The Bears (1-2) travel to Cleveland (1-2) on Sunday. Both teams had time to rest up after enjoying the bye week. The Bears will pit their struggling offense against the lowly defense of the Browns. On the other side of the ball, the Bears' revamped defense will face a challenge from the surprising Browns' aerial attack (ranked fifth overall), led by veteran Trent Dilfer.
S Cameron Worrell (IR-shoulder); LB Marcus Reese (IR-shoulder); LB Rod Wilson (IR-knee); WR Airese Currie (NFI—foot); FB Jason McKie (NFI-pectoral); FB Bryan Johnson (PUP-foot); CB Alfonso Marshall (PUP-knee).
S Atwan Harris (IR-shoulder); OT Jonathan Dunn (IR-ankle); TE Keith Heinrich (IR-knee); TE Kellen Winslow (NFI-knee); OT Lewis Dawson (NFI-ankle).
Rookie Kyle Orton is looking to bounce back from a five interception disaster at the hands of the Bengals two weeks ago. Orton was elevated to starter after Rex Grossman broke his ankle in the preseason, and Chad Hutchinson floundered to the point of getting cut. The Bears are hoping to see incremental improvement from him. Tight end Desmond Clark (neck) left the last game early with a stinger and is expected to return to action this week. If he is limited, John Gilmore and Gabe Reid will see more action. Marc Edwards continues to start at fullback for Bryan Johnson and Jason McKie until they're ready to come off injured reserve. Edwards has helped pave the way for Thomas Jones, who has done well to keep rookie Cedric Benson on the bench.
Outside linebacker Matt Stewart is hoping to return from a knee injury he suffered in the first game of the year. Stewart's absence has provided an opportunity for Chaun Thompson to make a few big plays. Left defensive end Orpheus Roye is questionable, but expected to play. It wouldn't be a surprise to see his status upgraded closer to game time. He'll draw Fred Miller as his assignment on Sunday.
The Browns have struggled to stop opposing offenses, regardless of whether it is against the run or pass. In spite of this, they do present a different look for the line, since they play in a 3-4 alignment. Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner worked more shotgun formations into practices during the week off. Center Olin Kreutz's comfort level with the snap will be crucial against this alignment because he'll have someone lined up across from him. Expect the Bears to minimize Kyle Orton's chances to make mistakes by running the ball right into the heart of the Browns' defense. Look for the Browns to blitz Orton from many different locations, and to test the maturity of right guard Terrence Metcalf, who struggled in the past when it came to passing and picking up shifting or blitzing defenders.
BEARS DEFENSE vs. BROWNS OFFENSE
The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. Ogunleye played at less than full strength on a sprained ankle against Cincinnati. He's the Bears' only defensive lineman to have registered a sack (two). He'll have a favorable matchup against Ryan Tucker, although the Browns have only allowed four sacks. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris has not played up to par because of nagging ankle and back injuries. He'll face off with Cosey Coleman much of the game. Jerry Azumah is still on the injury report (preseason hip surgery). He is being used mostly in nickel and dime packages. This has allowed second-year cornerback Nathan Vasher to become a starter. Vasher missed a jam at the line in the last game, resulting in a touchdown. He has been mostly a positive, collecting three interceptions in three games.
The week off helped quarterback Trent Dilfer as well. He was noticeably limping in his previous start against the Colts, who sacked him four times. His knee is better, and he's expected to start. Rookie Charlie Frye is his backup. An ankle injury to Lee Suggs during the preseason paved the way for Reuben Droughns to win the running back job. Suggs is finally healthy enough to play, and could be a factor as a change of pace. Tight end Aaron Shea is also back to full strength, joining Steve Heiden.
The Browns have been very efficient on offense and serve as an example of what the Bears' offense could be with more consistency. They will seek to pound the ball with Droughns, and then use the short passing game to keep Dilfer upright and the chains moving. The Browns rushed for over 200 yards against the Bears in the final week of the preseason. Look for the Bears' defensive linemen to get their hands up to disrupt Dilfer's passing lanes, and to play disciplined football to shut down the running game. The Browns like employ maximum pass protection sets. It will be interesting to see how Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera chooses his spots to favor attacking and covering the Browns underrated passing attack.