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Chad Ochocinco has been tweeting up a storm this week but he put the kidding aside Wednesday morning in an entertaining conference call with reporters. He's seen Charles Tillman do a pretty good job the last games on Atlanta's Roddy White and Detroit's Calvin Johnson.

The Bears were burned by Johnson in the first half of the Lions' game, and coach Lovie Smith made a halftime adjustment having Tillman shadow him on the field where he went. Johnson had three catches for 14 yards, and Tillman followed it up Sunday night in the Georgia Dome against White, who had four catches for 56 yards. White scored on a bubble screen that went 40 yards, and Tillman was wiped out by tight end Tony Gonzalez on the play.

"Beautiful. Beautiful,'' Ochocinco said when asked about Tillman. "I've been studying film on Peanut since training camp actually. I got some of the film that I could from when he played before and watched some of the things he does. He's really, really good, man. I know I've been playing around on Twitter and going back and forth with the nonsense--it's the way I play the game--but he looks really good and he's put up some shut-downs on some pretty good top receivers, so it's going to be a fun, interesting matchup come Sunday."

Ochocinco, who called out the secondary in a playful way on Twitter, said the Bears will be kissing the baby from the moment the whistle blows. He's got an end zone celebration planned for the game, too. When he was known as Chad Johnson, he scored two touchdowns vs. the Bears at Soldier Field in 2005, doing his take on Michael Flatley's Riverdance. That was at a time when Brian Urlacher was embroiled in a dispute with Tyna Robertson, the mother of his son. Robertson had falsely accused Flatley of rape, and he won a successful lawsuit against her. He said he's not going to repeat a dance he's already done.

"A very good friend of mine, Ronaldinho, I'm thinking about doing the Samba this week,'' Ochocinco said. "Courtesy of my friend Ronaldinho."

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The cyber mailbag has been getting stuffed in e-mail and on my Twitter account.

Are the Bears in play for Terrell Owens?

My initial take on T.O. to the Bears is NO, but keep in mind that the N in NFL stands for never rule anything out.

Before we go any further, let's get to the genesis of these e-mails and the rampant speculation that is all over the Internet. ESPN's Adam Schefter speculated that the Buffalo Bills could look to trade Owens before the NFL's trading deadline, which is next Tuesday. Schefter's short item starts out: "About a week before the Oct. 20 NFL trade deadline, the Buffalo Bills are not shopping wide receiver Terrell Owens." Then, he goes on to explain why it would be a good idea for the Bills, who could lay off roughly $4 million of the $6.5 million contract Owens signed with Buffalo this season.

The Bills are going nowhere in 2009, only to an offseason rebuilding with a coach not named Dick Jauron, but they built energy in their club and fan base by surprisingly signing Owens after he was cast off in Dallas. Do they want to admit failure and deal away the one player who spurred ticket sales? You've got to keep in mind the issues Owens caused in Dallas and before that in Philadelphia when you consider the idea of adding him to a locker room that Lovie Smith likes right now, one that is calm, veteran and clear of pretty much anything in the way of controversy. A ripple in the Bears locker room occurs when tight end Desmond Clark announces on his Internet radio show that he has a fractured rib. That's controversy for the Bears.

Owens has 12 catches for 202 yards and one touchdown for a miserable Bills' offense. He turns 36 in December, and he simply doesn't get off press coverage at the line of scrimmage like he did before. Scouts will tell you he doesn't have to be defended the way he did three or four years ago. If the production of the Bears' wide receivers has not been a surprise to the team, then it has been a surprise to everyone not residing at Halas Hall. Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett are all on pace to have more than 750 yards receiving, something no trio in franchise history has accomplished. Is any receiver going to the Pro Bowl? Probably not. But the Bears are far ahead of where many upset they didn't swing a trade for Anquan Boldin figured they would be.



Owens is a big target at 6-3, 224 pounds, and he could probably excel with Jay Cutler throwing him the ball. Cutler likes big targets, and he's not the least bit surprised that Kyle Orton has found success with Brandon Marshall in Denver. Throw it up for a big receiver and watch him go get it. Cutler likes big receivers and it's one reason he took to Devin Aromashodu in training camp and preseason. Owens would offer that dimension to the offense, one it really has not been getting from tight end Greg Olsen, who was supposed to have a breakout season.

