NFL Nation: Jonathan Bostic

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The shuffling at linebacker continued Thursday with the Chicago Bears placing veteran D.J. Williams on the injured reserve with a neck injury, which will force the club to move Jon Bostic from the weak side back to the middle.

Williams
Williams
Bostic took first-team reps at middle linebacker during Thursday’s workout inside the Walter Payton Center. Rookie Christian Jones is expected to replace Bostic on the weak side Monday when the Bears host the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field.

"First of all, we’re not in the business of making excuses for injuries; we can’t," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "Certainly we’ve had guys working in and out. It started differently this year with Lance [Briggs], Shea [McClellin] and D.J. Shea was out for quite some time with his hand. He’s back. D.J. is obviously out of the mix right now, and Jon is working at the position. We’ve got Christian Jones, [who] comes in, has continued to progress, getting more reps and more playing time. It’s part of the developmental process of our football team right now. We’re trying to develop players and play at a high level at the same time."

With Briggs and now Williams on the injured reserve, the Bears will face the Saints with their seventh combination of starters at linebacker (the Bears started out in nickel personnel for two games).

Chicago’s defense currently has four starters -- Briggs, Williams, Charles Tillman and Lamarr Houston -- on the injured reserve.

Bostic filled in at middle linebacker in Week 3, at strongside linebacker in Weeks 4 and 5, before sliding over to the weak side for the club’s past two games as Briggs’ replacement.

"You lose some experience, obviously, but it has to be a next-man-up mentality," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "That’s been our approach from the beginning. Obviously, you don’t want to lose players, but that’s a part of the game. You take it in stride. We have good players behind them we feel can step up, and get the job done."

In other injury news, the team held out safety Chris Conte (back) for Thursday’s practice along with kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps), offensive lineman Michael Ola (back) and linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring). Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) took part in a limited capacity, after sitting out the past two games.

W2W4: Chicago Bears

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
12:00
PM ET
The Chicago Bears (1-0) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) in preseason game No. 2 at Soldier Field. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

1. Backup quarterback battle: Jordan Palmer received first crack at the No. 2 job in the preseason opener, but in this matchup, the plan is for the Bears to go with Jimmy Clausen once Jay Cutler is finished for the night. Palmer played fairly well in the preseason opener, but Clausen stole the show when he came in, finishing with two touchdown passes and a passer rating of 134.6. If Clausen performs similarly against the Jaguars, it’s likely the Bears take away all the suspense in this battle and name him the No. 2. Remember, Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009, which makes the backup quarterback job important.

2. Linebacker play: Collectively, the group played poorly in the opener against the Eagles. But in its defense, the team was matched up against a high-octane, no-huddle offense that featured plenty of zone-read concepts that the Bears hadn’t game-planned for. Specifically, Jonathan Bostic and Shea McClellin need to play better. Considering he started nine games as a rookie, Bostic should be poised to take a major step in his development, but we haven’t yet see that. McClellin is making the transition from defensive end, and the staff remains confident he’ll progress enough that the team would feel confident about making him the starter on the strong side.

3. Zach Miller’s bid for the No. 2 tight end job: Incumbent Dante Rosario missed practice Tuesday with soreness in his calf, and if he’s held out of this matchup, Miller basically will receive the opportunity to solidify what appears to be a stranglehold on that No. 2 tight end spot. Miller caught six passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns in his preseason debut, and has since been given more repetitions with the starters when the offense goes to two-tight-end sets. Another strong showing by Miller in this game could outright win him the job, and he needs to take advantage. So far, Miller has taken advantage of every opportunity he’s been given. This game should be no different for him.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Publicly acknowledging the failure of former first-round pick Shea McClellin as a defensive end on Thursday at the NFL combine, Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery announced the rising third-year player will move to linebacker.

Interestingly, McClellin -- who played strongside linebacker and middle linebacker in college at Boise State -- will compete for starting jobs at both those positions with 2013 second-round pick Jonathan Bostic, who started nine games last season as a rookie in the middle for the Bears.

“I think he’s very excited [about switching positions]. Obviously at Boise, he played Mike, he played Sam, he played with his hand on the ground,” Emery said. “So versatility is his strength. I’ll say this: generally, we’ll take calculated risks, which we did with Shea. When we swing, we’re gonna swing on the high side of athleticism, and that’s why we’re still excited about him being able to contribute at a high level.”

[+] EnlargeShea McClellin
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastHigh on his athleticism, the Bears are confident that Shea McClellin can make an impact at linebacker.
In speaking to new linebackers coach Reggie Herring, Bears coach Marc Trestman gained confidence in McClellin’s ability to successfully transition to 4-3 linebacker, despite spending his first two years as a defensive end. During the evaluation process leading up to the 2012 draft, Herring believed McClellin possessed the skill set to play linebacker in the NFL, and relayed those thoughts recently to Trestman.

“And that was great to hear, and great to know,” Trestman said. “So he’s excited about working with him and certainly he is as big of an expert as we have on this staff in terms of the ability of developing a linebacker. So we are excited about it.”

The plan, according to Trestman, is for McClellin to start off competing with Bostic on the strong side, but he’ll also play in the middle. Bostic’s move to the outside stems from the team’s belief that his skill set would be better utilized at that position.

At middle linebacker, Bostic sometimes struggled to fight off blocks by offensive linemen (which came from both directions as the result of him playing in the middle), and even admitted that in the NFL blockers “get up on you” faster than he anticipated. Because of Bostic’s speed and explosive burst, however, Emery thinks he could contribute more on the outside. The team thinks that, eventually, Bostic will take over on the weak side for Lance Briggs.

“This is what we envision: Shea is going to move to linebacker, but Shea will be used in multiple roles, wherever his skills will take him,” Emery said. “He is a perfect candidate to be on the field all downs in some capacity, whether that is blitzing, rushing, playing against the run in run personnel. But he is going to have to compete for his job. Competition right now is Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, and it’s Shea. Obviously, we feel that Lance Briggs is our weak[side] starter. If we add back a D.J. Williams or another player, that player will be involved in that competitive mix. It’s best person wins those two spots. We’re excited about the competition.”

