Big chance for Bears' defense to prove itself
The long-awaited arrival of the new-and-improved Bears defense has yet to make its appearance.
Five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, one of six expected new starters from opening day 2013, played briefly in one preseason game.
First-round rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller hasn't played in a game since Aug. 14.
Shea McClellin hasn't gotten enough snaps in the base defense to prove that he will be more effective at his new strongside linebacker spot than he was at defensive end in his first two seasons.
And at safety? After an abbreviated Labor Day practice outdoors at steamy Halas Hall, coach Marc Trestman wasn't ready to divulge the starters for Sunday's regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field.
Since Chris Conte hasn't been fully cleared after suffering a concussion Aug. 22, the best guess is that Danny McCray will start at free safety with Ryan Mundy at strong safety.
Starting cornerback Tim Jennings will shift into the nickel corner in passing situations, covering the slot receiver. That will get Fuller into the game at one of the outside corner spots. But, with the rookie battling an ankle injury in the preseason, Jennings got shortchanged a bit on reps at nickel.
Despite the lingering question marks, Jennings still believes the defense knows what it has -- to a degree.
"On paper, we do. (But) it's still hard to tell because we were missing Jared Allen some games," Jennings said. "We finally are going to get everybody back together and play a whole game (Sunday). It was tough to tell at first. We played one quarter, two quarters here, and Seattle was a tough test for us.
"It let us know that we still have some work to do, and we've got to get it together and work hard this week and see what we have for Buffalo."
For what the preseason is worth, the Bears allowed an average of 28.5 points a game. That included 28 points allowed by the starters against the Seahawks … in the first half.
"We're going to have to come together," Trestman said. "It's going to be a process working together. But we think the talent level is in a place right now where we've got a chance to go out each and every week and get better and improve, and that's what we're going to try and do as we work through this week of practice and the start of the season."
The Bears could catch a break against the Bills, who haven't had a top-10 offense since 2000 and have finished below .500 nine straight seasons. They were No. 2 in rushing yards last season but 28th in passing yards and 22nd in scoring.
But the Bears were worse on defense in 2013 than Buffalo was on offense, finishing 32nd in rushing yards allowed, 30th in total yards allowed and tied for 30th in points allowed.
"We're a hungry defense," Jennings said. "We've got attitude from last year. The coaches feel the same way as the players. The attitude we have is setting the tone. We have to go out there and get a fast start.
"We really still have a bad taste in our mouth from last season."