Got a good question in the mailbag last week and I thought it would make a good post on its own.

Q: Could you please explain what a No. 1 receiver is. Is he the one that catches most of the passes? Can he be a No. 1 if he doesn't catch 100 in a season? Is he the one that leads the team in receiving yards? Perhaps he's the "go to guy?" The most reliable? Best hands? Is he the fastest receiver on the team? Is it similar to having a No. 1 defensive end, or maybe an offensive tackle or guard. Is there such a thing?

Is it better than having two or three equally talented and dependable receivers? Wouldn't it be better to keep a secondary guessing who's gonna get the ball? Could a tight end be a No. 1 receiver? If not, why? Basic terminology says there is a tight end and a split end. I understand how it has changed to wide out, and could the slot receiver (the back in a pro set formation?) be a number 1? How many NFL teams actually have a number 1 receiver?

In all seriousness, I don't understand and wish someone would explain it. Although I've always heard the term and thought I understood, I really don't. I'm sure I'm not the only one out here. I think there are an awful lot of people that only pretend to understand because it's cool to throw around cool terms in a conversation and are ashamed to admit that they don't.

Please help,
Pete J., Mt. Prospect

A: Well, Pete, I'm not going to claim to be the No. 1 authority on this subject, and I think it's fair to say a No. 1 wide receiver is many things to many different people. Let me just say that the definition of No. 1 wide receiver, in my book, is an elite wideout who could start for any team in the league. I like to think of a No. 1 wideout being a "blue" in scouting terms, and a blue is an elite level player who could start for all 32 teams. By that definition, of course, it's fair to say the Bears do not have a No. 1 wide receiver. A blue receiver is going to be someone who can stretch the field vertically and has all of those traits you rattled off. A No. 1 wide receiver is one who had a chance to impact the game on every down. He can't be a guy who just catches a lot of balls, or gets a lot of catches in the red zone. He needs to be a player that on a weekly basis the opposing defense is very concerned about. Right now, the Bears don't have one. They're hoping they can forge that player between Devin Hester and Johnny Knox.



Would it be better to have a No. 1 or three equally talented and dependable receivers? To each his own, but you can sign me up for the elite talent every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Blues are the players that make the biggest difference on Sundays. Remember when the Carolina Panthers came in to play the Bears in the 2005 playoffs? Can you name the wide receiver who started opposite Steve Smith? Keary Colbert. The Bears knew who was getting the ball and they couldn't stop him. Smith has been an elite talent for a long time. If you're referring to the Bears, I'd be careful saying they have three equally talented and dependable receivers at this point. Devin Hester has been good. Earl Bennett and Knox basically have four games of experience each. They've been productive thus far and all three are on pace for a little more than 750 yards receiving.

Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa returned to practice today at Halas Hall for the first since since suffering a sprained right knee in the season opener at Green Bay. He is expected to return to action when the team plays again Oct. 18 at Atlanta and likely return to his spot as the starter on the strong side. Wide receiver Johnny Knox was also back on the field three days after a shin injury knocked him out of the victory over Detroit.

A handful of players were given the day off, though, in the first of two practices during the bye week. Pretty much anyone that has had a minor ailment of late was rested, including defensive end Alex Brown, linebacker Lance Briggs, wide receiver Devin Hester, left guard Frank Omiyale and defensive tackle Tommie Harris.

"We need to heal up a little bit bumps and bruises and those type things,'' coach Lovie Smith said. "Also good to get some work in offense vs. defense, getting back to some of the training camp-type practices. Injury-list wise, no need in going on any of that, they guys are all getting better, we're optimistic we'll have most of the group ready to go Monday when we come back and start our preparation for Atlanta.''

Nearly two weeks until the Bears have to suit up again in Atlanta, Lovie Smith said he is counting on all of his players to be available to face the Falcons?

