Inside Slant: August 13

The Bears resume training camp in Bourbonnais on Monday evening after opening the preseason schedule with a 20-19 comeback win over the Texans in Houston this weekend. Although field position was a problem all night and the coverage units didn't play particularly well, both the offense and defense looked ahead of last season's pace. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at Scout.com.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
WR Devin Hester's debut as a full-time receiver was fairly mellow, as he caught one pass for 12 yards ...

WR Brandon Rideau made a strong statement for the No. 6 receiver spot, if the Bears keep that many, with three catches for 43 yards ...

RB Cedric Benson led the Bears with 23 rushing yards on five carries and also caught three passes for 11 yards ...

MLB Brian Urlacher missed the preseason opener with "general soreness," after missing the previous three days of practice ...

DT Tommie Harris missed the first preseason game with sore knees. He had been limited in practice for the previous several days.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: WR Mark Bradley vs. WR Rashied Davis vs. WR Devin Hester
Mark Bradley was an afterthought in the passing game last season, but he had worked his way into the starting lineup a year earlier as a rookie. Plans are for him to play a bigger role this season, even though the Bears have more weapons than they did a year ago, including last year's No. 3, Rashied Davis, and the sensational Devin Hester, who's still learning the position but has unlimited potential.

Bradley is benefiting from a return to health after suffering a season-ending knee injury as a rookie in Game 7 of the 2005 season and a nagging ankle injury last year.

"Mark's having a good camp," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "Mark's healthy this year. Last year he wasn't healthy in camp. He'd practice a day or two and be off a day or two. He's playing a lot faster right now. He's playing with a lot more confidence, so we will definitely have a role for him."

Bradley had just 14 catches last season, but he's looking to make more of an impact in his third pro season and had a team-best 47 receiving yards Saturday.

"I know what I'm made of and what I'm capable of doing," he said. "I think that the Bears know the same. They trust that I am [ready]."

Bradley wasted little time making a statement, as he caught passes of 16 and 31 yards from backup quarterback Brian Griese shortly after entering Saturday night's game late in the first quarter.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: LB Brendon Ayanbadejo vs. LB Jamar Williams vs. LB Michael Okwo
Because of minor injuries to starters Brian Urlacher and Hunter Hillenmeyer, the numbers are dwindling at linebacker. But that's giving more non-starters more snaps and more opportunities to claim the two or three backup spots.

Rookie Michael Okwo (knee) has also missed several practices.

All that left Jamar Williams filling in for Urlacher in the middle and Brendon Ayanbadejo playing some for Hillenmeyer on the strong side, where Okwo had gotten some work with the first string earlier in camp when Hillenmeyer was ill. In the preseason opener, Rod Wilson was second on the Bears with five tackles.

"Coming in we felt like we had good depth, and right now the next guys will just move up," coach Lovie Smith said. "We'll take a long look at Rod Wilson while the other players are out. Jamar Williams is still going strong. None of the injuries are serious, but you just get a chance to take a long look at some of those guys who are fighting for jobs."

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QB Brian Griese
After an interception on his first pass, the backup to Rex Grossman hit 4 of 4 passes for 61 yards and a TD on the next series and finished 6-of-7 for 72 yards and a 109.5 passer rating. Griese had been unimpressive at best through most of training camp.

ROOKIE REPORT
On the first play from scrimmage in the first preseason game, first-round TE Greg Olsen caught a five-yard dump-off from Rex Grossman. "We wanted to get him involved quickly," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "I think he'll make a lot of those catches." Later on the opening drive Olsen, had a 12-yard reception for a first down ...

Second-round DE Dan Bazuin returned to practice on a limited basis after missing more than a week with a knee injury, but he did not dress for Saturday's game ...

Third-round RB Garrett Wolfe got several touches in the first preseason game but was unable to flash much of the magic he showed at NIU. He picked up just 15 yards on seven carries and caught two passes for five yards. He also returned three kickoffs for 59 yards ...

Third-round LB Michael Okwo missed most of last week's practice time with a knee injury and did not play in Saturday's game ...

Fourth-round OG/C Josh Beekman of Boston College is buried on the depth chart behind a talented and veteran group of starters on the offensive line, but he has a chance to become the top backup at one or more of the three interior positions. "He's a quick, explosive player," Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said, "and it shows up at both [guard and center]." ...

Fifth-round CB Corey Graham just missed an interception in the fourth quarter against the Texans, but he had three tackles and one pass break-up ...

Seventh-round cornerback Trumaine McBride has already played so impressively that the Bears were content to trade veteran Dante Wesley, leaving McBride as the top backup to starter Charles Tillman.

"It basically lets me know that I'm doing something right, so that really helps my confidence level," McBride said. "I just have to come into the game focused to let people know I can play in this league and to be ready to play in case we get an injury."

McBride tied for second on the team Saturday night with 4 solo tackles ...

Seventh-round OT Aaron Brant, who is a long shot at best to make the 53-man roster, missed the preseason opener with a leg injury.

INJURY REPORT
Three veteran starters, OLT John Tait, MLB Brian Urlacher and DT Tommie Harris did not dress for Saturday night's game because of, in the words of Lovie Smith, "general soreness." Two rookies, OT Aaron Brant (leg) and LB Michael Okwo (knee), also did not play, along with FB Jon Goldsberry (hamstring).

Camp Calendar: Bears camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais concludes after an 11 a.m. practice on Saturday, Aug. 18.


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