Defensive TackleFrom the players to the coaches to the front office, everyone in the Bears organization looked forward to Tommie Harris bouncing back and being a Pro Bowler again, but the former first-round pick has done next to nothing from a statistical perspective, lost his starting job at three technique to Matt Toeaina and was even deactivated for Week 3 against the Packers. Both Toeaina and nose tackle Anthony Adams have performed admirably against the run, although neither of them is a gifted pass rusher and they haven't done a great job applying pressure on the opposing quarterback. While second-year pro Henry Melton has flashed some ability here and there, the position group as a whole is average at best mostly because Harris is running on empty and Marcus Harrison is simply a game-day inactive at this point.
Bye Week Grade: C
Defensive EndJulius Peppers was the prize of the 2010 free-agent class and broke the bank when he signed a $91.5 million contract to leave Carolina for Chicago, and for the most part he has proven to be worth the money because he commands so much attention from enemy blockers. Finally coming into his own as a defensive player, Israel Idonije has been the primary beneficiary in Peppers' big shadow and leads the Bears with five sacks, which is a already a career-high for the seventh-year veteran. Still, the team is looking for a No. 3 end off the bench to provide some pressure in obvious passing situations, as Mark Anderson has been released, fourth-round pick Corey Wootton isn't the answer yet and undrafted free agent Barry Turner was only elevated to the 53-man roster last week.
Bye Week Grade: A-minus
LinebackerFans and critics alike were skeptical that Brian Urlacher could return to the form that made him a nearly-automatic pick for the Pro Bowl on a yearly basis, as back, neck and wrist injuries have kept him on the outside looking in at the league's all-star festivities the last three seasons, but the face of the franchise has been rejuvenated and is enjoying a sensational campaign through seven weeks. Before being slowed down by an ankle problem, Lance Briggs was again making a case to be known as the best weak-side linebacker in the NFL. Despite being locked in a battle with Nick Roach in training camp and the preseason for the right to start alongside Urlacher and Briggs, Pisa Tinoisamoa has put last year's knee issues behind him and is one of the unsung heroes on defense.
Bye Week Grade: B-plus
CornerbackMoved from right corner to left corner this season, which is considered a promotion in this version of the Cover 2, Zack Bowman was hoping to build on an impressive 2009 that saw him among the league leaders with six interceptions, but he got off to a terrible start and has since lost his job to free-agent signee Tim Jennings. Demoted from left corner to right corner, Charles Tillman continues to be one of the best DBs in football when it comes to forcing fumbles after the catch, although his coverage skills are diminishing daily and he was embarrassed by Seattle's Mike Williams – he set career-highs with 10 catches and 123 receiving yards – in Week 6 at Soldier Field. A pleasant surprise has been the play of second-year defender D.J. Moore, who took the nickel back assignment away from Corey Graham and hasn't disappointed the coaching staff for going with the youngster.
Bye Week Grade: C-plus
SafetyMost Bears fans didn't feel totally comfortable with Danieal Manning at strong safety and Chris Harris at free safety going into the season, especially since their specific skill sets suggest Manning would be better at free and Harris is more suited at strong, so everyone was expecting top pick Major Wright would work his way into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. But Wright tweaked a groin in training camp, needed surgery on his finger in the preseason and then pulled his hamstring in Week 2, so the rookie has made no impact even though he may turn out to be a real find in Round 3 before it's all said and done. In the meantime, Manning and Harris have turned out to be a decent pair, as the Bears are the only team in the league yet to surrender a pass play of 40-plus yards.
Bye Week Grade: B
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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Bye-Week Report Card: Defense
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