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updated: 8/18/2012 12:42 AM

Another chance to make amends for Bears

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It shouldn't be difficult for the Bears to show major improvement Saturday night in the second preseason game.

"We didn't play as well as we needed to last time," Bears coach Lovie Smith admitted. "So we're anxious to play a good Washington team that got a win last week."

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Bears starters will play more this week, some at least until halftime, after most made only cameo appearances in the opener.

With Nick Roach still filling in at middle linebacker for Brian Urlacher (knee scope), veteran unrestricted free agent Geno Hayes will continue to get the first-team reps at Roach's regular spot on the strong side.

"It's done a lot for him," Smith said of the increased snaps Hayes has received. "Geno has been a starting linebacker in the league, so he has good ability.

"With Brian being down, he's gotten a chance to play with Lance (Briggs) and Nick, and we like what we've seen so far. Just like for all our team, this is a big game for him."

Because they needed the work, the starting offensive linemen played more than the other starters last week.

Left tackle J'Marcus Webb played into the fourth quarter and was a disappointment. Chris Williams will get first-team reps Saturday night to see if he can improve on Webb's performance.

"I feel like I'm doing what coach is asking me to do," Williams said. "I'm trying not to make any mistakes. I'm just working hard. I'll let the rest sort itself out. Just trying to get ready for the season, regardless (of who starts). They'll need all of us."

Williams has started games for the Bears at both tackle spots and at left guard, and that versatility makes him valuable.

But Job One is finding a left tackle who can consistently protect quarterback Jay Cutler's blind side. More also is expected of left guard Chris Spencer, whose performance last week was lacking.

The Bears' defensive line will have its hands full with Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who has rare speed and athleticism and had an impressive debut in Week 1.

"He's talented," Bears defensive end Israel Idonije said. "He throws the ball exceptionally well, and he has great speed. It's going to be great to get out there and get after him a little bit."

In an effort to get pressure on Griffin and other quarterbacks, the Bears experimented this week, moving the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Idonije inside to tackle in passing situations to get their most athletic players and best pass rushers on the field.

The Bears were 29th out of 32 teams in sacks last season, and that's a stat they're looking to improve. Earlier in his career, Idonije was shuttled between tackle and end, so he has experience playing inside.

"The first couple days it's just getting back into it, the timing of it," he said. "Things happen a little quicker inside. But I'm definitely comfortable getting in there in nickel and getting after it."

Nose tackle Stephen Paea is out with a sprained ankle, so backups hoping for a roster spot will get a long look behind starters Matt Toeaina and Henry Melton.

"We'll rotate those other guys," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "Nate Collins has come along really well. John McCargo and Brian Price, those guys are all getting more reps inside and competing."

Veteran wide receivers Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester all should play more than they did in the first game, when they had a combined 1 catch for 4 yards.

But rookie Alshon Jeffery will see quality time in an effort to build on an impressive camp. Coaches are confident that his impressive training-camp performances will carry over to the regular season.

"I believe with that young man it will translate," offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. "I think we can all see that. That is a big, physical specimen. He played in the SEC against great competition. The game is not too big for him. He's played in front of big crowds before.

"He's very calm, doesn't get overexcited. In fact, it's to the point where every day I say, 'You OK? You OK?' He says 'Yes, sir.' Very polite young man, been raised right.

"You want to throw the ball up to him and let him go get it. He's going to do that."

rlegere@dailyherald.com

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