Defensive end Israel Idonije's versatility often goes unnoticed, except by the coaching staff.
But everyone noticed Idonije Saturday night against the Redskins, when he had 2˝ sacks in the first quarter, including a forced fumble.
"You just want to be better than the first game," Idonije said. "Personally, I felt I did that. As a team, we definitely took a step in the right direction."
Early in his career, the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Nigerian from Canada was moved back and forth between tackle and end, one year being asked to bulk up to 300 and the next asked to slim down to 270. Because he can play both, the Bears are working Idonije in at tackle in nickel situations in order to get rookie defensive end Shea McClellin or other pass rushers into the game on obvious passing downs.
"It's not so much (Idonije) is an under tackle, but he's an inside rush tackle on third down," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "You try to get as much speed and athleticism on the field as you can. You just work guys in and you get certain matchups you like."
It's a start:
Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte made his 2012 debut Saturday night and picked up 16 yards on 4 carries.
He'll play a much bigger role in the regular season, where he'll be looking for his fifth straight 50-plus-catch campaign and his third 1,000-yard season. Forte fell 3 yards short of the 1,000-yard milestone last season only because he missed the final four games with a sprained knee, although he averaged a career-best 4.9 yards per carry.
"He's the ultimate pro," coach Lovie Smith said. "He can do everything you want him to do. He can run the routes like a receiver can, make you miss in the open field. We have a lot of things in store for him this year."
Forte's backup, Michael Bush, enjoyed his second game with the Bears much more than his first, when he lost a fumble and gained 2 yards on 3 carries.
Against the Redskins Bush scored twice in the first quarter, first on a 1-yard run and then on an 8-yard burst in which he made a nifty move at the line of scrimmage to slip a tackle. He finished with 5 carries for 21 yards and also had a 4-yard reception.
"Last week I didn't get a lot of reps, so it was different," Bush said. "Once you get a lot of reps and get comfortable, everything works out for you."
Bumps and bruises:
Rookie free safety Brandon Hardin was placed on a back board and carted off the field with a neck injury after his head collided with the hip of Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen. Hardin missed all of his senior season at Oregon State with a fractured shoulder.
Safety Chris Conte suffered a right shoulder injury midway through the second quarter and did not return, but neither did most of the defensive starters. Punter Adam Podlesh injured his hip on Brandon Banks' 91-yard punt-return touchdown late in the second quarter and did not return. Backup punter Ryan Quigley replaced Podlesh, who also holds on field-goal attempts. Odds and ends:
Coach Lovie Smith wasn't happy with the 91-yard punt-return TD by WR Brandon Banks late in the first half. "We didn't like what we saw there," Smith said. But the Bears turned the tables when Lorenzo Booker brought back the second-half kickoff 105 yard for a TD. … The Bears had 133 yards of total offense in the first quarter against the Redskins, 1 more than they had in the entire first game. … By halftime, they had 262 yards of total offense, including 210 through the air.