Bears anticipate improved offense with injured players back
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Gradually, piece by piece, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is getting his receivers back on the field.
It couldn't come fast enough, especially after the Bears opened preseason play Thursday by losing 22-0 to the Denver Broncos.
The Bears never advanced beyond the Denver 44-yard line. It was the first time since 1981 Chicago suffered a preseason shutout.
''I think effort was outstanding,'' coach John Fox said after Saturday's practice. ''I thought we played physical. Like first preseason games, your tackling's not as crisp as it should be. They haven't done it in a few months.
''I think the execution, I'm a little disappointed in some of the early downs by our first (string).''
On Saturday, the Bears got starting tight end Zach Miller back on the field on a limited basis after he missed every practice in August with a concussion suffered at a July 31 practice.
''It's never fun standing on the sideline and watching, or, sitting inside and watching,'' Miller said after Saturday's practice. ''So it's hard to do that, but I'm happy to be back out here now.''
Seeking a backup tight end from a large group on the roster, the Bears looked forward to seeing the reserves perform with Miller sidelined. No tight ends caught a pass as the passing game struggled to 146 yards.
''Again, it's a great teaching tool watching that tape,'' Fox said. ''Negative things that happened are very easily fixed. I think the guys responded to it well. We expect more - they know it.
''They expect more themselves. But it wasn't all bad. It's just things are very correctable.''
In Thursday's loss, Cutler had starting wide receiver Alshon Jeffery back after a week away with a pulled hamstring. Still to return is wide receiver Eddie Royal, who remained sidelined Saturday in the concussion protocol.
Jeffery caught a 12-yard pass for the only first down by the first-team offense.
''It's nice to have (Jeffery) back,'' Cutler said. ''He didn't get to play as much in the first preseason game, but we'll definitely try to highlight him as we go through this.''
Cutler did get to throw one pass for 3 yards to Kevin White, the team's 2015 first-round draft pick. White missed all of his rookie regular season and preseason after shin surgery, so it was his first NFL game action.
''He's an explosive guy, he's a physical specimen,'' Cutler said. ''(We're) just finding ways to get him the ball in space and kind of let him catch and run and use that speed and burst he's got.''
Part of the offensive woes stem from poor pass protection. Cutler was sacked twice and Denver had seven sacks in all.
The Bears were playing their first game without starting center Hroniss Grasu, lost the previous week to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament. Guard Ted Larsen took his place and will be the center.
''I wouldn't say anything's ruined by any means,'' guard Kyle Long said. ''Obviously seven sacks, we can't have that if we want to win football games.
''Hroniss being out is tough, but we've got guys, we've got depth. That's why we're paying these guys to play, that's why I'm paid to play.''
The Bears continue to look for help on the line and Saturday signed former Colts center Khaled Holmes and former Rams lineman Shelley Smith, while waiving undrafted free agent linemen Dan Buchholz and Donovan Williams.
''We're always looking to get better,'' Fox said. ''We'll see how that pans out. Obviously they're a little behind as far as knowledge of our system.''
After Sunday's practice, the Bears fly to Providence and practice three times against the New England Patriots prior to their game Thursday with New England.
NOTES: Running back Ka'Deem Carey was sidelined Saturday at practice because of the concussion protocol after being injured against Denver. Defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson also is in the concussion protocol after head and neck injuries in the game. ... Running back Senorise Perry suffered a hamstring injury against Denver and did not practice Saturday.
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