Realistic? Maybe not. Possible? Sure. Smith confirmed the Sun-Times report that defensive lineman Israel Idonije had arthroscopic knee surgery today. He sounded more confident that wide receivers Devin Hester and Johnny Knox and linebackers Pisa Tinoisamoa and Hunter Hillenmeyer will be back.

"Clean up, you know, a little bit in one of his knees,'' Smith said about Idonije. "Should be ready to go. Nothing major. Minor procedure that we had scheduled, so he should be all right."


We knew the Bears were going to use the bye week to try and heal up at wide receiver and linebacker, and now this: defensive lineman Israel Idonije is expected to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery today, a source close to the player said. Idonije has canceled a personal appearance.

Idonije has been on the injury report since the beginning of the season with a knee listed as his ailment, and he was questionable for Sunday's game against Detroit. He played and was credited with a forced fumble and a sack. Idonije was also involved on special teams, but didn't look as quick as usual. By doing the procedure today, there is a chance Idonije will return quickly. While it's unknown the exact reason they are working on his knee, it's not out of the question that he could be back on the field when the Bears play at Atlanta Oct. 18. The bye will certainly help.

Rookie defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert played for the first time against the Lions, and the Bears have added depth with tackle Matt Toeaina, who was inactive. So if Idonije is forced to miss a game or two, there will not be a scramble for bodies. Mark Anderson has been used inside in pass-rushing situations, and there are more than enough bodies to go around.

No question has been asked more since the Bears' 48-24 victory over Detroit this afternoon than whether or not Johnny Knox crossed the goalline on his 102-yard kickoff return before flipping the ball to the ground.

I wondered the same thing aloud to Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald when the play happened, and I've watched the play over and over now. The first thing that should be mentioned is it was a terrific call by special teams coordinator Dave Toub. He said the Lions had been overplaying returns to the left in the first half, so when the Bears opened the third quarter they called a naked--the blocks would start out left and then Knox would cut it back right. There was nothing but daylight, and some key blocks from Corey Graham, Jamar Williams and Josh Bullocks, active for the first time this season, helped spring Knox.

I can't tell you with certainty whether the ball reached the plane of the goalline or not before he released it. Unless you have a better camera angle than what was provided on television, you won't be able to tell either. Frozen near the goalline, it looked darn close. Knox flipped the ball backward with his right hand. It landed a yard into the end zone. That right there makes me believe he probably did reach the goalline. He didn't flip the ball forward. Obviously, no official was in position to make a definitive call on whether he pulled a DeSean Jackson or not. The Lions were smart not to challenge the play because the television replays showed nothing in the way of indisputable evidence. Moreover, a successful challenge would have meant the Bears had the ball first-and-goal at the one.

It's fair to say Knox will get a short chat from Toub. Other than that, it's a fun sidenote to the second-longest kickoff return in franchise history. It marked the fourth consecutive year the Bears have had a kickoff run back for a touchdown, and it's their sixth since 2005.

Now to some game observations. It was a good win for the Bears to get to 3-1 entering the bye week, but I think the way the Lions really outplayed them, especially in the first half, raised some valid questions. Let's go through five positives and five things to work on:

The sudden emergence of rookie Johnny Knox through the first two games has raised an interesting question about a wide receiver that had a breakthrough during training camp and preseason--Devin Aromashodu.

Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake jokingly referred to Aromashodu as Wally Pipp and Knox as Lou Gehrig, a funny analogy but one that doesn't fit. Aromashodu can't be Pipp because he hasn't been out on the field with the Bears in the regular season yet. It's impossible to lose a gig he never had. But on the fields of training camp and in preseason, he quickly emerged as one of Jay Cutler's preferred targets. At 6-2, 201 pounds, he has good size, and the relationship was evident at the very beginning of camp. It was cemented in preseason when Cutler actively worked to feed him the ball.

But a slight quad pull sidelined Aromashodu for the season opener at Green Bay, creating an opening on the game day roster for Knox, who otherwise appeared destined to be inactive. He took the opportunity, and a few passes from Cutler, and ran with them. The Bears have only dressed four receivers for the first two games--starters Devin Hester and Earl Bennett--Knox, and Rashied Davis. It's going to be hard to justify bumping up another wide receiver when you consider special teams needs. Davis is a four-phase contributor on special teams, and that matters. He forced the game-ending fumble against Pittsburgh on the kickoff coverage unit. It's clear Cutler wants to see Aromashodu at some point, but the wideout will likely have to prove useful for special teams coordinator Dave Toub. Fourth and fifth wideouts have to be major special teams players.

BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Marcus Harrison continues to make progress on the side while on the non-football injury list and the defensive tackle is hopeful he'll be cleared for a return by Saturday when the Bears will practice at Soldier Field during Family Day.

Harrison has missed four practices and one mini-practice thus far with Anthony Adams and Dusty Dvoracek dividing the reps at nose tackle in his absence. Harrison reported to camp at 322, 10 pounds above the weight he said he played at last season. It's a combination of weight and body fat percentage that the team wants him to drop, especially after he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in May.

Some notes from the afternoon session:

The Bears are entering the most difficult days of training camp where their bodies are starting to feel fatigued after five weeks off. The session Monday afternoon probably reflected that somewhat, and quarterback Jay Cutler certainly was not as accurate as he has been, although he did lead the first offense into position for a 53-yard Robbie Gould field goal in the two-minute drills. Some quick notes from the workout:

Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Matt Toeania all returned to work.

Jamar Williams did a nice job taking on fullback Jason Davis in inside run drills.

I've spent four weeks here analyzing some of the things I'll be looking when when the whistle blows at 3 p.m. Friday and the Bears get rolling with their first practice of the season. Now it's time to turn over some space to the trained eye of Tom Thayer, who lists his occupation on his IRS paperwork every April as a "football describer.''

Thayer, the color analyst for WBBM-780 AM, will be at training camp and will offer daily updates for the Bears' flagship station. Here is what Thayer offered:

"There are three things I will be looking at and one of them is the free agents, the newcomers, [Jay] Cutler, Pisa [Tinoisamoa], [Orlando] Pace, big Frank [Omiyale], [Kevin] Shaffer, [Josh] Bullocks, these guys that came in. I want to start looking at those guys and see if they really are what they are, if they're going to fit in, what they're going to do to the team and how they're changing it. Then, I have a key selection of veterans who have been here already who are on the roster who I really want to pay attention to to see if they re-emerge, if they're playing like they did last year, if they're not involved in the betterment of the football team the way they should be due to their position on the roster and with the team and all that. My guys here are [Nathan] Vasher, [Brian] Urlacher, Tommie [Harris], Kevin Jones, Wale [Ogunleye], Nick Roach.

"And then [Johnny] Knox, [Juaquin] Iglesias and D.J. Moore are some rookies I want to watch. I think Moore may have a place. He is one of the three guys of the rooks I am looking at who may need to come in and just provide interest. Just to see if they can help in any way. There is a specific group and positioning of players that I am interested in looking at first. Then I think if you are looking at a position specifically, I still have concerns about the safety position. I like Kevin Payne but there is a battle for all other interior defensive back positions. Payne is only going to be pushed by himself. He is a guy who has to stay healthy. You can go out there and Kevin Payne can show flashes of brilliance and then he can pop his head in there and come out, get dinged, and you're back to square one. My only issue with Kevin Payne is durability.''

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Saving the biggest puzzle for last, we conclude our position-by-position training camp previews with, what else, the wide receivers.

Projected starters: Devin Hester, 5-11, 190, 4th season, Miami; Earl Bennett, 6-0, 204, 2nd season, Vanderbilt

Others

Devin Aromashodu, 6-2, 201, 3rd season, Auburn
John Broussard, 6-1, 181, 2nd season, San Jose State
Rashied Davis, 5-9, 187, 5th season, San Jose State
Juaquin Iglesias, 6-1, 205, Rookie, Oklahoma
Derek Kinder, 6-1, 202, Rookie, Pittsburgh
Johnny Knox, 6-0, 185, Rookie, Abilene Christian
Eric Peterman, 6-1, 202, Rookie Northwestern
Brandon Rideau, 6-3, 198, 3rd season, Kansas

