Orton Gears Up for First Start

Lake Forest - Rookie quarterback Kyle Orton showed the Bears plenty of positive traits in the preseason - enough to be named the starting quarterback - but his job gets a lot tougher starting Sunday.

There isn't a situation that could be much more challenging for a rookie quarterback than the one Orton will face against the Redskins at noon Sunday in his NFL debut, but the Bears will do all they can to help him succeed.

Last year, Washington's defense was No. 2 in rushing yards allowed and third-down efficiency, No. 3 in total yards and No. 5 in points allowed in the NFL. They are expected to blitz on more than half of the Bears' passing downs, with a capacity crowd of 91,704 cheering them on at FedEx Field, the NFL's largest venue.

"Yeah, it's tough," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "It's a challenge. But I think he's embraced it. He's looked at it and said, 'Hey, let's go.' That's what life in the NFL is all about. You're going to play good people, so let's go play them."

"They do a lot of stuff, and I'm sure they're going to do more stuff, since it's going to be my first start," Orton said. "But really, it's just like any defense. If you stay out of third-and-longs, they can't do whole lot. So hopefully we can win first down and win second down and keep ourselves to manageable third downs."

But Orton won't be asked to win the game by himself - not by a long shot. The Bears know what a young quarterback in the NFL is likely to face, and they have been preparing him for it.

"Kyle being a rookie quarterback, he will face (frequent blitzing) most of the time," coach Lovie Smith said. "We have a veteran offensive line. It's Kyle's responsibility to just throw the ball. It's the responsibility of other guys around him to protect him, and they'll do that. We feel good about it. We're a running football team. That run will stop you from blitzing from time to time."

It also means passing when the Redskins are expecting runs and vice versa. The Bears must make the Washington defense respect its ability to run. The Bears were tied for 25th in rushing yards last season (101.5 per game), but they were much more effective in the preseason, rushing for an average of 132 yards in the first four games.

"Hopefully we can run the ball early," Turner said. "We've got to be able to play good defense, run the ball and maybe get a little continuity, get a couple first downs. Hopefully that will help settle him down."

Turner hopes to increase Orton's comfort level by, whenever possible, calling pass plays that the rookie prefers and executes well. That's been a staple of Turner's philosophy from the get-go.

"If there's something I really like, (but) they're not comfortable with it, we're not going to run it," Turner said. "It doesn't matter whether I like it in the press box. He and I talked Tuesday and went over a bunch of plays. There were a couple on the ready list that I liked that he said he wasn't real comfortable with, so I scratched them, took them out of there."

Turner and Orton planned to do the same thing Wednesday after practice, paring any plays from the list that the quarterback didn't care for, although Turner said there haven't been that many.

Orton hasn't given the slightest hint that he's intimidated or awed by anything he'll encounter Sunday. The crowd will be the largest anyone in the NFL will face, but he's played in front of much larger gatherings for Purdue at Michigan, where the "Big House" seats 107,501.

"I'm excited to play," Orton said. "I can't wait to play. It's going to be a great atmosphere, going on the road to a tough stadium. I love playing on the road with the fans all over you. As an offense, you've just got to band together, almost like you're in a war. Everybody just sticks together, and you'll get through it fine. Hopefully we can get off to a hot start and play from there."

SERIES HISTORY - 45th meeting. Bears lead 23-20-1. Bears and Redskins met in four NFL title games from 1937-43, with each team winning twice. The Bears beat the Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 championship game.


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