Can Hester break slump against Washington?
Devin Hester has played in 28 straight games without a return touchdown, but he'll have a great opportunity to break out of his slump Sunday against Washington's coverage units, which are among the worst in the league.
In punt coverage Washington is No. 32, and it's 28th in kickoff coverage. The Bears aren't much better, ranking 29th and 27th, respectively.
Hester and the Bears are only 24th in punt returns. He's averaging just 5.8 yards on 6 attempts, but his 30.3-yard average on kickoff returns is third in the league.
In his eight-year career, Hester has only had one longer scoring drought on returns. That one covered 30 games and ended in Week Three of the 2010 season.
Washington looked especially bad in coverage Sunday night in its 31-16 loss, allowing Dallas standout Dwayne Harris to score on an 86-yard punt return and permitting him 113 yards on 2 kickoff returns.
"It was a rough night for them, obviously," said Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, who held the same position in Dallas the previous four years. "I'm sure that they're going to be emphasizing that area, and I'm sure we'll see a completely different team this week. I know once you have a game like that, it's tough on your whole team. I imagine there will be a lot of veterans that are trying to get them going in the right direction."
Playing for DeCamillis last season, Harris was second in the NFL with a 16.1-yard punt-return average. He currently leads the league in kickoff-return average (34.7) and punt-return average (23.6).
"He's coming on," DeCamillis said. "He's really having a heck of a year. I'm proud of him."
Change in direction:
Coming off a 7-sack performance in a breakout 2012 season, expectations were high this year for defensive end Corey Wootton.
But Wootton has just 1 sack in the first six games, and he's not even playing end anymore. Because of the season-ending injuries to tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins, Wootton has been forced to move inside for the good of the team.
"Corey has done a nice job for us," defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "He's played hard and played with technique. He's done everything we've asked him to do. We feel like he's improving in that aspect. That's his role. He's coming through for us."
Stephen Paea (toe) is expected back Sunday after missing two games, but Wootton will remain at the 3-technique tackle with Paea playing nose tackle.
"He's a force in there," Wootton said of Paea. "He's powerful, and he's quick. For a nose, he gets extremely good pressure."
The Bears have just 8 sacks all season, and only 4 have come from defensive linemen.
Cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) and tight end Martellus Bennett (knee) are questionable for Sunday after being limited at Friday's practice.
Defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe), and linebacker James Anderson (back) and safeties Major Wright (knee) and Anthony Walters (hamstring) are probable. Wright was limited while the others were full participants.
In and out:
Linebacker Jerry Franklin was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad, replacing linebacker D.J. Williams, who was placed on injured reserve with a chest injury.
The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Franklin played in the final three games last season and had 2 special teams tackles. He will wear No. 53.