When the Bears took the field Saturday night in their 23-11 win over the Indianapolis Colts, six of their 22 starters had fewer than two full seasons of NFL experience. What that means is change is afoot.
“We’re going to continue to compete,” said coach John Fox. “No jobs have been won yet. We’re still figuring out who our 53 best players are going to be. We’ll continue to do that. I thought we made progress tonight in really all phases, by no means have we arrived. If we can keep that mindset, I think we’ll continue to improve.”
Defensive lineman Ego Ferguson, cornerback Kyle Fuller and linebacker Christian Jones are in their second years. Will Sutton, also a second-year player, led all defensive linemen with 30 snaps, producing three tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. Ferguson, Fuller and Jones already are starting, and Sutton has played his way into a prominent role in the defensive line "wave" that Fox and coordinator Vic Fangio want.
And those don’t include the impact rookies already projecting to be game-day factors:
Charles Leno Jr., OT
Another of the Year 2’s, Leno has gone from a spot player as a sixth offensive lineman as a rookie to — for now — starting right tackle. He started badly with a hands-to-the-face penalty on the third play, was beaten by a tackle-for-loss, but right tackle is his job to lose.
Whether the Bears bring in a post-cutdown veteran to anchor that edge of the line remains to be seen. In the meantime, “It went well,” Leno said. “I feel like ever since that penalty I slowed my technique down and got back to fundamentals. ... Just playing the way I’ve been playing, just doing my job day in and day out. Just focus on the play you’re in. Being consistent is probably the biggest thing I want to do.”
Adrian Amos, S
Replacing Brock Vereen at free safety, the rookie appeared to have a lapse in providing deep support, resulting in a 45-yard first-quarter completion. He did finish with three tackles
“I think I did OK,” Amos said. “There are some things I can improve on, and I’m pretty sure coaches will see more things I can improve on. I’ll just take it all in.”
Eddie Goldman, NT
The rookie nose tackle didn’t start but he played 29 of the Colts’ snaps (45 percent) to 16 (25 percent) by Jeremiah Ratliff, and not all of Ratliff’s were at the nose in a straight three-man line. Goldman played the run extremely well and was able to collapse the pocket in three-linemen packages.
While Ratliff is the Bears’ best defensive linemen, Goldman is poised to be a de facto starter based on personnel groupings.
“You get more comfortable out there,” Goldman said. “I try to do the same thing every week, be as efficient as I can in every facet of the game.”
Jeremy Langford, RB
The preponderance of runs in the “new” Bears offense had Langford finishing with nine carries, Jacquizz Rodgers with nine and Matt Forte with eight. Langford is averaging 6.2 yards per carry, 80 total, second to Senorise Perry’s 6.4, 91 total, with Bears running backs averaging just under 4.7 per carry.
Langford’s play Saturday at Indianapolis — 80 yards and a two-yard touchdown carry — was a dramatic step up from his four carries for one net yard vs. Miami. “He’s grown very well,” Forte said. “He had a nice (46-yard) run, was really patient and set up the safety real well. He was able to break the tackle and get a long run. He’s come along nicely. That’s what we’ve been trying to do, establish that run and help the quarterbacks.”