Projected depth chart

WR: Hester, Davis, Knox
WR: Bennett, Iglesias, Rideau

2009 salary cap numbers

Devin Aromashodu $465,200
Earl Bennett $595,409
John Broussard $390,200
Rashied Davis $1,581,666
Devin Hester $6,885,833
Juaquin Iglesias $554,900
Derek Kinder $319,416
Johnny Knox $361,060
Eric Peterman $310,666
Brandon Rideau $465,200

Number of wide receivers on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 6

Projected number of wide receivers on 2009 roster at start of the season: 6

The skinny: From general manager Jerry Angelo on down the Bears know they don't have this position where it needs to be. Angelo acknowledged the Bears would have used their first-round draft pick on a wide receiver had they not traded the pick to acquire Jay Cutler. Then, he tried to trade for Anquan Boldin when the draft began. Finally, the Bears did enough snooping around on Plaxico Burress to earn their Jr. Inspector Clouseau badge. Think right about now Burress wishes now he'd done his couple months in the pokey? It looks highly unlikely that Burress will help Cutler and the Bears this season and that puts the onus on Cutler to make some of these players better. Ideally, the Bears would be in a situation where they would only keep five receivers on the roster, but if Iglesias (third round) and Knox (fifth round) earn roster spots, as expected, they'll probably need to try to cover for the inexperience with numbers. Say what you want, and we're not demeaning any of the players at this position, but it's a quantity over quality matter here. Quite frankly, that could help Rideau in his bid to win a job.



So how much better can Cutler make the Bears' receivers? There is certainly something to a quarterback making a wide receiver better but he's not the difference between Eddie Royal's 91 catches as a rookie last season in Denver and Bennett's 0 catches as a rookie last season. Cutler isn't going to clone Brandon Marshall in the Olivet Nazarene dorm rooms, either. He can make the receivers better and that starts with them developing a trust and a rapport. Cutler has to know what the receiver is going to do before he does it. That comes with reps, lots of them.

We've spent plenty of time here the last three-plus weeks discussing the big stories that lie ahead in training camp and how things will shake out. Let's mix it up this morning and go a different direction. Here is a list of eight players not expected to be in the starting lineup but worth watching during training camp and preseason. Some of them will need to perform well and against odds to land a spot on the 53-man roster. We chose only players who have never started a game in the NFL. A look:

Safety Al Afalava. The Bears went into the draft knowing they needed a free safety but with their draft position, they didn't identify any that would fill their need in what was considered a weak class. They wound up grabbing Afalava in the sixth round, and he's a strong safety although the Bears have said he can play both positions. He's a serious hitter and should provide some exciting moments late in some preseason games that are otherwise not exciting. It could be an uphill battle to make the roster and just being a thumper won't get it done for him. He needs to show instincts first. Missing the bulk of the offseason program because of the rules for schools like Oregon State that are on the quarter system didn't help him.

Cornerback Zack Bowman. He's got to be a candidate for the most improved player from last summer to now. Remember, Bowman didn't make the 53-man roster last September and started on the practice squad before getting a promotion. He did well for himself in shorts and a helmet this spring and needs to build off that momentum. The biggest challenge for the fifth-round draft pick from 2008 will be staying healthy. He's got to stay on the field.

Defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert. The real hit-or-miss nature of the Bears' drafts over the last five seasons makes you wonder about the current class of rookies. First-round pick Jay Cutler should look great. Ditto third-round pick Jay Cutler. The rest of the bunch is unknown and you might as well start with Gilbert, who was drafted to come in and help out a problem area for the defense on the line last season. They don't need him to be on the all-rookie team, and he doesn't have to start, but some meaningful contributions would help bolster the front seven.

Quarterback Caleb Hanie. All eyes will be on Cutler but Hanie's basically blank resume is going to make it imperative that he perform well in preseason. The Bears aren't going to panic if it looks sketchy behind Cutler, who has never missed an NFL start, but seeing some solid outings out of Hanie will make them feel pretty good about a potential No. 2 for a few seasons. You can be young and ineffective and hold down a job as a No. 3 a team is looking to develop. The backup needs to be able to come in and get a team through a game.

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