Given the team’s evaluation of McClellin’s physical attributes, it appears the Bears envision a Swiss Army knife-type of role for the former defensive end. When the team used a first-round pick to select McClellin in 2012 to play defensive end, two personnel men revealed to ESPN.com that he wasn’t a first-round talent on their teams' draft boards.

Still, the Bears held high hopes for McClellin, who racked up 20.5 sacks at Boise State, 33 tackles for lost yardage and four interceptions.

McClellin played 14 games as a rookie and contributed seven tackles and 2.5 sacks, and followed that up with 29 tackles last season and just four sacks.

Emery admits defensive end might not have been the best place for McClellin, but said the situation “taught me to keep picking guys that have versatility because none of us are gonna be perfect. If you swing and miss on a player, you hope that they have the skill set, that they’re still competing and contributing in a positive way, which Shea did. In terms of pure defensive ends, [it taught me to] probably make sure they’re a little bit longer, and a little bit heavier.”
Money: D.J. Williams signed a one-year deal last March that paid a base salary of $900,000 with a maximum value of $1.75 million.

Stats: Produced 27 tackles, including two for lost yardage, one quarterback pressure, two sacks and forced a fumble in six games.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Williams
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesLinebacker D.J. Williams played in just six games this season -- the lowest total in his NFL career.
2013 role: Signed as the replacement at middle linebacker for future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, Williams projected to be a potential steal in free agency because of his superior speed and athleticism, and joined the team as the starter. But Williams missed nearly all of training camp and the preseason due to a strained calf, which caused him to get off to a slow start at the beginning of the regular season.

The good: The strained calf during the preseason slowed Williams initially, and he didn’t appear to be in ideal shape at the beginning of the season. But once Williams worked himself into the mix, the linebacker made plays reminiscent of his days with the Denver Broncos.

Prior to joining the Bears, Williams had produced 90 tackles or more in five of the previous six seasons. The belief early on was that the addition of Williams and veteran James Anderson to play alongside Lance Briggs would upgrade the linebacking corps.

“D.J. Williams came in and provided leadership in terms of his motor, his effort and his physical[ity],” Bears general manager Phil Emery said. “Cannot understate when players make plays and they make impact tackles, impact plays on any side or area of the game, they become leaders.”

Williams also played a key role in the development of rookie second-round pick Jonathan Bostic, who would end up starting nine games.

The bad: The calf injury at the start of camp set back Williams for the early part of the season. Then with four minutes left in the third quarter of a 27-21 over the New York Giants on Oct. 10, Williams tore a pectoral muscle that would put him out for the rest of the season. That situation represented the third season-ending injury for a Chicago defensive starter, and forced the club to play Bostic in the middle for the duration.

Prior to the injury, Bears coach Marc Trestman said, “I saw D.J. Williams blowing up piles and running with speed to the ball.” But Williams missed five tackles over the first six games.

2014 outlook: Williams’ future in Chicago appears to be shaky at this point, with Emery saying the club wants to infuse youth on the defense through free agency and the draft. Williams will be 32 at the start of the 2014 season, but still possesses the physical attributes to be a dynamic playmaker.

So at this point, the Bears haven’t ruled out bringing back Williams. Perhaps it bodes well for the veteran that Emery that at some point it might be best to take advantage of Bostic’s run-and-hit skillset by moving him to an outside linebacker spot. That would leave open a spot in the middle for Williams.

“I like the team chemistry. I like the coaching staff. I like the energy of the city,” Williams said. “Hopefully if things work out right, I’ll be back here. I love our defense. It’s simple, but we play fast and just downhill.”

When the rest of the team packed up to leave for the offseason, Williams stayed behind to continue rehabilitation at Halas Hall. Williams needs to gain medical clearance to play before the team can seriously ponder bringing him back for 2014. The linebacker believes he’s still capable of producing at a starter’s level.

“I know I still have a good amount of years left in me,” he said. “I still have talent. If I don’t end up here, I’ll end up somewhere else, though I would love to end up here.”

5 things to watch: Lions at Bears

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
7:30
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Here's a look at five things to watch for Sunday when the Bears host the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North:

Jay Cutler's mobility: When the Bears host the Detroit Lions, 21 days will have passed since Jay Cutler tore a groin muscle in the team's loss to the Washington Redskins. So Cutler's potential mobility against Detroit's formidable pass rush has to be a concern, even though the quarterback and the club say otherwise.

Cutler
"[The Lions] do a good job," Cutler said. "We've done enough to test where I'm at. I feel good, got a lot of trust in the offensive line and the way they're playing right now. Can't worry about that. Once you get in the game, it's just reactionary stuff. Your brain's not gonna be able to say, 'Hey, alright, I want you to step right.' It just happens. We tried to mimic that as much as possible [in practice]. I thought we did a good job of that. I feel ready."

Look for the Bears to try to help out Cutler by putting him in plenty of shotgun formations so he won't put strain on that groin muscle with constant dropbacks from under center.

Front seven's run fits: Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker attributed the team's inability to hold down Reggie Bush (139 yards and a touchdown) in the last meeting to poor tackling and improper run fits. So Tucker is stressing better tackling out in open space, which is where Bush thrives, not to mention a swarm-the-ball mentality.

"We didn't tackle him. No. 1, we didn't fit the run well, and No. 2, he played exceptionally well," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "He made people miss. We've got to do a better job this time of working this week to try to neutralize him."

The defensive line needs to stay in their gaps, and the linebackers need to make sure to fill accordingly. Rookies Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene have struggled recently with leveraging blocks, which won't help the Bears in their attempt to stop Bush. So they've spent time this week working to improve in that area. But it all starts with the club's injury-depleted front four.

