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Bell in battle for third running back job

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 9, 2012 – 5:07 pm

Starter Matt Forte and backup Michael Bush are locked into the top two spots on the depth chart at running back, but there’s a battle brewing for the third position that figures to intensify.

With the Bears set to open the preseason Thursday night against the Broncos, Kahlil Bell is trying to hold off Armando Allen and perhaps Lorenzo Booker for what could be the final roster spot at running back.

Bell excelled late last season after injuries sidelined Forte and backup Marion Barber, rushing for 240 yards in the final three games including a career-high 121 yards in a Week 16 loss to the Packers.

After fumbling three times in the final two games last season, Bell dropped the ball again in the first training camp practice but has been sure-handed ever since.

“Kahlil is having a great camp,” said running backs coach Tim Spencer. “Every year that I’ve been here he’s always had a great camp. He only had one situation where he let the ball go early.

“He’s been doing a decent job, I’m staying on him because I’m being real conscious of the way he carries the ball because to me that’s the issue. But he gives great effort and he’s been having an excellent camp so I have only good things to say about him.”

Allen has impressed coaches in training camp as well. The 5-10, 190-pounder appeared in two games with the Bears last season, rushing for 48 yards on 15 carries.

“He does have the ability to catch the ball in the backfield and out wide in the slot, which is great for us because we can definitely utilize that because we do that with Matt,” Spencer said. “He kind of can fit in and do the same things. He’s good about knowing the assignments. He’s not as big as Matt. He can do some good things; he did last year when he got into a couple games.”

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Marinelli eager to gauge progress

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 9, 2012 – 4:04 pm

There’s little doubt the national media will focus on Peyton Manning when the future Hall of Famer makes his Broncos debut in Thursday night’s preseason opener at Soldier Field. But Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is interested in something completely different.

“I’m anxious about us, concerned with us and how we perform,” Marinelli said. “That’s the key. We want to come out feeling good about how we execute, and sometimes it may not be all 11. It may be two or three guys we’re looking at. We want to see that execution.”

Marinelli constantly focuses on fundamentals in practice and is eager to see which players can transfer what they’ve learned in training camp into a game against an NFL opponent.

“You really want to see the discipline, you want to see the movement, you want to see guys flash obviously, to understand the defense, guys rush and break on the ball and tackling,” Marinelli said. “We want some guys that can tackle and guys get opportunities to make plays on the ball and who can rush.”

One of the players that Marinelli is most eager to see against the Broncos is second-year defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who has performed exceptionally well in training camp.

“I’ve been really pleased with him,” Marinelli said. “He’s made the statement to you by watching him. You don’t have to say anything. He’s just made his statement. He is accelerating off the ball. He’s tough. You don’t see the guy up and down every single day, and that’s key for us.”

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Bears looking to replace Graham

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 9, 2012 – 2:03 pm

Finding a gunner on punt coverage to replace departed free agent Pro Bowler Corey Graham is at the top of special teams coordinator Dave Toub’s to-do list this summer.

“It’s key this year,” Toub said in advance of Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Broncos at Soldier Field. “We’ve got to replace Corey, so we’re trying to find that guy.”

Nickel back D.J. Moore will get the first opportunity.

“We think he can do it,” Toub said. “He’s got the quickest first step out of anybody on the team, so we think he’ll be able to get to the edge. It’s just a matter of him having the effort to go down every down and finish. It takes a lot of effort to play gunner because you’re going to get knocked down.

“It’s going to be brutal and you have to keep coming back. It takes a lot of tenacity to play that position. He thinks he can do it. I think he can. So we’re going to go with him at the start.”

Rashied Davis, a special teams standout with the Bears from 2005-10, also will get a chance to help fill the void. Davis was signed on Monday after Devin Thomas left training camp intending to retire.

“Rashied’s definitely a possibility,” Toub said. “He’s going to take all the spots that Devin Thomas did. He’s going to step right in and do all the positions that he played when he was here.”

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