Packers could take step back with free agents, coaches leaving

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Packers could take step back with free agents, coaches leaving

The perceived talent gap between the Bears' and Green Bay Packers that was a factor in Jerry Angelos firing could narrow this season, from the Green Bay end.

Free agency typically takes a toll on successful teams. The Packers loss of defensive end Cullen Jenkins to the Philadelphia Eagles was a major setback to a Packer defense that lamented its lack of pass rush after the playoff loss to the New York Giants.

Other problems could be looming.

Longtime pal and Packers' beat guy Tom Silverstein up at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that moving Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson to safety cant be ruled out, a step thats being considered because of problems in the Green Bay secondary.

(Of course, for those worried about Charles Tillmans productive time being at an end at age 31, its worth a chuckle to note that Woodson will be 37 next season.)

Spoon also has an intriguing blog post on the prospect of Jenkins again being back on the market if the Eagles' elect not to pay a 5 million roster bonus at the outset of free agency.

Jenkins was No. 2 on the Bears' target list for the defensive line last off-season, behind only Baltimores Haloti Ngata (subsequently franchise-tagged). He could represent an upgrade at defensive end in Chicago while pre-empting the Packers' from bringing back a solid edge player.

But theres more.

Green Bay coaches are on the candidates list for positions elsewhere. Linebackers coach Winston Moss is on the Oakland head-coaching list of GM Reggie McKenzie and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Dom Capers are also considered prospects there. Philbin is in the discussion for the Miami head-coaching job.

Thats three top assistants in play out of town. No assurance that they leave, but there are two chances (Miami, Oakland) of it.

More important, tight-end Jermichael Finley is an unrestricted free agent. So is Pro Bowl center Scott Wells. Left tackle Chad Clifton battled injuries and will be 36 just to name a few.

And chances of the Packers' retaining backup quarterback Matt Flynn are shaky, since it likely would require use of the franchise tag, and do they really want to pay a backup 14 million?

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Both teams are on track to be drafting in the top five, and the inevitable “the loser is the winner” talk has made its rounds, meaning that a defeat moves the loser higher in the draft order. The reality is that neither team will tank the game for draft position.

But the chances of two woeful teams playing well are slim. The 49ers won in Week 1 and then have lost 10 straight. The Bears are trying to avoid losing four straight for the first time under John Fox.

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Quarterback Colin Kaepernick burst upon the NFL scene in 2012 with a blowout of the Bears in his first start. He has regained his starting job in San Francisco and is still one of the prototypical mobile quarterbacks.

But the 49ers are the NFL’s worst defense in both points and yardage allowed, and they are the worst rushing defense in the league. Expect the Bears to try exploiting that and give quarterback Matt Barkley a balanced run-pass game plan.

Prediction: Bears 24, 49ers 20

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Kyle Fuller was one of the seeming fixtures in the Bears’ defense as it transitioned from the 4-3 of old to the 3-4 of Vic Fangio. And he may be again, the Bears hope very soon, as he has begun practicing after months on injured reserve following knee surgery in August.

The Bears could place Fuller on the active roster as late as Saturday after he practiced all three days this week. “He made it three days in practice, no setbacks,” said coach John Fox. “He seems to be adapting pretty well. He has another practice [Saturday] and we don’t have to make a decision until 3 p.m. because of where he is on the roster. We’ll evaluate that after tomorrow.”

Were Fuller to return — restoring one projected 2016 starter to a defense that has been forced to field five different starting secondaries in the span of 11 games — he may be phased back in with a managed number of snaps, as other certain other players returning from injury have been.

But getting Fuller back projects to be an instant upgrade for a defensive backfield among the NFL’s worst at producing takeaways.

“We all play different positions so we’re kind of used to it, people moving in and out over the year,” said Bryce Callahan, who was initially ticketed for nickel duty as the No. 3 cornerback this season but has been pressed into service starting at cornerback in four games.

“It’s always good to get someone like Kyle back.”

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The Bears would need to weigh what workload Fuller could handle vs. roster needs based on only having 46 players active on game day.

“You’re always a little bit cautious because it does affect your roster,” Fox said. “But if you feel like he makes you better, that’s a move you make. Now we’re just working through him medically, durability-wise, and how much he can play.”

Jay Cutler (shoulder) was officially declared out and is headed for surgery on Saturday, ultimately to injured reserve.

Other availability questions include receiver Eddie Royal (toe), guard Josh Sitton (ankle) and safety Adrian Amos (ankle), all questionable. Linebacker Willie Young (knee) did not practice but linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to practice on a limited basis although his status in the concussion protocol will not be known until closer to game time.