"We have guys who are injured, just like everybody in the league has guys who are injured," Trestman said. "We have no excuses. We have to go out there and try to stop him. It's never easy when you're at full strength, so we have to make it a point of interest this week, and No. 1 is to neutralize Reggie and minimize his ability to get big plays in the run game."

Pass rush: Chicago's front four took a major step in the right direction with its five-sack outing Monday night at Green Bay, but there's a good chance the club's sack leader from that game won't play Sunday against the Lions. Coming off a three-sack game against the Packers, second-year defensive end Shea McClellin suffered a hamstring injury during Thursday's practice and is doubtful for the matchup with the Lions. That means the Bears need potential replacements such as David Bass and Cheta Ozougwu to step in and pick up the slack.

Julius Peppers needs to do the same.

"We have guys that have talent and [have] put a lot of hard work and effort with that, and eventually guys are going to break through. So I think that's what you saw [against the Packers]," Tucker said.

But can the Bears produce that type of performance again this week with sole possession of the division lead on the line?

Rushing attack: The last time these teams met, the Lions jumped out to a 30-10 second-quarter lead and immediately forced the Bears into passing mode, thus eliminating the prospects for Matt Forte getting into a flow. Forte rushed 14 times for 95 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown in the second quarter before the Lions erupted for three TDs in the final 3:26 of the first half. So the Bears could help themselves tremendously by using Forte to dictate the flow of the game early, which will also enable the passing attack to have success with play action.

Forte
Forte
Surely, the Bears learned the importance of ball security from their first matchup against the Lions, when Cutler contributed to the loss with four turnovers, including a fumble returned for a TD.

"Anytime you see a team for the second time, you have a better feel for how much strength you have against a guy, how much technique you're going to need against someone," Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. "Just as you go from the first drive of a game to the second; 'I can do this more than I thought on tape watching him against someone else.' But they're also familiar with us."

Special teams: Punter Adam Podlesh finished with a season-low 28.8-yard net average in the first matchup between these teams, and he hit a line-drive punt in that contest that Micheal Spurlock returned 57 yards to set up a Matthew Stafford touchdown run. The game nearly cost Podlesh his job.

"I think Adam's been consistent really since that time," special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. "He's really picked his game up. He made some slight changes, and it's helped him. I'm glad he's going in the right direction."

That needs to continue against the Lions.

DeCamillis said the Bears played the kind of game Monday night where "we had 11 out there, but 10 guys played a lot of plays," which is unacceptable. The team's punt protection also allowed a blocked punt against the Packers.

"When you look back at the film, it wasn't just that punt," DeCamillis said. "There was kickoff return yardage that was left out there where there is one guy sitting in the hole because somebody gets beat. We've got to get all 11 going at the same time, and that was obviously critical during this past week."

It'll be the same Sunday unless the Bears resolve those issues.
On the day former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith got the job, he said that one of his priorities was to beat the Green Bay Packers.

First-year Bears coach Marc Trestman made no such promises about this rivalry, but it goes without saying that he's eager to end Chicago's six-game losing streak to the Packers.

The last time Chicago beat Green Bay was on Sept. 27, 2010, on "Monday Night Football." The teams meet again in prime time Monday night at Lambeau Field.

ESPN.com's Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Bears reporter Michael C. Wright break down the matchup.

Rob Demovsky: We all know how much Smith wanted to beat the Packers. He stated as much the day he got the head coaching job. What has Trestman's approach to this rivalry been like?

Wright: Rob, my man, you know that rivalries have to cut both ways in terms of wins and losses for it to be truly considered a rivalry. Counting the postseason, the Bears have lost six in a row and nine of the last 11. So, if anything, this is more Green Bay dominance than a rivalry. But the interesting thing about Trestman is he's a guy who likes to compartmentalize everything. He looks at today rather than the past or the future. So while it sounds cliché, Trestman is looking at the Packers as just another opponent on the schedule. That's just the way Trestman likes to operate, and I think for him it sort of makes things easier.

I keep looking at Green Bay's sack numbers, and I'm a little surprised the club is still in the top 10 in sacks with Clay Matthews out the last three games and other key members of the defense missing time. What is Dom Capers doing over there schematically to keep up the production?

Demovsky: I figured when Matthews broke his thumb, Capers would have to blitz like crazy. Now, he's picked his spots, but he hasn't gone blitz-happy like I thought he might. However, he has been sending different pass-rushers to keep offenses off guard. One game, against the Baltimore Ravens, linebacker A.J. Hawk came a bunch and sacked Joe Flacco three times. Also, they've finally found a defensive lineman with some rush ability in second-year pro Mike Daniels. Three of his team-leading four sacks have come in the past two games.

As long as we're on the topic of quarterbacks, in 2011, backup Josh McCown played a halfway decent game against the Packers on Christmas at Lambeau Field, but he threw a couple of interceptions. What do you expect from him this time around as he starts in place of the injured Jay Cutler?

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsThe Packers have limited Brandon Marshall to 8 catches for 80 yards in their past two meetings.
Wright: Believe it or not, I expect little to no drop-off from McCown in this game. The biggest difference between now and then is that in 2011, McCown joined the team in November, fresh from a stint as a high school football coach in North Carolina, and four weeks later became the starter. So he basically came in cold and still played relatively well. This time around, McCown has become immersed in the offense from the ground level, when Trestman first came on board, and even had some input as the team constructed the scheme. In fact, during the offseason, McCown was holding film sessions with all the club's new additions to teach everyone the new offense. So he's got complete mastery of the offense just like Cutler, which is why McCown came in against the Redskins and the offense didn't miss a beat. Obviously, McCown doesn't possess Cutler's arm strength. But he'll make up for that deficiency with anticipation. I'm quite sure the Bears won't scale down the offense to accommodate McCown at all, because they don't need to. So I expect McCown to play well. I'm just not sure Chicago's offense can keep up with Green Bay's in what I expect to be a high-scoring game.

