Stop me if you've heard this before: The Chicago Bears aren't revealing their starting lineup for Sunday's contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.
That includes the offensive line, which will be without starting center WIll Montgomery for the rest of the year due to a broken leg.
The team yesterday elevated offensive lineman Nick Becton from the practice squad yesterday, but he's a tackle, which is no help at center.
Unless the Bears sign a veteran today or tomorrow, it looks like the offensive line will make do with the players it has.
That leaves the team with a couple of options. Matt Slauson can stay at center, where he filled in last week, with Patrick Omameh at left guard. The other option is to use third-round rookie Hroniss Grasu at center, with Slauson at his normal left guard spot.
Apparently, the Bears are experimenting with multiple formations in practice, as Grasu said today he took reps with the first team. Where he took those reps is still unknown but it's clear the coaching staff is at least considering Grasu, who was inactive the first four games of the regular season. He struggled in training camp and was routinely pushed back by second- and third-team players in the preseason.
In terms of getting the best five players on the field, Grasu doesn't fit, which makes a Omameh/Slauson combo at LG/C more likely. The problem there is that Omameh did not practice today due to an ankle injury. If he can't play against the Chiefs, the Bears may have no other choice but to play Grasu at either guard or center.
In addition, Jermon Bushrod is still going through the concussion protocol and has not returned to practice, which could mean another start for Charles Leno at left tackle.
Safety Antrel Rolle (ankle) did not practice today and he appears unlikely to play this week. In the second half against the Raiders, Harold Jones-Quartery replaced Rolle, yet defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was hesitant to anoint Jones-Quartey, an undrafted rookie, the Week 5 starter.
"He needs more practice," Fangio said. "He did OK. But in defense of him, he hasn’t been getting a lot of reps. He’s just been here a couple of weeks. Anytime you have to play this early in the season and you just got here and you weren’t in the offseason and then training camp getting reps, you’re behind the eight ball, and he was behind the eight ball. But he survived. There were plays that he could have played better and should have played better, and hopefully now with a week’s practice, he’ll do better.”
Fangio said Chris Prosinski, signed last week, Sherrod Martin, signed today, and Demontre Hurst, elevated from the practice squad yesterday, will compete with Jones-Quartey for the starting gig alongside Adrian Amos.
Of the four, Hurst is the likeliest candidate. He started 10 games at nickelback for the Bears last season and transitioned to safety during the preseason.
“He’s got good football savvy-ness," Fangio said of Hurst. "He understands the game. He’s versatile. He can play nickel. He can play safety. He can play corner. When you’re picking your team and you’re down to the eighth, ninth and 10th DB, they’ve got to have some versatility. So when you have games like what happened on Sunday, you have people that you can put in there, that’s been through it with ya. The more guys that you have at the bottom of your secondary roster that are versatile the better off you’ll be.”
In his first three NFL seasons, all with the Washington Redskins, defensive end Jarvis Jenkins had 2.0 total sacks in 44 games. In four games for the Bears, he leads the team with 3.0 sacks, which he attributed to a quicker first step.
“Just getting off the ball," Jenkins said. "When Jared Allen was here, he preached that first step. I asked him back in the spring how he was so successful as a pass rusher. He said the get-off was really key. You’ve got to get into the offensive linemen before they get into you. If you get them back on their heels, that’s where you work your other stuff. If you don’t get them on their heels, then you’re a step back. The main thing I’m focusing on is getting that first step in the ground so I can get in the backfield a little quicker.”
Improving the timing of his pass rush is a product of film work, he said.
“Film study. If you know it’s a pass, you can get off a little quicker. If you don’t know if it’s a pass or run, you can’t really react as fast as you want to. It all comes from film study and knowing what you’re going to get.”
After not picking up a sack the first two weeks, Chicago's defense has six sacks combined the past two contests.
“You’re always going to be hungry to get to the quarterback," said Jenkins. "Sacks are hard to come by. I’ve got to just keep pressing that and not get complacent. Three’s definitely not enough. I want our whole defense to get that. I want Eddie Goldman to get three next week. It’s not about me, it’s about our whole defense. The thing about that, if I keep my sacks up, it’ll open up doors for Eddie, Rat, Ego and other guys just to get sacks as well.”
Good Luck Charm
The Chicago Cubs play the Pittsburgh Pirates in a winner-takes-all NL Wildcard game tonight. Fangio said he believe the Cubs will win the World Series, because he's coaching in Chicago.
“In San Francisco, I was there for five years, and the Giants won three World Series; they had never won one before," Fangio siad. "I was in Houston when they got to their only World Series. I bring good luck to the baseball teams.”