Head coach Lovie Smith named Kyle Orton his starting quarterback to give Orton a few weeks to prepare for the regular-season opener, and he responded with a strong effort against San Francisco on Thursday. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 147 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He finished with a 126.3 passer rating.
Meanwhile, Rex Grossman turned in his second consecutive lackluster performance, completing 1 of 4 passes for six yards. Granted, Grossman was hampered by poor offensive line play in the second preseason game, but he managed just 74 yards while hitting 9 of 15 passes and finished with a 44.9 passer rating as he failed to lead the offense past midfield in five possessions. Considering the line issues could linger well into the regular season, Smith needed to see more out of Grossman in Seattle to keep the competition open.
Orton finished 5-for-9 for 43 yards against the Seahawks, but was impressive in the two-minute offense completing 5 of 7 passes – including four to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for 37 yards.
Now that the Bears know who will be starting against the Colts, they have to address their pass-protection issues to give Orton a chance to succeed.
Left tackle Chris Williams' rookie season is in jeopardy following back surgery. Instead of moving John Tait back to the left side, the Bears have thus far kept him at his more natural right tackle spot, where he swapped to after Williams was selected in the first round of last April's draft.
Journeyman John St. Clair has been inserted at left tackle, where six of his 39 career starts have come. St. Clair played next to inexperienced second-year man Josh Beekman against Seattle and San Francisco with starting left guard Terrence Metcalf sidelined following a knee scope.
Metcalf is hoping to play in the final preseason game, giving Beekman a chance to win the starting job for the Colts game. It's a crash course for Beekman, who spent most of the offseason backing up center Olin Kreutz.
The Bears don't know what they have along the offensive line or at quarterback, but the quarterback decision figures to be popular among Bears fans, who gave Orton a rousing welcome at the team's Friday night practice at Soldier Field on Aug. 1 while Grossman was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos.
When Orton takes the field against the Colts, he will be making just his fourth regular-season start since 2005, when he started 15 games as a rookie. Orton started the final three games last season after not seeing a single snap through the first 13 games.
Following a 20-13 loss at Minnesota in which he threw an interception, Orton completed 21 of 42 passes for 294 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in leading victories at home against Green Bay and New Orleans to close out the season.
News & Notes
"Coming into camp we talked about him as a returner that a lot of people thought could play receiver," Smith said. "Now, I think it's safe to say that he's a receiver. He's doing all the things that we've asked him to do. I still make the same statement: I think he can be a one- or two-type receiver in the league. He's dangerous when he has his hands on the football, and we're excited about getting his hands on the ball in a lot of different ways."
Hester had just one catch for minus-2 yards in the third preseason game against San Francisco. …
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris has high expectations for this season, but the defense will have to stay healthier than last season for the Bears to live up to them.
"Why would I come to work if I didn't expect [to be dominant]?" Harris said. "I don't expect us to be at the bottom like we were last year. So we have a new year, a new slate, and let's see the outcome."
The Bears finished 28th in yards allowed last season, when Harris played hurt much of the year and fellow defensive tackles Dusty Dvoracek, Anthony Adams and Darwin Walker missed a total of 24 games because of injuries. The 2007 defense allowed 93 more points than the 2006 edition.
"I think it speaks for itself, the injuries," Harris said. "If this unit is healthy, how far we can go? I think the sky's the limit."
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