Speaking of high scoring, the Packers put up 44 points on the Minnesota Vikings. How is Green Bay handling the preparation process for the Bears?

Demovsky: Well, they certainly don't have as much time as the Bears do, considering the Bears are coming off their bye week. But the Packers have gotten themselves into a rhythm. They've won four in a row after their 1-2 start and look like a different team than they did the first three weeks of the season. Mike McCarthy probably doesn't get enough credit nationally, but show me another coach who has stared injuries in the face and hasn't blinked. What other team could lose playmakers like Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Matthews and still keep winning? That's a testament to the program he has established here. You can argue with some of his in-game coaching decisions, but you can do that with every coach. What you can't question, though, is the team's preparation.

The Bears, obviously, have had their share of injuries, too, losing Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs. What's a bigger loss -- Cutler to the offense or Briggs to the defense?

Wright: Well, Cutler's replacement is a veteran in McCown who has plenty of experience and a ton of weapons surrounding him on offense, while rookie Khaseem Greene will likely fill in for Briggs on a bad defense that will also feature rookie Jon Bostic in the middle. From my vantage point, losing Briggs is much more significant. The Bears have already proved to be horrible against the run (ranked 25th), and that issue certainly won't improve with two rookies at linebacker and a defensive line decimated by injury. It's also worth noting that Briggs made all the defensive calls and served as somewhat of a coach on the field for Bostic. Given that Green Bay seems to be running the ball so well, the current situation with Chicago's front seven could be devastating.

Now that the Packers are running the ball so well, how has that changed the way the offense is called? It seems Green Bay runs well regardless of which running back they line up in the backfield.

Demovsky: It's remarkable -- and even a bit stunning -- to see Aaron Rodgers check out of a pass play and in to a run play at the line of scrimmage. That kind of thing hasn't happened around here in a long, long time -- probably not since Ahman Green was piling up 1,000-yard seasons nearly a decade ago. Teams no longer can sit back in a Cover-2 look and dare the Packers to run. Because guess what? The Packers can finally do it. It also has given the receivers more one-on-one opportunities, so it's helped the passing game, too. Right now, this offense almost looks unstoppable.

If the Packers keep playing like this, they might be tough to catch in the NFC North. What are the Bears' prospects for staying in the NFC North race until Cutler and Briggs return?

Wright: To me, this game is the measuring stick for making that determination. But I'm not really confident about Chicago's chances, and that has more to do with the team's struggling defense than Cutler's absence. There have been conflicting statements made about Cutler's recovery time frame. Some teammates think he'll be ready to return by the time the Bears face Detroit on Nov. 4, while Trestman said the plan is to stick to the minimum four-week time frame prescribed by the doctors. Either way, if the Bears lose to the Lions you can kiss their prospects for the playoffs goodbye. The Bears might be able to afford a loss to the Packers because they'll face them again on Dec. 29. But a sweep by the Lions kills Chicago's chances to me because just from what we've seen so far, it appears one of the wild cards will come out of the NFC North with the other coming from the NFC West. Obviously it's too early to predict that, but that's the way things seem to be shaking out.

Without two of his top receivers and tight end Finley, Rogers still hit 83 percent of his passes against the Vikings. Is that success a product of the system, a bad Minnesota defense, or is Rodgers just that good at this point?

Demovsky: The more I see other quarterbacks play, the more I'm convinced it's Rodgers. For example, seldom-used receiver Jarrett Boykin makes his first NFL start two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns, and he ends up with eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. How many catches do you think he would have had if he were playing for the Browns that day? Their quarterback, Brandon Weeden, completed only 17-of-42 passes. That's not to minimize what Boykin did or what players like Jordy Nelson do week in and week out, but Rodgers is special, and special players elevate the play of those around them. Look at what Greg Jennings has done since he left for the Vikings. Now tell me the quarterback doesn't make the receiver, not vice versa.

Speaking of receivers, other than Anquan Boldin, who lit up the Packers in the opener at San Francisco, they've done a solid job shutting down other team's No. 1 receivers -- most recently Jennings and Cincinnati's A.J. Green. How do you think the Bears will try to get Brandon Marshall involved against what has been a pretty good Packers secondary?

Wright: This question brings me back to the 2012 massacre at Lambeau Field on Sept. 13. The Packers bracketed Marshall with two-man coverage, and the Bears struggled tremendously. Shoot, cornerback Tramon Williams caught as many of Cutler's passes as Marshall, who finished the game with two grabs for 24 yards. Obviously, this offensive coaching staff is a lot different than last year's group. So the Bears will go into this game with a lot more answers for that coverage. I definitely see McCown leaning on Marshall and trying to get him involved as early as possible, but the only way he'll be able to do that is for the Bears to establish the rushing attack with Matt Forte so the quarterback can operate off play action. When the Bears go to Marshall early, expect to see a lot of short passes that will enable the receiver to gain some yardage after the catch.

Over the years, Green Bay has been pretty successful at limiting the impact of return man Devin Hester. So I was a little shocked to see the Packers give up a kickoff return for a touchdown to Cordarrelle Patterson. As you probably know, Hester is coming off a pretty strong return game against the Redskins. Do you think the Packers fix the problems they encountered last week, and minimize Hester's impact?

Demovsky: Part of the Packers' problem on special teams has been that all the injuries have created a trickle-down effect. Here's what I mean: On the kickoff coverage until they gave up the 109-yard return to Patterson, they lined up six rookies, two of whom weren't even on the opening day roster. The Packers always have feared Hester, as they should, and in various games in recent years have shown they'd almost rather kick the ball out of bounds than give him any return opportunities. He's one of those special players who make rivalry games so entertaining.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman indicated on Monday the club plans to give rookie Khaseem Greene the first opportunity to replace starting weakside linebacker Lance Briggs.

Briggs is expected to be held out at least six weeks as he recovers from a fracture in his left shoulder, leaving the team to make a choice for the potential replacement between Green, veteran Blake Costanzo and new additions Jerry Franklin and Larry Grant, who signed on Monday with the Bears.

