Thanksgiving clash.

Rothstein: Chicago has a ton of offensive talent on paper, but this team has not put up the offense that one would think. What has been the main culprit here?

Wright: A few things, but the main issues throughout this team's struggles have been quarterback Jay Cutler, who has a penchant for committing turnovers, and the play calling. Cutler leads the league in giveaways, and in all but one of this team's losses this season, the quarterback turned over the ball multiple times. Yet in all but one of the team's victories, Cutler didn't throw an interception. So there's definitely a correlation there, as the Bears are 3-10 during Marc Trestman's tenure when they finish on the negative side of the turnover margin and 1-4 when the turnover margin is equal. Obviously, the Bears could minimize Cutler's exposure to potential turnovers by leaning more on the ground game with Matt Forte averaging 4.2 yards per attempt. But what happens is the Bears too often abandon the running game for the pass, which is understandable given all the weapons on the outside. Once the Bears start throwing it all over the yard, Cutler starts turning it over and opposing defenses capitalize (opponents have scored 82 points off Chicago's turnovers), which in turn makes it impossible to rededicate to the ground game because by then the offense is usually trying to overcome a deficit.

What's your take on the perception that Jim Caldwell has been too conservative, and do you see him loosening up some with this team trying to snap a two-game skid?

Rothstein: It's interesting because he wasn't at all against Miami, when the Lions attempted two fake punts in a half. Since then, the offense has looked completely out of rhythm, passes are getting dropped again, Stafford is under duress and Calvin Johnson is going through only the second three-game stretch of his career where he has caught less than 50 percent of his targets. But being at home cures a lot of things for Detroit typically, and that alone should help. Theoretically.

Switching to defense, what has gone into Willie Young's success with Chicago? He was emerging with Detroit, but how has his game grown?

Wright: You've been around him, Mike. You know the type of guy he is. Young's ascension is a product of the work he's put in, and the Bears just happened to bring him aboard at the perfect time in his career. Obviously it helps Young to have a veteran such as Jared Allen around to teach him some of the nuances of the game. But Young has also benefited from working with martial arts expert Joe Kim. The Bears brought in Kim as a consultant to work with the defensive linemen on hand-fighting techniques, and that's helped the group as a whole. Throw in Allen's tutelage and Young's own work ethic and you see why he's been able to put together a breakout season.

Can you provide a rundown on what's taken place with the guys Young will face, the offensive line? I know the group has struggled pretty much all season, but Riley Reiff's situation probably complicates things with the Lions looking possibly to start a couple of undrafted free agents at the tackle spots.

Rothstein: Between injuries, a small change in how the team blocks this season and just struggles with personnel, it's gotten really rough for the line. Let's start with the injuries. Right guard Larry Warford -- probably Detroit's best lineman -- is still out with a knee injury. LaAdrian Waddle, the right tackle, is healthy now but has been in and out of the lineup all season with injuries. Reiff, the left tackle, hurt his knee Sunday against the Patriots and his status is in doubt for Thursday. So the cohesion has barely been there. Also, some of the concepts have changed with how they block and how long it takes both the routes and runs to develop due to play calls, so it has put some other pressures on the line.

For so long, the Bears have used Peanut Tillman on Calvin Johnson. Tillman's out. How do the Bears deal with Johnson and Golden Tate now?

Wright: To me, that's one of the most significant concerns for the Bears entering this game. As you already know, rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller's availability for this game is uncertain with him suffering a knee injury in the win over Tampa Bay. Fuller had been playing with a broken hand and a hip pointer prior to his latest setback. Fuller's injury didn't appear to be significant initially. But if Fuller can't go, the Bears would likely go with undrafted rookie Al Louis-Jean, who possesses similar size to Tillman (6-foot-1, 187 pounds). But would you want to put an undrafted rookie on Johnson? Tim Jennings (5-8) would likely struggle matching up with Johnson. So Chicago would be in a tough spot if Fuller isn't able to play. If the Bears are forced to go with Louis-Jean, the corners would probably stay on their respective sides with the defense giving the corner to Johnson's side safety help over the top, along with extra help underneath, whether that's from a linebacker or the nickel.

The Lions have lost two in a row for the first time all season, and surely there's some level of concern starting to creep in internally. This is uncharted territory for 2014 at least, but do you believe the Lions are better equipped to deal with this type of adversity now with Jim Caldwell calling the shots?

