Don't underestimate the Bears D

The smartest move Mel Tucker made after replacing Rod Marinelli as the Bears' defensive coordinator was to not change too much.

Tucker, who has experience running 4-3 alignments and 3-4 schemes, stayed with the 4-3 the Bears used under Marinelli and Lovie Smith, but he has modified it somewhat to his specifications, which include more frequent blitzing.

“You've seen in preseason it's been a success for us,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We didn't really change a whole lot. Coach Tucker came in and decided that what we were doing in the past worked. He just implemented his style of defense, kind of mixed it up a little bit, but kept the same terminology.”

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher retired after 13 years, and two other key components left via free agency. Strong-side linebacker Nick Roach went to the Raiders and defensive end Israel Idonije signed with the Lions.

“We're missing Brian and a few defensive pieces, (but) we kept the same core of guys, (and) we added a whole lot of depth,” Jennings said. “Guys have fit well into what we're trying to do.”

Opponents shouldn't overlook the Bears' defense, according to strong safety Major Wright.

“Come Sunday, we're definitely going to take the ball away and get after the quarterback,” Wright said. “We're going to play Bear defense. We can be under the radar, but we're going to go out and do our job and stay focused.”

The Bears had 9 preseason interceptions, while their opponents had just 5. But the Bears had only 9 sacks, while allowing 13.

Muddle in the middle:

Coach Marc Trestman wasn't ready to name a starter at middle linebacker following Friday's practice inside the Walter Payton Center. He said that veteran D.J. Williams will play there, although rookie Jon Bostic is also expected to get some reps.

“I think he's in good condition,” Trestman said of Williams, who suffered a strained calf July 31 and returned to practice Monday. “I don't know that he's in great condition. I don't know if we'll know until we see whether or not he can take a significant amount of action (Sunday). How much he'll play will be relative to game-like conditions, where it's physical out there and we're running sideline to sideline.”

Defensive tackle Henry Melton and wide receiver Earl Bennett, who missed most of training camp and the preseason with concussions, will also play.

Melton could share reps with Nate Collins and Zach Minter, and Bennett could give way to Joe Anderson as the No. 3 receiver, although Bennett believes he's ready for a full day's work.

“He's very confident he can go the distance,” Trestman said. “We'll watch him closely and see.”

Been there, done that:

Lance Briggs says D.J. Williams could step back into the starting lineup Sunday, even though he missed a month with a calf injury. Briggs should know.

“I did it,” he said. “Brian (Urlacher) has done it. Two years ago, I hurt my knee in the fourth or fifth practice and missed the whole preseason. My first game was against Atlanta. We came out, we played well and beat Atlanta pretty bad (30-12). I had a few extra ‘loafs' that game, more than I usually did, but technique-wise, I was fine.”

Mixed signals:

The most meaningless and over-asked question of the week was dealt with appropriately by seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs.

Briggs was asked for a response to Brian Urlacher's allegation that the Bears' defense had a designated “diver,” who would fake an injury to slow down a hurry-up offense.

“It's crazy because I was thinking, ‘Man, I remember that,'” Briggs said. “I was that guy. (But) I couldn't remember what the signal was. Every game, I was like, ‘I'm the dive guy, but what was the signal?' I never did the dive because I forgot the signal every game.”

Picture of health:

No Bears player was listed on the injury report at any time this week.

For the Bengals, the only starter not expected to play is offensive left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee), who is “doubtful,” and did not practice all week.

Rick West/rwest@dailyherald.comThe Bears bench erupts as cornerback Tim Jennings returns an interception for a touchdown against Carolina last season. Even with the loss of three key players, Jennings believes the teamÂ’s defense will still be a force to be reckoned with in 2013.
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