[+] EnlargeKhaseem Greene
Scott Boehm/AP PhotoLinebacker Khaseem Greene could see his first extensive playing time of the 2013 season on Monday, should he be tabbed the starter to replace injured Lance Briggs.
“We’re working at it,” Trestman said. “Khaseem wil certainly get a very good look here (as the) No. 1 and we’ve got Jerry, we’ve got Blake, and we just brought in Grant. But we’ll start with Khaseem and we’ll see how the week goes. We’ve got a long way to go before we get started.”

A fourth-round pick out of Rutgers, Greene played one snap at linebacker during the club’s Oct. 20 loss to the Washington Redskins. With extra days to prepare for what could be his debut as a starter at Green Bay next Monday night, Greene admitted he’s fired up about the chance to see extended playing time.

“I am. I’ve played one snap of defense this year, and just having an opportunity to maybe get out there and be a starter and play way more snaps is enough in itself to be fired up,” Greene said. “I’ve just got to stay calm, trust the defense, trust the scheme, and also build some confidence in my teammates so they know I can actually go out there and compete if I’m the guy. I feel good. This is one day we all look forward to doing is being starters in the NFL."

To prepare for the task, Greene said he’s been able to rely on Briggs, who has acted as somewhat of a coach “to help me as much as he can,” in addition to fellow rookie Jonathan Bostic, who made his debut as a starter against the Redskins as a replacement for injured starter D.J. Williams.

Bostic and Greene have been roommates since joining the club.

“Tell you the truth, we’re really similar players,” Bostic said of Greene. “We’re going to depend on each other, we’re going to have to help each other. We have to do a lot of talking out there, get our chemistry back, what we had throughout preseason. It’ll definitely be a fun process; (we’ve) just got to keep going out there and having fun.”

At Rutgers, Greene started in 39 of 51 games, including a 2012 season in which he started 12 games at free safety and earned Big East Defensive Player of the Years in back-to-back years. Greene forced an NCAA-record 15 fumbles in college, and hopes to use those takeaway skills into Chicago’s starting lineup if given the opportunity.

But Greene also mentioned the need to be resistant to pressing too hard when asked about what he’s learned throughout a brief NFL tenure.

“It’s hard to win games in the National Football League. That’s what I’ve observed,” Greene said, “and also that you can’t try to do too much. If I’m the starter, I can’t go out there and try to be Lance and try to do too much because I’m not him. I can learn from him, and I’ve learned a lot from him. But I can’t go out there and try to force myself to make plays and stuff like that, or I’ll end up hurting the defense and the team.”

If Jay Cutler left the Bears in a tight spot on offense because of the torn groin muscle that will keep him out at least four weeks, then Lance Briggs gave the defense a near-insurmountable task: to somehow improve without him on the field.

That’s right. The loss of Briggs weighs more heavily because at this point, he means more to the defense than the quarterback does to the offense. It sounds silly, but that’s simply the state of affairs these days at Halas Hall.

We expected the defense to fall off a notch this season, with the loss of linebacker Brian Urlacher and the acquisition of two new faces (James Anderson and D.J. Williams) and the hiring of a new coordinator in Mel Tucker. But what we’re seeing is an injury-induced dive off a cliff.

[+] EnlargeChicago's Khaseem Greene
AP Photo/Scott BoehmThe Bears likely will choose between Khaseem Greene, above, and Blake Costanzo as the replacement for Lance Briggs.
In all, the defense -- which has allowed 21 points or more in every game, and gave up 499 yards to the Redskins -- has lost five starters. Briggs, who was playing at a Pro Bowl level, is expected to be out at least six weeks because of a small fracture in his left shoulder.

"There’s no simple answers. There are a lot of teams in our position in the National Football League,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Defensively, we’ve got to improve our fits, our assignments. We’ve been completely inconsistent. At times we’ve been outstanding, and at times we just haven’t done the right things.”

That’s what comes with thrusting young, inexperienced players into key roles. It’s a situation not likely to improve soon. The team still hasn’t decided who will call defensive signals in Briggs’ place. Right now, Jonathan Bostic and James Anderson are the likely candidates.

Bostic made the calls in the loss at Washington on Sunday after Briggs left the game in the third quarter.

The club also will choose between rookie Khaseem Greene and veteran Blake Costanzo as Briggs’ replacement.

“We’re losing a great leader in Lance,” Trestman said. “Arguably we’re going to have to work very, very hard to recover, but that doesn’t say we can’t. It’s been done before, we’ve got time to work through it and there’s no reason why as a football team that we can’t be confident we can rally around that position, find a way to win games.”

On the offensive side of the ball, that’s an easier proposition due to the quality of the replacement, the club’s revamped protection, not to mention all of the weapons surrounding him, with running back Matt Forte, tight end Martellus Bennett and receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

Cutler’s replacement, Josh McCown, demonstrated as much Sunday when he completed 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown to Bennett before finishing the game with a passer rating of 119.6 as the offense put up 34 points.

A 10-year veteran, McCown has logged 20 starts in the NFL and is considered “a glue guy” by general manager Phil Emery, and “a captain,” by Marshall “without the 'C' on his chest.”

Emery called McCown’s “ability to play the position” the backup’s greatest asset in his bid to replace Cutler without the offense skipping a beat.

“And probably foremost, just in terms of Josh and the person and the leader he is, the buy-in he has from his team in terms of being able to be a positive part of winning football on Sundays,” Emery said. “I didn’t notice it because I don't always watch the huddles, but Josh McCown is in every special teams break before they go out on the field. That to me signals to everybody what type of person this guy is. He could be content staying over on the sidelines with the headset and a clipboard, literally, but he's not. He's a big part of this team. He's a big part of the leadership group of this team.”

