|IR/PUP/NFI||S Cameron Worrell (IR-shoulder); LB Marcus Reese (IR-shoulder); LB Rod Wilson (IR-knee); WR (NFI-Airese Currie-foot); FB Jason McKie (NFI-pectoral); FB Bryan Johnson (PUP-foot); CB Alfonso Marshall (PUP-knee).||S Kim Herring (IR-shoulder); OT Adam Kieft (IR-knee); RB Kenny Watson (IR-biceps); LB Caleb Miller (PUP-ankle); OG Steven Vieira (PUP-foot); LB Nate Webster (PUP-knee).|
|Out||QB Rex Grossman (ankle); LB Joe Odom (ankle).||DE Duane Clemons (suspended).|
|Questionable||DE Adewale Ogunleye (ankle).||S Anthony Mitchell (hamstring); WR Chris Henry (foot).|
|Probable||CB Jerry Azumah (hip).||None.|
The Bears (1-1) host the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) on Sunday. The Bengals are off to a great start. They are led by quarterback Carson Palmer's five touchdowns, 71 percent completion rate, and over six hundred passing yards in just two games. The Bears' defense, having allowed only 15 points in two games, makes this a classic contest. They intercepted five Joey Harrington passes last week against Detroit.
Rookie Kyle Orton will make his third start. Rex Grossman's ankle injury has led to Orton's early insertion into the starting lineup. Orton was a model of efficiency in last week's game against the Lions. Fullback Marc Edwards showed great improvement in last week's game as well. He helped lead the way for a rushing attack that pounded out 187 yards. Edwards was signed after injuries to Bryan Johnson and Jason McKie. Edwards will have a big challenge blocking rookie standout Odell Thurman (13 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception).
Since Kim Herring was lost for the season, the Bengals moved former XFL cornerback Kevin Kaesviharn to strong safety. This could be a good matchup for tight end Desmond Clark, who has caught the ball well thus far in the season. Defensive end Duane Clemons' pass rushing skills have been missed. He was suspended for the first four games for violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Robert Geathers will start in his place and find John Tait on the other side of the ball. Geathers' isn't a threat to rush the passer, but he's a stout defender who will be a challenge to get movement on in run blocking situations.
The defense isn't the first thing people like to discuss when talking about the Bengals. However, they have picked off seven passes in two games. This hasn't been the result of great pass rush pressure (they only have two sacks). Instead, they have capitalized on predictability and opportunity. They thrive on putting their opponent in obvious passing situations, which arise from their offense's ability to get out to a quick lead. Look for the Bengals to check the tape from the Washington game when it comes to stopping the Bear offense. If they do, they'll try to confuse the blocking assignments by shifting their linemen late, and sending some blitzes from odd angles to generate a pass rush. For the Bears to be successful, they'll need to continue with their patient attack from last week. The focus should be on slowing the Bengals down with a power running game and timing-based passing assault. Rookie Kyle Orton's latest challenge will involve being patient enough to keep the Bengals off the field while keeping the chains moving.
Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye suffered an ankle sprain early in last week's contest and did not return. If he cannot play, Michael Haynes is likely to see significant action. Haynes and tackle Alfonso Boone received the majority of Ogunleye's reps in last week's game. This is a credit to Boone's versatility, but is not a certainty to be repeated this week. Israel Idonije was a game day inactive against Detroit. If the decision on Ogunleye can be made soon enough, Idonije is likely to be activated. Whoever sees reps at that spot will square off against veteran Willie Anderson, who is nursing a sore knee. At the other tackle, Levi Jones has had a sore knee as well. Alex Brown gets that matchup. Brown has been very quiet thus far. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris downplayed what appeared to look like an ankle injury in practice leading up to the first week of the season. He hasn't appeared on any injury reports, but his overall play has not been up to par. He'll be working against Bobbie Williams.
Rookie wide receiver Chris Henry is nursing a shoulder injury. Kevin Walter will see more action as a result. Cornerback Jerry Azumah has been gradually getting more action at both cornerback and kickoff returns since having hip surgery during training camp. In the meantime, Nathan Vasher stepped in as the starter, responding with three interceptions. Azumah is close to full strength, but is going to be hard-pressed to regain his full-time starting position from the playmaking Vasher.
Cincinnati has the top offense in the NFL. It will be interesting to see what Ron Rivera's defense does to stop their balanced attack. After wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, their threats at wide receiver are minimal. As a consequence, the Bears will play a little less of their nickel package than they did last week. This means Hunter Hillenmeyer (strong side linebacker) will stay in the game longer to stop the ample running attack of Rudi Johnson and Chris Perry. It also means they'll need to get consistent play from corners Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher even though they may not always have safety help. Expect the Bengals to continue to throw the ball down the field, and for the Bears to seek out cracks in their protection (only two sacks allowed thus far) via the blitz.