First-and-10: Briggs names Williams starter; Cutler feeling comfortable; and more

SHARE First-and-10: Briggs names Williams starter; Cutler feeling comfortable; and more

The best news right now for the Bears is that their injury report is empty — literally. It actually says “No injuries to report” for the Bears.

And really there’s a lot of good vibes coming out of Halas Hall these days, even if the offense is still learning what coach Marc Trestman is putting in.

“I’m still learning. It’s hard, especially at this point whenever it’s game week and we still are kind of learning things,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “We’re learning things on the move and we’ve got to prepare for a game. But it’s football. I think everyone here in that locker room is having fun. We’re doing stuff that not many people in the world get to do, so we’ve got to enjoy each day.”

Here’s a look at a busy Thursday at Halas Hall, which included trips trips to lectern by Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs.

1. D.J. Williams is the starting middle linebacker, Lance Briggs says. Who is starting at middle linebacker has been a topic all week. And although coach Marc Trestman and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker say they’re still deciding between Williams and rookie Jon Bostic, Briggs made things pretty clear.

“Let’s clarify this. When we opened camp, D.J. Williams was our starting middle linebacker. James Anderson was our starting SAM and Lance Briggs our starting WILL,” Briggs said. “D.J. Williams got injured, which in turn gave an opportunity for Jon Bostic to not only showcase his skills, but to learn. He got a chance to run with the ones.

“Now, D.J. Williams is back from injury and D.J. Williams is our starting MIKE. The good thing about Bostic is, whether he’s ready or he’s not ready, he doesn’t have to be right now. There are things that are going to go on this season and when his number is called, he’ll be [ready]. It’s not a situation where we’re hurting and we need him to step up right now. When it naturally happens, it’ll happen. When the coaches decide Jon’s going to be in, he’ll be in. Until then, we have very capable linebackers.”

2. Jay Cutler feels comfortable. Or as comfortable as he can be heading into his first game with a new offense. Cutler continues to call things a work in progress offensively. He downplays a lot of their success.

But the Bears did show plenty of signs that things are starting to click in their third preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

“[I’m] only as comfortable as I could be up to this point,” Cutler said. “We’re still learning things and still getting better each and every day. I don’t think we’ll be where we want to be for this game, but eventually we’ll get there each and every week. We’ve just got to be good enough to beat the Bengals this week and hopefully we are.”

3. Earl Bennett can play but he may not. The speedy receiver may have been cleared of his concussion, but the Bears are still deciding whether he’ll play against the Bengals. But it has more to do with his conditioning and whether he’s comfortable with the offense.

But Bennett plans to play.

“I’m feeling good. Excited about the weekend,” he said. “My plans are to play this weekend. We’re on course right now.”

4. How will Trestman handle Cutler when tempers heat up? Trestman was asked such a question, and he gave good answer: “One thing with any of our players, we know they’re working hard. We know they’re committed to the game. We know that. I think his demeanor, because he is the quarterback, is critically important. I think there’s going to be moments like that, that’s just part of who he is and I’m not going to take that away from him. From my standpoint, I don’t think you’re going to see somebody firing back. I’m going to let him wear himself out, get it off his chest, tell him to go back and play the next play. At the end of the day, I know that when a player gets that way, that’s not really who he is. It’s an emotional game, and guys are going to lose it for a minute. The most important thing is to get back to move on to the next situation. That’s what I hope to do is to, just be there to help him get on to the next play, the next quarter, the next game, whatever it might be. That’s part of my job to help him do that.”

5. Briggs makes light of “dive-gate.” Here’s what Briggs said about Brian Urlacher’s comments about the Bears’ defense faking injuries to slow down offenses: “It’s crazy because I was like thinking, ‘Man, I remember that.’ I was that guy. I remember, I’d forget. I couldn’t remember what the signal was because every game, I was like, ‘Ah, I’m the dive guy. But what was the signal?’ I never did the dive because I forgot the signal every game. But that was crazy.”

6. This is from Wednesday. Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins has seen Bears guard Kyle Long’s nastiness on film. The battle between Long and Atkins on Sunday should be fun to watch. It’ll be a good test for Long, who is coming off a very impressive preseason. I did find it interesting that Atkins noticed Long’s nasty side on film.

“He’s big and he’s physical, very aggressive and a strong player,” Atkins, arguably the best at his position, said. “And by watching him, you can tell he likes to get after D-linemen. He likes to get off, be aggressive and show his strength.”

7. This also is from Wednesday. Williams isn’t worried about his right calf. It was an injury that kept Williams out of every preseason game and most of training camp, but he says he’s healthy and that’s he not worried about re-injuring himself.

“I’ve been out here,” Williams said. “I’ve tested it out, threw it in the dirt and ran and pushed off of it. Now, it’s in the back of my head. Now, I’m just playing.”

8. Matt Forte has watched former NFL running back Charlie Garner. Under Trestman’s guidance, Garner had huge seasons with the Raiders. In 2002, he totaled 1,903 yards from scrimmage and scored 11 touchdowns. Forte will be used similarly.

“He’s very similar to him,” Cutler said. “I think Matt’s definitely more explosive in the running game than Charlie was. Charlie was an exceptional third-down back, knew all the protections and excelled at getting out of the backfield and making things happen in the passing game — which Matt can do.

“So if we can have Matt as a pass catcher as Charlie was and be able to run the ball as he can do so well, it’s a tough combo to deal with as a defense.”

9. The Bears consider the Bengals’ defensive front a big test for their revamped offensive line. Long said it. Trestman said it. And so did right tackle Jordan Mills, center Roberto Garza and Cutler.

But let’s go with what offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer said about it.

“We sure wish we could play a team that wasn’t quite as good up front, but you know what, it’s a good challenge, it’s a good opportunity for the guys to see where they are,” Kromer said. “It’s going to be a growing process throughout the year. Hopefully we’re better in Week 2; and Week 16 we’re better than in Week 15. We’re just going to continue to work at it and evaluate as we go and correct as we go.”

10. Did Trestman watch the Bengals on Hard Knocks? “No, I did not,” he said.

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