[+] EnlargeChicago's Josh McCown
AP Photo/Nick WassJosh McCown is "a big part of the leadership group of this team," general manager Phil Emery said.
McCown’s teammates agree. Cornerback Tim Jennings admitted Monday “it’s going to be tough not having Jay out there, but I also think Josh came in there and played great, and he gave a lot of confidence to the guys in this locker room.”

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod said he has “all the confidence in the world” in McCown because “he came in yesterday, and he did his thing. He spread the ball around. He got us in good positions, and we had a chance to win the game.”

McCown, meanwhile, says the structure in place gives him a leg up from where he was two years ago, when the Bears first asked the veteran to start a game. It was 2011, he had been coaching high school football just before the Bears signed him, and he basically went in cold for his first start at Green Bay. McCown helped the Bears put up 21 points in a loss to the Packers, but helped the club break its five-game losing streak the next week in the season finale at Minnesota.

McCown says “I’m in a better spot right now,” having learned Trestman’s system from the ground up from Day 1 of the coach’s tenure in Chicago.

“The structure is in place and the emphasis has been put on individuals to do their job and do their part,” McCown said. “If we continue to get that, and we felt like we got that yesterday, it allows the quarterback to step in there, whether it’s Jay or myself, to function and play, because guys are going to be coached to be where they are supposed to be and do what they’re supposed to do. It’s going to look different between Jay and I; our skill sets are different.”

On offense, the highly productive results likely won't change, either. The same can’t be said for an already reeling Bears defense without Briggs.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jonathan Bostic assumes the starting role at middle linebacker in the aftermath of news D.J. Williams is out for the season with a torn pectoral tendon, and the Chicago Bears expect the rookie to build on the excitement he generated throughout the preseason.

Subbing for Williams as the starter in the middle for most of training camp, Bostic collected 13 tackles in the preseason, and returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown in the exhibition opener at Carolina to create anticipation for the linebacker’s debut as a full-time starter among observers.

“Of course we’re going to miss D.J. (Williams) a lot,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “But I’m excited about Bostic. I know he put on a show this preseason. I know a lot of guys are excited about Bostic to see what he’s going to be doing. Of course, you don’t want D.J. to go down like that and miss the rest of the year, but this is just an opportunity for Bostic to let everybody know he’s here for a reason.”

Drafted in the second round out of Florida, Bostic filled in for Williams late in the third quarter of the team’s win last Thursday over the New York Giants and played the final 21 snaps. Bostic received credit for one assisted tackle in the victory, but for the most part struggled, grading among the worst of the team’s defenders.

[+] EnlargeChicago's Jonathan Bostic
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsJonathan Bostic proved to be a playmaker in the preseason and will now help fill the spot vacated by an injured D.J. Williams.
But that was to be expected with Bostic coming into the game cold.

“You always hear ‘next man up, anything can happen,’ but the situation that happened like that, it’s kind of like, ‘Man, these things really do happen,’” Bostic said. "I wasn’t too surprised about it. Now I’ve got to kind of step up now. I don’t want any drop offs to me from D.J. Really, (I’ve) just got to go out there and just prepare the best I can and go out there and do my best. I did alright (against the Giants); a lot of stuff still to clean up. Especially getting thrown in there kind of like that, I really wasn’t expecting it. But you’ve got to be expecting it. (I’m) just learning from those mistakes I made in the game and cleaning those things up and trying not to make the same mistakes twice.”

Bostic spent time during Monday’s practice working at his customary spot in the middle, but also took repetitions at strongside linebacker as a contingency plan for if James Anderson suffered an injury that would force him to miss time. When Anderson sustained a back injury that forced him out last Thursday, the Bears plugged in veteran Blake Costanzo and kept Bostic in the middle.

If that situation takes place again, there’s a chance the Bears would move Costanzo to the middle and Bostic to the strongside.

“He’s ready,” defensive tackle Stephen Paea said of Bostic. “In the preseason, he showed some flash. Everybody’s got to step up.”

But Bears coach Marc Trestman knows that won’t be easy for a rookie, no matter how promising a future he has in the defense.

“He hasn’t spent a lot of time out there, but he has played,” Trestman said. “He doesn’t have the experience that D.J. has, but he has speed and he’s an explosive young man. It’s just about working together with the guys and getting acclimated to the calls, and fits and things like that. I think we’ll do fine.”

To ensure that happens, Bostic said that in addition to taking copious notes during meetings, he’s picked the brains of Lance Briggs, Anderson and Williams. Naturally, Bostic’s grasp of the system is better now than it was during the preseason.

Still, Bostic says there’s a long way to go before he’s exactly where he wants to be.

“I feel more ready each and every day,” Bostic said. “I’m understanding it more, reacting faster. Guys are helping me out. Lance, even D.J., James, they’re watching me, making sure I’m making the calls as well because anything can happen. I’ve got three great linebackers in that meeting room. To learn from them each and every day, like I said before when I first got here, not too many people can walk into a linebacker room, and have the number of years that (fellow rookie linebacker) Khaseem (Greene) and I both were able to walk into. So we’ve been taking full advantage of that.”


The Chicago Bears will now accelerate the ascension of rookie linebacker Jonathan Bostic into the starting lineup on the heels of Friday's news that starter D.J. Williams is out for the season with a ruptured left pectoral muscle tendon.

Bostic
But don’t look at Bostic as an upgrade, because he’s not; not yet, at least.

Certainly, Bostic made plays filling in for Williams, who missed the entire preseason with a strained calf, and finished the exhibition portion of the schedule with 13 tackles and an interception returned 51 yards for a touchdown at Carolina. But Bostic made several mistakes, which are typical for a rookie in the summer, yet crushing when the games count in the regular season.

Had Bostic clearly displayed in the preseason that he was a better option in the middle than Williams, the team would have given the rookie the starting job. Instead, the Bears put an out-of-shape Williams on the field for the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

What’s disappointing for the staff is Williams was finally returning to the player that had collected 90 tackles or more -- including 170 in 2007 -- in five of the past six seasons. Prior to the Thursday's win over the New York Giants, Williams posted 11 tackles on Oct. 6 against New Orleans, and two games before that, the linebacker sacked Ben Roethlisberger twice in a win at Pittsburgh.

