Israel Idonije didn't have a starting job when the Bears went to training camp, but he has taken ownership of the left defensive end spot, and he racked up a career-best three sacks Sunday against the Panthers.
Idonije played behind Mark Anderson in the season opener, with the two splitting reps, but he has started four consecutive games and Anderson was released last week.
"There's a reason why we went with him," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's done some good things, and he made some plays that stood out [Sunday]."
Idonije, a seven-year veteran, never had more than 3.5 sacks in a season, but he's already got four this year. The 6-6, 270-pounder had also never started more than three games in a season and had been bounced between end and tackle, in addition to playing special teams, for most of his career.
Idonije, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and grew up in Canada, said he hadn't enjoyed a personal performance equal to Sunday's since he was at Manitoba University.
"This is what I expect of myself," he said. "This is my eighth year, and I've been saying it my whole career: I've been looking for an opportunity to get locked in to one position, not play special teams and really develop.
"For them to say, 'Well, all right, here's your opportunity,' [is huge]. The ball is in my court. Now it's, 'What are you going to do with it to produce and make big plays.'"
For the first time in his life, Idonije has a starting job, and with Anderson gone, he seems to be entrenched across the line from Julius Peppers. But Idonije isn't taking anything for granted, keeping in mind what happened with Anderson.
"My focus hasn't changed," he said. "I'm not blinking. I know that whole situation that went down just opens your eyes to what kind of business this is. It's all about production."
RB Chester Taylor is still averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, but he has assumed the role of short-yardage ball carrier. He had a season-high 18 carries in Week 5, although he produced just 43 yards. ...
WR Devin Hester had five catches for a mere 16 yards in the past two games after netting zero on two receptions Sunday. But the struggles of Collins have a lot to do with Hester's slump. And he is averaging 12.8 yards as a punt returner, after a season-long 50-yarder last week. ...
WR Johnny Knox had one catch for 14 yards last week in the Bears' conservative approach, but he's still averaging a team-best 20.9 yards on 13 receptions. ...
WR Devin Aromashodu saw more playing time last week than he has since the season opener, although he failed to catch a pass for the fourth straight game. ...
OT Chris Williams should be back at practice this week as he continues to recover from the hamstring injury he suffered in Week 2, but he is probably no better than questionable for Sunday's game. ...
WR Earl Bennett is tied for the team lead among wideouts with 13 catches, but he has picked up just 80 yards for a 6.2-yard average. ...
QB Caleb Hanie could move past Collins on the depth chart this week. He has played very little (5-of-7 passing for 55 yards) but has been solid, while Collins was awful.
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