Without Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman at the two cornerback positions, the coverage in the secondary simply isn't going to be all it can be. Yes, Nathan Vasher is as healthy as he's ever been and wants to get back to being the player that was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2005, but he hasn't made many plays defensively and still may be in jeopardy of losing his starting job to Bowman once the second-year pro returns from his strained hamstring. Corey Graham seems to have regressed to some degree after being jerked around from corner to safety to nickel throughout the offseason, and undrafted free agent Woodny Turenne has unquestionably outplayed fourth rounder D.J. Moore almost every day. ...
The receiving corps was a major question mark before the Bears arrived at Olivet Nazarene University, and deservedly so, but both Devin Hester and Earl Bennett look comfortable in the starting lineup and have performed well more often than not in workouts. Since there isn't a big wideout on the roster with a lot of game experience at this point, Brandon Rideau and Devin Aromashodu have each made a run at regular playing time and seem to have earned Cutler's trust already. Between rookies Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox, it was Knox who was impressive the first week but Iglesias who has opened more eyes the second week. ...
Although Nick Roach has gotten his share of first-team reps and Jamar Williams is apparently still in the running, Pisa Tinoisamoa will eventually be the starter at strong-side linebacker and should be a noticeable upgrade over what Roach and Hunter Hillenmeyer did a season ago. Hillenmeyer isn't a lock to make the 53-man roster by any stretch of the imagination, although he's been helped by the fact that fifth-round draft pick Marcus Freeman has done almost nothing to get noticed thus far. Lance Briggs has made the last four Pro Bowls and looks to be on his way to a fifth, and Brian Urlacher is moving around better than he has in quite some time and might be primed for a bounce-back performance. ...
Many experts assumed Josh Beekman was a candidate to be moved out of the starting lineup at left guard in favor of free agent signee Frank Omiyale, but apparently Omiyale's transition inside isn't going as smoothly as the franchise had hoped and Beekman may stay atop the depth chart. Future Hall of Fame left tackle Orlando Pace, like Urlacher, says he is healthier than he's been in a while and appears to have plenty of gas in the tank, while Chris Williams seems to be fitting in reasonably well at right tackle. Kevin Shaffer, yet another free agent pickup, can play either tackle spot and will be one of the more experienced backups in the league this season. ...
As far as special teams are concerned, it may be time to worry about speedster Danieal Manning having too much on his plate right now, as he's the free safety, nickel back and kickoff returner but probably won't play Saturday because of a recurring hamstring issue. Hester hasn't been overly enthusiastic when talking about being the punt returner in addition to his duties as the No. 1 receiver, so don't be shocked if he's pulled from special teams altogether if he struggles as badly as he did early on last year. The three specialists, Pro Bowl kicker Robbie Gould, veteran punter Brad Maynard and steady long snapper Patrick Mannelly, are still as reliable as any trio in football, although Mannelly is dealing with a bum hip and will likely step aside in favor of recent addition J.J. Milan for the preseason opener.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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