Matthew Postins: The Bears chose to stand pat at quarterback this offseason, even go so far as to trade Brian Griese back to Tampa Bay – thanks for that, by the way. I've never been a big fan of Kyle Orton, but through two games he's done a solid job. Has anything changed in his ability since last he was a starter?
John Crist: When Orton started 15 games as a fourth-round rookie out of Purdue back in 2005, keep in mind that he was given the job pretty much at the last minute after Rex Grossman got hurt in the preseason and Chad Hutchinson looked flat-out awful – the former pitcher went from No. 1 to out of the league entirely, as a matter of fact. Orton was forced to run a dialed-down offense because the coaching staff didn't trust him with the entire playbook, but the Bears still won 10 of those 15 games thanks to a strong running game and an improving defense. That's when his reputation as the proverbial "game manager" started to develop, even though he was every bit the gunslinger in college that Grossman was.
Additionally, Orton has really matured off the field, so no more infamous internet photos of him slugging a bottle of Jack Daniel's – he was even selected as a team captain, an honor Grossman never received.
MP: I don't think anyone is surprised that rookie RB Matt Forte is playing as much as he's playing. The production might surprise people a little bit, though. The Bears are a power-running team, and some might not see Forte as the right type of back. But he's been successful so far. Why?
JC: When the Bears were plodding along with Cedric Benson as the featured back this past season, the offense was entirely too predictable. Because of his ineptitude in the passing game, both catching the ball and picking up blocks, the former No. 4-overall pick could only be on the field in running situations. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner was forced to use Adrian Peterson when a pass was in order, so the enemy defense had a pretty good idea what was coming on most every snap just by looking into the backfield and seeing who was lined up seven yards behind the signal-caller.
Forte is an every-down player in every sense of the term, running tough between the tackles, using his speed to turn the corner, catching the ball beautifully as a receiver, muscling up in pass protection, and doing it all with a refreshingly humble team-first attitude – in other words, he's been the anti-Benson from the moment he arrived in the Windy City.
MP: Devin Hester may miss this game with a rib injury. At the least, he'll be banged up. If he can't return kicks and punts, who takes his place and what impact does that have on the Bears? Also, gauge how his injury might impact Chicago's offense – I'm guessing little to none.
JC: Since the Bears disclose injury information about as willingly as the United States government discloses the inner workings of Area 51, we still don't know exactly how banged up Hester truly is and may not until just before game time – he didn't practice Wednesday and likely won't Thursday or Friday either. If he can't suit up, Danieal Manning, a speed-merchant safety who had few impressive returns during the exhibition schedule, would take over on kickoffs. Punts will probably be handled by rookie wide receiver Earl Bennett, who had a touchdown return of his own in the preseason but has been inactive the first two weeks, although veteran cornerback Nathan Vasher could also get the nod.
While Hester's potential absence shouldn't have too much of an effect on Orton and Co. since he only caught two passes in two games, it will be that much harder for an already vertically-challenged offense to stretch the field.
MP: Through two games, I like what I've seen defensively from the Bears. They may not be playing at the Super-Bowl level of two years ago, but they're in the top 12 in all the major defensive categories. When I look at the roster, one thing sticks out: they're healthy. How much has that impacted the defense's play so far this year?
JC: I know it's lame for an NFL team to blame a poor campaign on injuries, but the Midway Monsters were absolutely decimated on the defensive side of the ball last season and saw several big-name players go down hard: torn ACLs for both Mike Brown and Dusty Dvoracek, a groin problem for Vasher, a knee sprain for Tommie Harris, and back issues for Brian Urlacher. Harris hasn't quite returned to Pro-Bowl form yet at three technique, but Dvoracek has been a mad man at nose tackle and finally appears to be living up to his potential after two years of ouchies. Having Vasher back has been a blessing for the secondary because it's just not the same unless he and fellow corner Charles Tillman are in the starting lineup together.
But the key is Brown, one of the premier safeties in football but constantly injured the last four seasons, and his ability to support the run while almost single-handedly taking away the deep ball at the same time.
MP: We all know about DT Tommie Harris and LB Lance Briggs. But tell me about a guy few people outside of Chicago don't know about that will have a big impact on Sunday's game.
JC: I've already mentioned Dvoracek and the impact he's had in the trenches, but backup tackles Israel Idonije and rookie Marcus Harrison have also played well and both have recorded a sack already. Alex Brown is once again the starter at right end after being unnecessarily benched in favor of Mark Anderson in 2007, and the former Florida Gator has responded with a sack in each of the first two games – he has always been a terrific run stopper, too. The Bears have seen all kinds of problems with injuries and ineffectiveness at both free and strong safety in recent memory, but second-year pro Kevin Payne is one of the coaching staff's favorites and continues to improve.
One spot to watch Sunday will be nickelback after the season-ending loss of safety Brandon McGowan, as Manning is next in line but could see his playing time taken away by reserve corner Corey Graham.
Be on the lookout for Part III of this three-part series on Friday. To go back and read Part I, where Matthew answers five questions from John, Click Here.
Behind Enemy Lines: Part II
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