BOURBONNAIS -- Anyone who didn't notice Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins in Friday's preseason opener wasn't paying attention.
No Bear had more than the 4 total tackles or 3 solos recorded by the 6-foot-2, 295-pound fourth-year veteran, who went undrafted out of Virginia in 2010. The 25-year-old Collins had the Bears' only sack and another tackle for lost yardage.
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But the journeyman has yet to start an NFL game, so he isn't doing any celebration dances just yet.
"I felt like it was good, but it's one of those things you always want to be able to get after the quarterback, and I felt like there were a few things I could have done better," he said. "But that's the beauty of the preseason. We get to get back out there Thursday night and hopefully I can get more looks. With (the Chargers') Phillip Rivers being a passing quarterback, and their team being more of a spread offense, I'm just trying to get out there and get to the quarterback and disrupt and do whatever I can to help the team."
Collins continues to do that during training camp. With starting 3-technique tackle Henry Melton still sidelined with the concussion he suffered on the opening possession last week, Collins will keep getting more snaps if he keeps produced the way he has so far.
Because Melton's injury occurred so early in the game, most of Collins' production came against the Panthers' first team.
Collins is more of a nose tackle, but in defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's scheme, there isn't a big difference between the two tackle spots. Collins played two years (2010-11) in that scheme in Jacksonville for Tucker, who was the Jaguars' defensive coordinator until last season.
"There are some subtle differences," Tucker said. "(But) I think (Collins) has shown the ability to play both, and that brings tremendous value. He's seen most of his repetitions and work at the nose. But I would not be hesitant or feel any trepidation whatsoever at the 3."
The arrow on Collins clearly appears to be pointing up. In nine games with the Bears last season he had a career-best 13 tackles. But Collins has a long way to go and a lot to prove. He's playing on his fourth straight one-year contract, so he's focused on doing whatever is needed to gain some job security.
"You always have to have a next-man-up mentality," he said. "A couple of those guys (up front) get hurt all the time, so when you have the opportunity to get in there, you have to make the most of it. That's what I'm trying to do right now.
"I'm just trying to help my team out and just put that confidence in my coaches that, during the year, if something like this was to happen, that they wouldn't have any problems or any doubts just throwing me in there, whether it be at the 3 technique or the nose." Collins said in Tucker's scheme, the biggest difference between the two positions is proximity to the enemy.
"At nose technique, it's quick contact, whereas 3 technique you kind of can get a foot or two on the ground before you have contact," he said. "When you're playing nose tackle you have to think about using your hands more and making a move a lot quicker than at 3 technique."
You also tend to get pummeled a lot more at the nose, especially on running plays, where double-teams are the norm. But that's OK with Collins.
"They're both grinder spots in this defense," he said. "But it's what we signed up for."
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