With tackle Stephen Paea missing his third straight practice on Friday with a turf toe, the Bears continued juggling their defensive line, now with a potentially serious void developing inside.
Cornerback Charles Tillman (groin) practiced on a limited basis, also is questionable, but is expected to play, as he did last week after sitting out the week’s practices. “I’m making progress,” Tillman said.
Safety and special-teams standout Anthony Walters was out of practice for the third day and is listed as out for the New Orleans game.
The Paea situation creates a personnel issue inside, because even if he is able to play Sunday against New Orleans, and he says he expects to, he will not be a full strength. And the defense already lost franchise defensive tackle Henry Melton in the Pittsburgh game and moved Paea over to the three-technique spot.
Nate Collins is expected to return to the three-technique position where he was solid in preseason and is a more natural fit. If Paea does play, returning him to nose tackle (he did not have a good game at ‘three’ in Detroit) is considered a strong likelihood.
But the Bears are trying other combinations, including end Corey Wootton inside more at the ‘three’ spot and Landon Cohen, signed last Friday and who played in Detroit, working at nose tackle.
Worth watching is rookie defensive end David Bass, who has been inactive for the first four games but is likely to see time at defensive end with Wootton inside, as he was at times last Sunday.
“It was something I had been working on in training camp, so I was ready,” Wootton said. “If someone went down, you want to be ready. The thing I can do is step in and fit wherever I’m needed.”