By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) For the first time since Week 1, the Bears practiced Thursday with their five starting offensive linemen. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod returned to the practice field and was a full go. Right tackle Jordan Mills — who sat out Wednesday to rest his foot — was a limited participant.
Mills struggled against the Falcons, but offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer was emphatic in his support of Mills.
“Well, first off I’d like to say that Jordan Mills has played 20 good football games for us,” Kromer said. “He came in as a rookie and had a very good year last year and was having a good year this year. He didn’t have his best game. He’s the first to tell you. And he came back to work.”
Considering how well Michael Ola has played at various spots this season, it’s fair to wonder if he might get a shot at right tackle, but Kromer maintained that Mills is one of the Bears’ top five offensive linemen.
Linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) didn’t participate in practice, and coach Marc Trestman said he is “day-to-day” in his rehab.
Safety Chris Conte (shoulder) also didn’t participate in practice. Trestman said the Bears are using a rotation of Brock Vereen and Danny McCray at free safety in practice to determine who will start this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
Here’s the rest of the injury report.
— LB Jon Bostic (back)
— S Ahmad Dixon (hamstring)
— LB D.J. Williams (neck)
— LB Shea McClellin (hand)
— CB Sherrick McManis (quad/knee)
Protection is the focus for the Dolphins
The Dolphins boast two dynamic pass rushers off the edge in Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. Both head coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer highlighted the sheer amount of hits the Dolphins have put on opposing quarterbacks.
“They’re hitting the quarterback in every game,” Trestman said. “It started with Brady in Game 1, it worked through Alex Smith. Carr, all of them. And last week as well with Aaron.”
Rather than just going to max protect, Kromer mentioned sometimes it’s better just to spread teams like the Dolphins out, but it ultimately comes down to offensive continuity.
“It’s the timing of the play,” Kromer said. “It goes back to what I always say is everybody is involved in a pass protection—a wide receiver who gets open quickly is going to help our pass protection. A quarterback who makes his read quickly is going to help pass protection. And obviously the protectors are going to do it. It’s up to everybody to be in sync and to get the ball off in a timely manner and also do a good job protecting.”
Defense still focused on takeaways
As is the case with most teams, the Bears are 3-0 in games they’ve won the turnover battle, and 0-3 in games they’ve lost the turnover battle.
Head coach Marc Trestman has set a weekly goal for his defense.
“Well then we talk defensively that we want to be plus-2,” Trestman said. “The only way to counteract that, if you’re going to turn the ball over offensively, the only way to counteract that is to take it away. Because if you’re minus-2, you’re losing the game 80, almost 90 percent of the time. If you’re minus-1, you’re losing the game almost 70 percent of the time. The last 12, 13 years, if you’re plus-1, you win 70%. You’re plus-2, you win close to 90. Plus-3, it’s 90 percent.”
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.