Rothstein: Theoretically, yes, although the personal foul penalty by C.J. Mosley and then the antics from Dominic Raiola at the end of Sunday's loss to New England did have me questioning whether Caldwell's message is truly getting through. The players still seem to believe in him and in the way he goes about things, which is always trying to stay calm and not showing signs of panic. This helped earlier this season when Detroit had three straight come-from-behind wins in October and November to help put them in this position. It's why Thursday is so big. Lose three straight and thoughts of another free fall might be more than just percolating around the edges.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears officially placed defensive end Lamarr Houston on injured reserve Monday, which means free-agent acquisition Willie Young should be poised for a more significant role as a starter opposite Jared Allen.

“Obviously it’s always tough whenever a guy goes down. But at the same time nothing changes for me whatsoever,” Young said.

Perhaps he’s correct, judging from the snap counts played by Houston, Young and Allen through the first eight games. Although Young isn’t a starter, he has played just as much as the first-teamers at the position. Houston participated in 397 snaps prior to his injury, while Allen played 390 snaps despite missing an outing due to pneumonia.

“You know Lamarr was put on IR. [David] Bass is up,” Trestman said. “So Jared and Willie will handle the defensive ends obviously.”

Young has played in 323 snaps despite not being a starter. The club envisioned Young as a first-teamer when it originally signed him in the offseason, but the plan changed once Allen became available. Still, Young leads the team in sacks (7), which ties for fifth in the NFL.

Young also ranks fourth in sack yardage (49).

“What I bring to the table personally is what I bring to the table,” Young said. “I’ll continue to bring that to the table to the best of my ability. But besides that, like I said it’s really tough when you lose a guy -- starter, great player across the board. We’ve just got to continue to try to get better day by day. I’ll just keep bringing the pain, baby. That’s all. Ain’t nothing more to it. I’m going to just keep doing what I do.”

Young spent a good portion of the team’s week off fishing and spending time with family but said he used two days of his down time to study what has gone awry on defense.

“What I sum up from that is we have mistakes that are easily correctable,” Young said.

How do the Bears fix them?

“We just come together. We regroup right now,” Young said. “We had that time to get away from it, sit back, get your thoughts together, ask yourself, ‘What is it that you really want? How do you want this second half of the season to go?’ It’s up to us. It’s up to us to get that done.”

With Young and Allen now the starters, look for the Bears to utilize Cornelius Washington, Trevor Scott and Bass as rotational players. When the team goes into nickel rushing situations, it operated with Young and Allen at the ends while kicking Houston inside to defensive tackle. Now in those situations, the Bears will have to look elsewhere to bolster the inside rush.

We’ll be sitting there with Ego ;Ferguson] and Willie [Sutton] and Stephen [Paea] and Jeremiah [Ratliff], and we’ll work with those guys principally,” Trestman said. “We’ll see how that evolves during the course of the week.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears made roster moves Monday, officially placing defensive end Lamarr Houston on the injured reserve, in addition to promoting defensive end David Bass to the active roster off the practice squad, while adding offensive tackle Jason Weaver to the practice squad.

The moves come in response to the club losing Houston for the season after the defensive end ruptured his right ACL while celebrating a sack of backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during the fourth quarter of Chicago's 51-23 loss on Oct. 26 to the New England Patriots.

Bears general manager Phil Emery said last week that Houston faces a rehabilitation process of six to eight months. The club signed Houston to a five-year contract in March worth $35 million, including $14.9 million guaranteed. Houston hadn't registered a sack all season until the club's loss to the Patriots.

"Obviously, Lamarr had built up some frustration from not having a sack yet," Emery said of Houston's unnecessary sack celebration. "We were very pleased with his play against the run and he led our team in hits on the quarterback, but he hadn't had a sack. Obviously, that's a big stat in the NFL. It's awfully big for a free agent coming in. He got his first sack, he let out all of his frustrations and ultimately paid a price for it."

Houston's sack celebration and subsequent injury drew parallels to the season-ending knee injury suffered by Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who tore his ACL earlier in the season while celebrating a big play.

A fifth-year veteran, Houston has played in 72 games with 68 starts, tallying 250 tackles, 17 sacks, 39 stops for lost yardage, four forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries to go with an interception.