Bostic definitely possesses the physical capabilities to play at a high level, but the expectation shouldn’t be that he does it overnight. Stepping in for Williams against the Giants late in the third quarter, Bostic played the final 21 snaps and struggled.

“He got in, got his nose in it, and found out that some of the stuff that we see in practice and the preseason is a little bit different on the field,” teammate Lance Briggs said.

Luckily for Bostic, however, the Bears have plenty of time to prepare the rookie second-round pick for next Sunday’s game at Washington. The club begins preparation for that game on Monday, and goes on its bye the next week before a Nov. 4 matchup at Green Bay.

“He’s going to get a lot of work on Monday and during the week,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “It’s the next-man-up mentality, and I think he’s mentally ready to take on playing that position.”

Perhaps he is. More than likely, he’s not. But at this point, it’s on the coaching staff to get him ready.
DETROIT -- Detroit Lions receiver Kris Durham covered up an onside kick return when he got hit in the back, defenseless.

After Detroit’s 40-32 win against Chicago on Sunday, Durham’s coach, Jim Schwartz, defended his receiver and took issue with player safety rules.

“Kris Durham made a couple big plays at the end and probably no bigger than recovering the last onside kick. He took a big shot for it, too,” Schwartz said. “I still can’t believe, we talk a lot about player safety and things like that and he’s laying prone on the ground and giving himself up and takes a helmet right to the back and we don’t get any call there.

“It’s a little hypocritical to talk about player safety when we allow that to not get called. Kris toughed it out and had to hold on to that ball and he did. He did a nice job today.”

Durham was hit on the play by Chicago Bears linebacker Jonathan Bostic.

Durham, who saw more snaps in place of injured wide receiver Nate Burleson, had three catches for 58 yards against Chicago.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The call for rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to become a bigger part of the Vikings' offense, it seems, is getting louder.

When he was asked why the first-round pick only got five snaps in the Vikings' first game against the Detroit Lions, coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said the team had more in its playbook for Patterson than it got to use on a day where the Vikings ran just 39 plays in the first 3 1/2 quarters. Then Patterson ran the game's opening kickoff back 105 yards for a touchdown against the Bears on Sunday -- and got just six snaps.

[+] EnlargeCordarrelle Patterson
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsVikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson has shown glimpses of his potential, including a kickoff return for a TD against the Bears.
Frazier didn't mince words when asked about it on Monday.

"We’re going to get that rectified," Frazier said. "He definitely deserves to be on the field more. He’s shown that in the few snaps he’s gotten in the first two ball games. Hopefully, everything being equal, that should not be a part of the conversation next week. We want to get him on the field. He’s one of our explosive players, for sure. We see what he does when he gets the ball in his hands so we have to get him on the field."

It's not often Frazier is that frank in his calls for a certain player to see a bigger role in the game plan, and given the fact Frazier said it after answering a series of questions about how often he's willing to interject with his coordinators, it stands to reason that Patterson won't be so hard to find on the field going forward. It is interesting, though, that the Vikings have been so slow to use Patterson, given what they gave up to get him.

On draft night in April, general manager Rick Spielman was talking to reporters about the Vikings' other two first-round picks -- defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes -- when he got word that the New England Patriots were open to dealing the 29th overall pick to the Vikings for a second- , third- , fourth- and seventh-round pick. Spielman sprinted back to the Vikings' draft room, completed the deal and minutes later, Patterson was headed to Minnesota.

In making that trade, the Vikings effectively forfeited their chance to use one of their top picks on a middle linebacker after both Frazier and linebackers coach Mike Singletary said the team planned to go after one. Spielman said after the draft that Patterson was the only player the Vikings liked enough to move back into the first round and take, and in finalizing the Patterson pick, the Vikings assured themselves they wouldn't get Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree (who went 30th overall to the Rams), Notre Dame's Manti Te'o (38th overall to the Chargers), LSU's Kevin Minter (45th to the Cardinals), Florida's Jonathan Bostic (50th to the Bears) or Kansas State's Arthur Brown (56th to the Ravens). Only Brown would have been available with the Vikings' second-round pick, but with two fourth-rounders, the team would have had some collateral to move up if it wanted a linebacker.

As it is, the Vikings have looked like they might need a little help at the position. Erin Henderson moved from weakside linebacker to the middle and has struggled his first two weeks (Pro Football Focus currently ranks Henderson 47th among the 50 inside linebackers who have played 25 percent of their team's snaps). The two Penn State linebackers the Vikings did draft -- fourth-rounder Gerald Hodges and seventh-rounder Michael Mauti -- haven't seen the field yet. Desmond Bishop, whom the Vikings signed in the offseason, is sitting behind Marvin Mitchell at weakside linebacker and has played just two snaps. And the two dual-threat running backs the Vikings have faced -- Reggie Bush and Matt Forte -- posted 191 and 161 rushing and receiving yards against the Vikings, respectively.

None of this is to say the Vikings won't improve at linebacker or that Patterson won't become a bigger part of the game plan soon. But as much as the Vikings gave up to get him, and as highly as they valued his explosiveness both as a receiver and a kick returner, it's been interesting to watch how little they've used him in their first two losses, particularly when he's given them some glimpses of what he can do.

"We’re well aware of his talents -- even on the smoke screen when we threw it out and he got 14 yards [on Sunday]," Frazier said. "He doesn’t get lost. We’ll get it rectified."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Finally, it’s time for the Bears to kick off the regular season Sunday, when they host the Cincinnati Bengals at Soldier Field.

Let’s take a look at five things to keep an eye on in this matchup:

Rookies on right side of OL: The debuts of rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills at right guard and right tackle, respectively, seems to have been one of the most widely debated topics all offseason. Well, now it becomes real.

