Bears

Job squeezes will intensify as Bears move into preseason games

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Job squeezes will intensify as Bears move into preseason games

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – With an actual preseason game (vs. a 36-play full scrimmage) looming this Thursday vs. the Miami Dolphins in Soldier Field, a depth chart is expected to be coming out. But it obviously won’t be binding and also will be subject to significant change over the next couple weeks going into game three at Cincinnati.

Understand that every practice does count, and scrimmages like Saturday’s in Soldier Field count a little more. But those are all quizzes, vs. games, which are “tests” and count considerably more.

But observations are possible on both sides of the football, with particular focus on a couple of spots:

Wide receiver

Kevin White has been a story line this training camp by virtue of being the No. 7 pick of the draft and not on the field yet. That will move to a different phase this week, and no one expects White to have health problems as the regular season unfolds.

Eddie Royal projects to be the best No. 3 receiver since Bobby Engram was the depth behind Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham back in the Dave Wannstedt era. And a triad of White, Royal and Alshon Jeffery, on top of Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, should be the equal of any five “skill” players in the NFC, possibly the league as a whole.

[WATCH: Bears Life with Ryan Mundy]

But the falloff after Jeffery, Royal and White is concerning, because Marquess Wilson does not appear to have the confidence of quarterback Jay Cutler or the hoped-for upside the Bears saw in him. Wilson has had route-running issues and too many drops for a top-three receiver, and he is of no value on special teams.

It would surprise no one if the Bears secured an upgrade at No. 4 once cuts start coming later this month.

Defensive line/linebacker

The chances of Willie Young securing a roster spot have become increasingly problematic as camp has gone on and he is still unable to participate fully in practice work.

The issue, apart from the obvious Achilles rehab and comeback, is that he’s a true ‘tweener on a team that clearly values position flexibility but right now has too many players who do that better than Young. He has been a 4-3 rush end, as was Jared Allen before this year.

But Allen has flashed impressive playmaking as an edge rusher/linebacker in a two-point stance. And while Lamarr Houston is himself coming off a season ending knee injury, he has done that exact hybrid job as an Oakland Raider.

[MORE: Bears defense reaching much-needed comfort points]

Add to that a simple numbers squeeze: Ego Ferguson, Eddie Goldman and Jeremiah Ratliff have had strong camps auditioning for the starting “3” in 3-4. Jarvis Jenkins can play either five-technique spot (Young cannot), and Cornelius Washington bulked up to 285 pounds has been a camp factor and is a proven force on special teams. Allen can be counted among the linemen as well, and undrafted nose tackle Terry Williams has had moments.

Linebacker has the four current starters (Acho, Jones, McClellin, McPhee) plus Jonathan Bostic and Mason Foster capable of playing inside. That’s six, and DeDe Lattimore has contributed on special teams (Young does not).

And special teams are very much a tipping point.

“Typically most rosters are 25 [offense, 25 [defense], and three [special teams],” coach John Fox said. “It can always vary. We’re way too early to try and pick the best. A lot of it will come down to fourth-down [special-teams] guys. But we’ll keep more linebackers now because the outside guys are like defensive linemen.”

Offensive line

Kyle Long has taken some drill reps at tackle but coaches have given no indication of plans to move the two-time Pro Bowl guard. Jordan Mills has remained the right tackle, with occasional struggles.

Coaches were pleased with what they saw from Charles Leno, but Leno has not been consistently proficient working primarily at left tackle, and unless the decision is that Vladimir Ducasse is a better guard than Mills or Leno is a tackle, which could move Long to tackle in a five-best-will-start scenario, a shakeup on the offensive line would be a mild surprise.

Bears place Akiem Hicks on injured reserve

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USA TODAY

Bears place Akiem Hicks on injured reserve

The Chicago Bears placed DL Akiem Hicks on injured reserve (elbow), the team announced Tuesday. In a corresponding move, rookie guard Alex Bars was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster.

Hicks suffered a dislocated elbow in Week 5's loss to the Raiders and was expected to miss a significant amount of time. He'll be eligible to return for the team's final three games in 2019, assuming he recovers in time.

His void in the lineup will likely be filled by Roy Robertson-Harris, who's thrived with more playing time while Bilal Nichols recovered from his hand injury. Nichols is set to return to the lineup Sunday against the Saints.

Hicks' absence was felt in London against Oakland when rookie RB Josh Jacobs ran for 123 yards in a game that Hicks was mostly sidelined for. The Bears will need multiple players, including second-level linebackers like Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan, to step up now that Hicks will be gone for a while.

We'll have more on this developing story.

 

Eddie Jackson says the Bears defense has to 'make a statement game' against Saints

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USA TODAY

Eddie Jackson says the Bears defense has to 'make a statement game' against Saints

The Bears defense gave up a season-high 24 points in the Week 5 loss to the Raiders. The bye week that followed meant they had to stew on that performance for an extra seven days.

Bears safety Eddie Jackson admitted the defense “didn’t hold up” in an interview on the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday morning. It sounds like they are fired up to not have a repeat performance against the Saints.

“We want to get that bad taste out of our mouths,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, we had to wait for a bye week.

“Now we got to make a statement game here at home.”

That statement game will have to come without stud defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. Hicks got injured in the loss to the Raiders and is expected to miss significant time.

Jackson talked about what Hicks’ absence will mean to the defense.

“That’s a tough loss for us,” Jackson said. “The style of play Akiem brings is hard to fill. Right now we’re doing a good job holding up with guys coming in and stepping up, but at the end of the day that’s Akiem. His resume speaks for itself. What he does speaks for itself. Film, everything. It’s a tough loss, man. We’re hoping to have him back real soon for playoffs or the end of the season. It really hurts us, but we ride with him. He still comes around. He’s still engaged and meetings and things like that.”

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