Trend-spotting: Bears searching for impact players on defense

Trend-spotting: Bears searching for impact players on defense
August 11, 2013, 12:15 pm
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The first preseason game was exactly that – “preseason” – but it rates ahead of any individual training-camp practice as an indicator. Exact evaluations will remain confidential with Bears coaches but some trend lines were evident in the wake of the Bears’ 24-17 loss to the Panthers:

[Trend-spotting: Bears moving toward decisions on offensive line]

Defensive line
 
Neither starting defensive end (Julius Peppers/hamstring, Corey Wootton/calf) even dressed for the game. Mildly concerning is that Shea McClellin did not deliver impact plays on a night where he had the start at DRE and did not register on the stat sheet…Kyle Moore started and managed to collect two tackles but did not produce any pass-rush pressure in a significant opportunity for him to firm up a hold on the No. 4 spot among DE’s…Rookie Cornelius Washington was in on two tackles, one for a loss.
 
The concussion sustained by Henry Melton took a Pro Bowl defensive tackle down and the organization can only wait for read on when the first-time Pro Bowler will be able to return…The impact player on defense was Nick Collins, who tied for team-high with four tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit. Collins was quick off the ball and disruptive, and his playing time will stay up with Melton injured…Stephen Paea was a co-captain for the coin toss but was not a factor as he anchored the center of the defense.

[MORE: Takeaways from the Bears' first preseason action]
 
Trending: Three places are set at both end and tackle. But no one distinguished himself clearly in Game 1 and the Bears want more from the likes of Washington, Moore and Corvey Irvin to fill out their rotations.   
 
Linebackers
 
Jonathan Bostic has gotten progressively stronger at MLB with D.J. Williams idled with a calf injury. Bostic has solidified his spot with the No. 1 defense and has not taken “rookie” steps back to hurt his standing…Khaseem Greene was credited with four tackles at Carolina and added another on special teams. He won’t push Lance Briggs aside but Greene is high on the “watch” list…Blake Costanzo left with an apparent leg ding on Friday but had two tackles before he left and the special-teams ace has improved to give the Bears depth at MLB…James Anderson at SLB may be the solution beyond his one-year deal, contributing on special teams as well.

[RELATED: Bostic making a push to start at middle linebacker]
 
Trending: The Bostic-or-Williams issue has been coming for awhile. Bostic will be difficult to dislodge and his arrow is pointing nowhere but up.
 
Secondary
 
The “front four” in the secondary (corners Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright) is in place. After that it becomes interesting…Sherrick McManis had a strong game and rates the edge as the No. 3 corner after making three tackles in addition to causing and recovering a fumble…Isaiah Frey played some corner on Friday but his opportunity is as the nickelback. He was able to make one tackle but missed another that allowed a first down and missed a chance at an interception…Zackary Bowman had an interception and a pass breakup to make a case for himself on top of solid special teams play…Anthony Walters and Craig Steltz are the second-tier safeties and Brandon Hardin needs to add to his body of work, which included a tackle and a pass breakup on Friday, to ensure his roster spot.
 
Trending: The competition behind the starters is work in progress, and Frey is not a lock at nickel back with the work that McManis in particular is delivering.