Bass, meanwhile, is a second-year veteran, who has played in 12 games throughout his NFL career, with one start. Bass has posted 20.5 career tackles, including a sack, and returned an interception last season for a touchdown.

With Houston out of the picture, look for the Bears to replace him with Willie Young, who will now start opposite Jared Allen, with Bass potentially contributing as a rotational player.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen participated in fewer snaps on defense than key reserve Willie Young in Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins, but the five-time Pro Bowler doesn't believe reduced playing time for him is in the team's plans.

"It's probably an aberration," Allen said, laughing. "They haven't told me I am on reduced playing time. We'll take it for that."

Allen played in 46 of the club's 70 snaps against the Dolphins, while Young participated in 54 snaps.

In the third quarter, Miami marched 83 yards in 13 plays with Lamar Miller capping the drive with on a 2-yard touchdown run. The Bears didn't utilize Allen during the drive, but defensive coordinator Mel Tucker pointed out the Dolphins weren't faced with many third-and-long situations. On that possession, Miami faced third down just twice with 2 yards to convert. The Dolphins also converted a fourth-and-1.

"Going forward, obviously we want him in the game," Tucker said. "He's been a highly-productive player for us. It was an unusual series. We had a lot of short-yardage situations. We didn't really get into third-and-long. We visited with him about it, and we're ready to move on. We'll be fine. We just tell him that we're going to make sure that we get him on the field as much as possible."

Allen wasn't concerned about a lack of playing time, but immediately after the game referred questions regarding the situation to the coaching staff.

"We haven't really talked about it," Allen said. "The rotation happened that way I guess. We'll move on to New England."

The Bears held out Allen when the team faced Green Bay on Sept. 28, but he's played in six games this season, contributing 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Clay Matthews' sacks are down, but so are just about everyone else's.

Maybe that's why Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week that he's comfortable with his star outside linebacker's performance so far this season.

Matthews, who had 50 sacks in his first five NFL seasons, has only one sack so far in Year 6.

Sacks are down across the league. According to ESPN Stats & Information, there have been 384 sacks so far. Through six weeks last season, there were 490. Sack percentage (which is sacks per passing play) also is down, from 7.1 percent for all of last season to 6.0 percent so far this season.

[+] EnlargeClay Matthews
AP Photo/Bill KostrounClay Matthews has just one sack through six games, but sacks are down across the league.
The Packers' sack leader at this point, defensive end Mike Daniels, has 2.5. Through Week 6 last year, two players -- Robert Mathis of the Colts and Justin Houston of the Chiefs -- led the league with 9.5 sacks. Three others had 6.5 or more. This year, the league leader -- Willie Young of the Bears -- has 7.5, and only one other player has more than 6.0.

Still, it was stunning to see that after Sunday's 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins, Matthews' stat line had zeros in nearly every category: tackles (both solo and assists), sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, interceptions. The only thing he registered on the sheet was his fourth-quarter batted pass. He played on 84 percent of the defensive snaps.

"I can be better," Matthews said Wednesday.

Only two other times in Matthews' career (75 regular-season games) has he failed to record a tackle, and in one of those (2012 against the Cardinals), he left after 35 plays because of a hamstring injury.

"I think statistically, obviously, you'd love to have more stats in that regard, but I know the sacks will come and the numbers will always be there," Matthews said. "But at the same time, I think you have to look at the evolution of offenses that we continue to play, especially with the zone-read and them knowing the guys who we possess on this side of the ball about stopping that first line of defense, being us rushers. You saw that last week with having us kind of read and react in playing that offense."

Matthews is right on one account: The Dolphins used the read-option to slow him down. They ran it on 18 of their 55 official snaps in Sunday's game, and the Packers could see an even larger dose of that this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton.

As Matthews stood in front of a large crowd at his locker Wednesday and tried to explain his unusual season, a few feet away was fellow outside linebacker Julius Peppers, who had his own opinion on his teammate's play so far.

"He adds a threat to this defense that doesn't necessarily show up on the stat sheet, so we need him to continue playing how he plays because, like we know, the sacks and the numbers are going to come -- for all of us," Peppers said. "I try to stress to him not to get down on himself because he's not making all these big plays so far, but that's going to come. He just needs to continue to play his game and play within himself, and everything else is going to work out."

In other words, "Just keep being me," Matthews said, "and those plays will come to me."

