Star power: 5 Bears selected to Pro Bowl, most since 2006

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Star power: 5 Bears selected to Pro Bowl, most since 2006

The up-and-down season of the Bears was not enough to sour voters among players, coaches and fans entirely on a team that has lost five straight as five Bears have been voted to the Pro Bowl, the most since the Super Bowl season of 2006.

Linebacker Lance Briggs, running back Matt Forte, special teamer Corey Graham, cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Brian Urlacher will represent the Bears on the conference all-star team.

Of the group, only Graham, who leads the Bears with 20 special teams tackles, is a starter.

The 49ers led the NFC with eight selections, matching the total for the New England Patriots. Green Bay had seven and the Bears and Saints had five.

Briggs becomes just the fourth Bears linebacker to be selected to seven straight Pro Bowls, joining Dick Butkus (eight), Bill George (eight) and Mike Singletary (10) at that elite level. Clay Matthews from Green Bay and Dallas Demarcus Ware are the starting outside linebackers.

Forte, who was leading the NFL in total yardage prior to his injury and still ranks fifth with 1,487 yards despite missing the last two games, is the first offensive player drafted by GM Jerry Angelo to make the Pro Bowl. Philadelphia Eagles tailback LeSean McCoy is the starter, with Gore listed along with Forte as the reserves. Forte went on injured reserve Tuesday and will not make the trip.

Tillman has two interceptions on the season, matching his season-low since 2004, but he also forced his 27th fumble against San Diego, most by any defensive back since 2003. Tillman returned an interception of Detroits Matthew Stafford for a TD in Week 10 and also turned in an acrobatic INT against Tim Tebow in Denver in a nationally televised game.

Urlacher is returning to the Pro Bowl roster for the eighth time. Patrick Willis of NFC West champion San Francisco was selected as the starter.

Meaningless preseason Game 4 can tilt Bears, other roster decisions

Meaningless preseason Game 4 can tilt Bears, other roster decisions

The Bears will conclude their preseason with the Cleveland Browns for the 13th straight season, part of the NFL’s preference for teams playing closer to home in final preseason games such as Buffalo at Detroit, Indianapolis at Cincinnati, Houston at Dallas and Jacksonville at Atlanta, among others.

Correlations between Bears results in Game 4 and what the regular season holds aren’t worth the effort. But several other aspects of Bears-Browns will be:

Who’s up, who’s down

Who plays and who doesn’t have decidedly different meanings for Game 3 vs. Game 4. Healthy scratches from Game 3 typically are at risk in the first round of cuts; five of those DNP’s were among the initial cuts.

The reverse is commonly the case in Game 4. Players sitting out are generally those already included in the roster plans, with playing time going to backups competing for a late roster spot or to show skills sufficient for scouts from other teams to look for them on the waiver wire after the weekend’s final trims. Virtually all of the Bears players sitting out Game 4 last year, won by the Bears 24-0, were ticketed for the initial 53-man roster.

The Bears face some tight decisions at a number of positions, not the least of which is at wide receiver, where only Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White are assured roster spots. Marc Mariani has played his way into quarterback Jay Cutler’s comfort zone and is in a contest with oft-injured Eddie Royal for the No. 3/slot receiver job. Both could secure spots on the “53” as could Josh Bellamy, who was among the Bears’ top special-teams tacklers.

[MORE: CB K'Waun Williams reportedly fails physical with Bears]

Royal is guaranteed $4.5 million for 2016 but Bears Chairman George McCaskey has been consistent in stating that money will not be the sole reason for personnel decisions.

Rookie Daniel Braverman has been a non-factor in games and has not flashed on special teams. Cameron Meredith has a TD catch but has not stepped out on special teams, while returner Deonte Thompson has not been able to overcome injuries enough to make a clear roster statement yet.

“It's so tough,” Royal said. “We've got a lot of guys who can play. This is one of the most talented groups I've ever been around, just from top to bottom. These guys can play, you can see it out there with these practices and the few preseason games that we've had, the guys are out there making plays, so it's going to be some tough decisions to make because everybody in our room can play.”