Long is set to be the first rookie to start at right guard for the Bears in the Super Bowl era. In fact, the Bears haven’t started multiple rookies on opening day since 1998.

“That’s a cool trivia question,” Long joked. “I try not to focus on that type of stuff. It’s a good tidbit to know. But right now, I’m so focused on who to block on inside zone right and that kind of stuff. That stuff is far more important to me at this point.”

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesProtecting Jay Cutler remains a top priority for Chicago's offensive line.
It definitely should be. Long and Mills face a Bengals defensive line that accounted for 43 of the team’s record 51 sacks in 2012, and led by defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who led all NFL interior linemen last season with 12 sacks.

“Just having another rookie [in Long] to go through it with you is priceless,” Mills said. “They have a great front seven with Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Rey Maualuga and the rest of the guys. But we’re trying to be a great offense. We’re going to come in there with a great game plan and we’re going to be fine.”

The new offense: In terms of diversity with formations and play calling, this will be the most extensive look at the Bears' offense we’ve seen since the Aug. 23 preseason game at Oakland. Look for tons of shifts, formations and plays that get the ball out of Jay Cutler’s hands quickly, not to mention some plays designed to move the pocket.

“The game plan is put together relative to how much we get practiced, how we want to spread the ball around,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Certainly it all starts with how we want to attack running and throwing the football. It’s just a process you go through every Monday and Tuesday so to speak, during the course of a normal week; who you want to feature, how you want to use personnel groupings, how you want to use formations to be able to create advantages and working toward the strengths and weaknesses of the teams you’ll be playing.”

Trestman sounds as if Chicago’s playbook is much deeper than what the team will select to execute against the Bengals. That’s definitely a positive the Bears haven’t had in the years before Trestman.

D.J. Williams at middle linebacker: Trestman said Williams will play, but wouldn’t give an indication of what degree, whether he’ll be starting or how much he’ll contribute. It’s expected that Williams will start in the middle alongside Lance Briggs and James Anderson. But when you consider how much time Williams missed (virtually the entire training camp and preseason), it’s reasonable to question whether the linebacker’s conditioning level will be up to par to where he can play an entire four quarters.

It’s also worth noting that Williams has missed the preseason the past two years, which means Sunday might not be as difficult for him as we think.

“I don’t what to say I’m used to it, but I’ve been through this before,” Williams said. “Being a veteran guy, you kind of know what you need to do to get yourself prepared for the game. I know coming into the first game there’s going to be a little gas, a little winded. But the first game of the season, everybody is going to be kind of like that.”

If Williams can’t play the entire game, the Bears are confident they can go to Jonathan Bostic, who put together a strong enough preseason to inspire confidence in his ability to be a starter.

“I’m preparing like I’m a starter,” Bostic said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

Julius Peppers vs. Anthony Collins: The Bengals might be thinking “uh-oh” when looking at this matchup on paper. Cincinnati Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth is listed as doubtful heading into the game, which means the Bengals will line up Collins at the position, where he’ll take on Peppers.

Look for the Bears to try to exploit the loss of Whitworth with Peppers, who is coming off a 2012 campaign in which he posted 11.5 sacks.

Former Bengals offensive lineman Dave Lapham, who is not a radio analyst told ESPN 1000’s “Chicago Gamenight” on Thursday how he expected Cincinnati to handle Peppers without Whitworth in the fold.

ESPNChicago.com’s Jeff Dickerson takes you deeper.

“I don’t think he’ll have movement issues with respect to Julius Peppers, but Peppers can bull rush you now, too,” Lapham said. “He’s a strong dude. So I’ll be interested to see if Collins can hang in there against that bull rush that Peppers can employ to complement that quickness that he’s got.”

Devin Hester exclusively as a return man: Hester worked all offseason exclusively as a return man, with the team stripping away his duties as a receiver. Now it’s time to see if the extra focus on returns will pay off for Hester, who didn’t receive much action in the preseason. Hester took part in just five returns (three kickoffs and two punts) and gained a combined 94 yards, with his longest runback being a 45-yard kickoff return.

Given that Hester is in a contract year, expect him to put together one of the best return seasons of his career. Hester needs only one more return touchdown to tie Hall of Famer Deion Sanders for the most career return touchdowns. My guess is Hester winds up breaking the record by Week 9.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman announced Friday that receiver Earl Bennett, linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive tackle Henry Melton will play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but declined to say how much.

Trestman said the team would meet later Friday to “make final decisions” on how to distribute repetitions among the trio, which all recently returned from injuries. The Bears completed the week leading into Sunday without a single player listed on the injury report.

“We’ll make some decisions on how much and who will start at the end of the day,” Trestman said. “So I’m not ready to make a commitment there to who will be the first linebacker, or the first wide receiver to go out on the field. But we’ll certainly know by the end of the day. I just want to talk to our coaches one more time about that.”

All indications are that Bennett will play sparingly as the third receiver, while Williams and Melton are expected to start. Bennett and Melton were recently cleared after suffering concussions, while Williams returned to the practice field on Monday after missing virtually the entire preseason due to a calf injury.

“I think Earl will play this game,” Trestman said. “I don’t know how much, but he’ll play and certainly continue to play more as he works himself into things. How much he plays will just be relative to how he feels out there and what his conditioning level is. He’s very confident he can go the distance. We’ll watch him closely and see.”

Because of William’s injury, the Bears played the entire preseason with rookie Jonathan Bostic at middle linebacker. But all week, Bostic and Williams have rotated with the starters, according to a source.

Similar to Bennett’s situation, there’s concern as to whether Williams can play an entire four quarters after missing so much of the preseason.

“I think he’s in good condition,” Trestman said. “I don’t know if he’s in great condition. I don’t know if we’ll know until we see whether he can take a significant amount of action. We’ll see how things go on Sunday. I believe he’ll play. How much will be relative to game-like conditions, where it’s physical out there, and we’re running sideline to sideline.”

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.

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