Bears fail to pressure Aaron Rodgers

September, 28, 2014
CHICAGO – Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker rolled the dice.

Instead of dialing up a variety of blitzes to disrupt Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ’ rhythm in the pocket, the Bears opted to drop the back seven into coverage and relied on the front-four to generate the pass-rush.

The results: Rodgers torched the Bears for 302 passing yards and four touchdowns and had a 151.2 passer rating.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesWithout pressure from a pass rush, Aaron Rodgers picked apart the Bears defense.
“We didn’t blitz a lot,” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. “It was very simple. We thought we could get a four-man rush on a lot of occasions. But whether [Rodgers] was able to escape the pocket, or whether he was standing there inside the pocket, he was able to pat the ball and look a couple of different ways and find somebody.

“Rodgers, to me, is the best quarterback in the league. It was his day today. You give a guy like that time to find somebody, and he’ll make them open.”

The Bears’ game plan to lean on the defensive line is understandable, even with veteran defensive end Jared Allen ruled out because of a bout of pneumonia. Heading into Week 4, the defensive line accounted for seven of the team’s eight sacks (Willie Young 4, Stephen Paea 2, and Ego Ferguson 1). On the Green Bay side, Rodgers had been sacked nine times in the first three weeks behind a suspect offensive line. Clearly, this resembled a matchup the Bears felt confident they could win.

They guessed wrong.

The Bears managed to sack Rodgers only one time (by Ferguson) in 28 pass attempts, and the defense as a whole was credited with zero quarterback hits in the official statistics kept by the NFL.

Did the Bears ask too much of its defensive line? Young balked at the suggestion after the game.

“Whether we were thinking that or not, we have to do better to try and get that guy off that spot,” Young said. “I talked about that all week – getting him off that spot. But even when we got him off that spot a few times, he’s still good. I mean, it’s Aaron Rodgers, you know? It’s just an opportunity for us to get better, to figure out how we can stop this guy. This is adversity for us. Obviously, we’ve got those guys again. We’ll be looking forward to that. It’s always a challenge, trying to figure out ways to win the game. That’s absolutely going to be one of them.

“I’m motivated. That’s what we’re about. Yeah, we lost, but that’s in the past. So, at this moment, it’s time to start putting it behind us, recover, and get ready for our next week.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman drew laughs Monday attempting to repeat the word “trepidation” in response to whether he feels any regarding the defense, as the club prepares to open the regular season against Buffalo.

While the defense performed average to below average most of the preseason, Trestman remains unconcerned about the unit’s ability to get the job done once the season kicks off.

[+] EnlargeMarc Trestman
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesCoach Marc Trestman is hoping that the Bears' defense can build cohesion in the coming weeks.
“I don’t feel that word trepi, trepi … what was it again?” Trestman asked, smiling. “Trepidation? If it’s more than three syllables, I’m out of business. I don’t feel that trepidation. The whole defense wasn’t together at one time during [the preseason]. We’re going to have to come together. It’s going to be a process working together, getting to know each other, how each other works. But the talent level’s there.”

The Bears revamped the defensive line by adding Jared Allen, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston in free agency, in addition to drafting defensive tackles Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson. The club also signed several players to compete for two open spots at safety, and used its first-round pick to select rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller.

But throughout the preseason, the entire group hasn’t performed together. Allen played in only the club’s second preseason outing against the Jaguars after missing the opener due to family reasons and exhibition contest No. 3 due to a bruised shoulder. Safety Chris Conte didn’t make his preseason debut until Aug. 22.

The Bears held out all the starters on defense for the preseason finale at Cleveland.

“There's always concern, but I think we're going to have our guys hyped up, ready to go,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “It's a full game. We're not going to just play a quarter here, two quarters here. We're going to play a whole 60 minutes of football. So this first one is a good test to see where we're at. It's still hard to tell [how good we can be] because we were missing Jared Allen some games. We finally are going to get everybody back together and play a whole game. We played one quarter, two quarters here, and Seattle was a tough test for us. It lets us know that we still have some work to do and we've got to get it together and work hard this week and see what we have for Buffalo.”

Trestman declined to name the starters at safety, saying, “We’ll talk more about that on Wednesday,” while Conte hasn’t yet been cleared to play after suffering a concussion on Aug. 22. Meanwhile, veteran linebacker Lance Briggs missed Monday’s workout with Trestman saying his absence was excused.