A chance for an impression

A small handful of players may see the field simply because the Bears haven’t had many chances to see them this training camp and preseason. And they may just need some work.

Linebackers Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, both coming off leg injuries that ended their 2014 seasons, both started and played nearly two-dozen snaps against the Browns. Hroniss Grasu, a roster lock as a third-round pick, nevertheless started at center and played every snap. Charles Leno Jr., after starting in a trial at right tackle the two previous games, was tried at left tackle and showed enough to hold onto the swing-tackle job while Jordan Mills’ Bears tenure was ended.

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This year linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski was a fourth-round Bears pick in this year’s draft but went down with a hamstring injury early in camp and hasn’t seen the field at all through preseason.

“Truth be told, we didn’t see a whole lot of him,” said coach John Fox. “Obviously, we evaluated him on his college tape. Saw him in some of the offseason stuff. He got hurt very early on in camp. It was a legit injury to his hamstring. He’s been in meetings. He’s been with us. But as far as our true evaluation, it’s a little bit of a leap of faith. We’ll kind of march down that road as we move forward.”

How special are ‘teams?

Non-starters typically need to demonstrate a willingness and ability to play special teams. Linebackers Jonathan Anderson and John Timu were undrafted longshots going into camp but played double-digit snaps on special teams, contributed tackles, and by season’s end had each started three games.

The Bears have been anemic on punt returns (1.9 ypr.) and the Bears have spread the job around looking for solutions.

And pay attention to Browns special-team’ers. The Bears once were impressed by the special-teams devastation wrought by Browns fullback Tyler Clutts in the 2011 Game 4 against them. The Browns waived Clutts, the Bears signed him to a three-year deal and Clutts played through the 2015 season, finishing last year with the Dallas Cowboys.

Report: CB K'Waun Williams fails physical with Bears

Report: CB K'Waun Williams fails physical with Bears

The Bears search for cornerback depth will continue.

K'Waun Williams, who the Bears were awarded off waivers from the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday, failed his physical and will now become a free agent, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The 25-year-old Williams was suspended by the Browns for two weeks after he refused to play due to an injury in the team's preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers. Following the team-issued two-week suspension, the Browns waived Williams.

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Williams, who signed with the Browns as undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh in 2014, served as the Browns starting nickel cornerback over the past two seasons. In 26 career games, Williams amassed 60 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles and two passes defended.

The Bears will have to look elsewhere for cornerback depth as starters' Tracy Porter (concussion), Kyle Fuller (knee) and nickel corner Bryce Callahan (hamstring) are currently sidelined.

The Bears roster now stands at 74.

Bears claim Browns castoff defensive back K’Waun Williams

Bears claim Browns castoff defensive back K’Waun Williams

This could be interesting.

Bears coach John Fox made a passing reference to “owies” last week, an apparent reference to the typical nicks and bruises that players suffer, presumably falling on the safe side of the pain-vs.-injury line. Coaches like players to play when they can.

The Cleveland Browns suspended K’Waun Williams this offseason for two weeks after the former No. 1 Cleveland nickel cornerback refused to play in the Aug. 12 Browns preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers.

Now the Bears have claimed Williams, 25, waiving cornerback Kevin Peterson, and hope Williams is past what the Browns look to have deemed just their version of an “owie.”

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Williams’ release comes after a convoluted disagreement between player and team, with Williams obtaining medical opinions that he needed surgery to remove bone spurs from an ankle. The team said that Williams never informed them of his ankle problems until the day after the Green Bay game.

The Bears have struggled mightily this preseason to find anything close to a healthy cornerback. Starters Kyle Fuller (knee) and Tracy Porter (concussion) are currently sidelined along with nickel corner Bryce Callahan (hamstring). Jacoby Glenn started for Fuller at New England but also left with a concussion.