“We think the talent level is in a place right now where we’ve got a chance to go out each and every week, get better and improve,” Trestman said. “That’s what we’re going to try and do as we work through this week of practice and the start of the season.”

Bears Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
BOURBONAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Morning showers soaked the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University on Tuesday. So the Bears moved their session across the street to Ward Field, where the club could practice on FieldTurf. “The players handled the transition today and the weather. We moved some things around, went indoors for our walk-through, came out here for the first time in full pads, got a lot of work done, moved some guys around and we made it through the day,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We wanted to make sure we got this one in. We had Plan B and Plan C. Plan A worked pretty good and we got a lot of work done.” According to a school official, the same company that installed the surface inside the Walter Payton Center laid the FieldTurf at ONU, with the work being completed approximately three weeks ago. The school’s soccer teams used the field for the first time on Monday, and the Bears were the first football team to put the surface to use.
  • Zach Miller continues to state a strong case to win the job as the club’s No. 2 tight end. Miller put together another solid outing, catching every ball thrown his way during the various team periods.
  • Backup quarterback Jordan Palmer struggled during Tuesday’s workout, throwing a pair of interceptions to safety Chris Conte and defensive end Willie Young. The INT thrown to Young hit the defensive end squarely in the chest. Conte secured his pick in the end zone during a red-zone drill on a pass intended for Micheal Spurlock. Trestman declined to say whether Jimmy Clausen had overtaken Palmer on the depth chart. “I don’t think we’ve had any movement there at all,” Trestman said. “We’ll move people around. We’ll see how they play in different environments and we’ll make a decision when we have to.”
  • Trestman said “it’s too soon to talk about” whether Conte will play Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Conte came off the physically unable to perform list on Monday and has practiced just two days.
  • Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray continued to take snaps at safety with the starters. The club did work in Conte and Adrian Wilson with the starters as well.
  • Brandon Marshall spent time catching punts during special-teams periods, but don’t expect the club to use him in that capacity during games. “Brandon Marshall likes to get into some drills that maybe he shouldn’t be in,” special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said.
  • Non-participants for Tuesday’s session included Chris Williams (hamstring), Eben Britton (hamstring), Jordan Mills (foot), Brian De La Puente (knee), Marquess Wilson (collarbone), Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Lance Briggs. Briggs isn’t injured. He was given a day off, which Trestman routinely does for veterans.
  • Keep an eye out for linebacker Jerry Franklin, who is taking snaps with the starters on some of the coverage and return units on special teams. He’s also been taking reps with the second team on defense.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Arguably the best drill conducted in full pads is the one-on-one pass-rush competition between offensive and defensive linemen.

Granted, football is not an individual sport, but players are required to win individual battles in the trenches for the betterment of the team.

Perhaps no defensive lineman flashed as often as fifth-year defensive tackle Nate Collins did on Sunday during the 15-minute exercise. That is an encouraging sign for the Bears. Collins missed the final 11 games last year because of an ACL tear that required surgery, and the Bears depth on the defensive line suffered because of it.

Collins spent months rehabbing the left knee before returning to the Bears on a one-year deal in March. Equipped with a bulky knee brace, Collins received medical clearance to participate in the offseason program in May and has been relatively full-go ever since.

"I have a mentality where the moment you get comfortable something bad can go wrong or something unexpected can happen," Collins said. "I do everything I can and focus on what I can control and everything else will work itself out. I just know if I come out here and perform my best every single day then good things will happen."

Collins showcased a variety of moves the handful of times he lined up opposite reserve offensive linemen in the drill, relying on his speed and technique on certain rushes, and brute power to push up the field on others.

"It really felt good to get out there. There was a lot of adrenaline and energy running through me. I'm just glad I was able to come out here and do what I love because I love football. I love football, I love these guys and I love this team. It's a blessing I was able to come out here and compete with my brothers."

Other observations from the drill included: defensive tackle Stephen Paea winning a memorable one-on-one matchup with veteran center Roberto Garza. Defensive end Trevor Scott continued his strong start to camp by beating an offensive tackle off the edge on one rush, then winning another matchup with an inside move. Rookie second-round pick Ego Ferguson ended up on the ground on two separate occasions, but Ferguson did manage to push his way into the backfield on one snap. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod got the best of defensive end Jared Allen the one time they squared off in the session. Right tackle Jordan Mills held his own versus ends Lamarr Houston and Willie Young.

Bears Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp.

" Day 1 of training camp Friday brought about a spirited workout that included a minor shoving match between Sherrick McManis and Eric Weems. On Saturday, the Bears experienced a full-blown dust-up that appeared to involve defensive end Lamarr Houston and right tackle Jordan Mills initially, and escalated to include defensive end Willie Young and Kyle Long, who still isn’t practicing because of a viral infection.

At first, Bears coach Marc Trestman joked “we’ve got to start charging” for people to watch, but took a more serious tone in pondering the implications such an event could have on the team. Trestman believes in simulating game situations whenever possible. So “if we’re practicing like it’s a game, we would have lost both players today,” he said.

Trestman also called the skirmishes “a disciplinary issue” in addition to “a major safety issue.” Interestingly, Mills and Houston were involved back in June in a similar incident during organized team activities.

" What should have been a touchdown to Martellus Bennett from Jay Cutler during a red-zone drill instead became a breakup by linebacker Jonathan Bostic.Bennett and Cutler refused to let it go. So after practice, the two stood in the end zone discussing ways they could be more effective in the red zone as the rest of the team walked off the field.

Bennett explained to that Cutler thought he fired the pass in the end zone high enough to get it past the outstretched arms of Bostic, and into the tight end’s hands. But at 6-foot-6, Bennett said, “What might be a high pass for someone else is different than my high,” meaning his catch radius is wider than most of the team’s targets.

“We’re just trying to take the thinking process out for both of us and make it more of a reaction thing; me reacting to his throws instead of him reacting to my body,” Bennett said.

Bennett hopes the 10 minutes spent in the end zone after practice Saturday will ensure touchdowns instead of incompletions once the season starts.

" The Bears held out Tim Jennings (quadriceps) from Saturday’s practice, and defensive end Willie Young left near the end of the workout after experiencing soreness in a quadriceps. Both are day to day. Other non-participants included safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder) along with Long (viral infection).

" Despite repetitions typically being scarce for rookies, sixth-round pick David Fales received an extended period of snaps to run the offense during a team session. Although his delivery appears somewhat unconventional, it’s clear the quarterback knows where to go with the ball, makes quick decisions and doesn’t take risks. Fales was accurate on the majority of his throws, but most of his passes traveled fewer than 10 yards.

" Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is splitting the reps between Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen as the two compete for the No. 2 job behind Cutler. Clausen played most of the snaps with the second-team offense during the first half of practice, and the quarterback delivered several strikes while making virtually no mistakes. Palmer, meanwhile, struggled with accuracy working with the third team and threw an interception to linebacker Khaseem Greene. Palmer worked with the second team later in practice and improved significantly.“

"You shouldn’t draw any conclusions by who the guy [is] that goes in there after Jay’s in there,” Trestman said. “We’re just moving people around and giving each guy a chance to work with different people and different centers and so forth.”
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Even with temperatures in the low 70s, the Bears momentarily lost their cool for the second consecutive day.

Friday’s brief shoving match between wide receiver Eric Weems and cornerback Sherrick McManis lasted only a couple seconds, but Saturday morning’s dustup involved multiple players and took several members of the team to restore order.

The main combatants appeared to be defensive lineman Lamarr Houston and right tackle Jordan Mills, along with defensive end Willie Young. At one point guard Kyle Long tried to play peacemaker and separate the players, even though Long is still not practicing due to a viral infection. Multiple players from both sides then jumped in to quiet down the situation.

There were no further problems, and all the parties involved downplayed the incident after practice, as expected.

Shoving matches and minor fights are commonplace at NFL training camps, but Bears head coach Marc Trestman prefers that his players avoid engaging in that type of behavior, and for good reason.

“We know that there are times in practice where a player may lose his mind,” Trestman said. “The bottom line is when we talk about it in meetings: fighting is a disciplinary issue. We would have lost both players. If we’re practicing like it’s a game, we would have lost both players today.

“Not only that but it’s a major safety issue. The guys involved are remorseful about it. They don’t want it to happen and they know it hurts the football team. The thing you like to see is that it didn’t linger. The team got back to work and there were no other altercations. But one play can hurt a football team. That’s how we sell it to each and every guy. On one play we can lose players. And it’s a safety issue. We have to continue to move forward with that and I know we will.”