By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) The bye week afforded the Bears time to heal up and get their bodies right for the second half of the season. For the second straight day, the team practiced Thursday with nearly its full complement of players.
Left guard Matt Slauson (chest) remains out and has yet to be put on the reserve/injured list despite general manager Phil Emery saying he would be out for the season last Monday.
Linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring) and offensive guard Eben Britton (appendectomy) also didn’t participate in practice.
A new entry to the injury report was tight end Martellus Bennett, who was limited with a rib injury.
Trestman on play calling
After the first half of the season concluded, the offense still wasn’t sure what it did best on offense. Part of the issue has been a lack of balance with the Bears’ play-calling, which has been a point of emphasis for coach Marc Trestman the past two weeks.
“I look at balance as we want to run the ball when we feel it’s important to run the ball and we want to throw it when we feel that’s the best way to move the ball,” Trestman said. “I think most of the time I do feel that way. There’s times where I try not to get ahead of myself in terms of play-calling. I’m sure there’s times that I have done that. I won’t deny that. I can’t be specific. I would assume that during the course of the eight weeks, that did happen.”
Because Trestman can’t be specific, I will be. In the Bears’ last two losses, once the games became two-possession games, the Bears became a pass-first attack. There are so many factors that can go wrong on a pass play that the Bears’ best formula for success on Sunday night against the Packers — and moving forward — to both keep Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines and open up the vertical passing game will be to establish the run.
Obviously, the Bears won’t reveal any details of their game plan, but parsing through quarterback Jay Cutler’s answer Thursday about staying patient shows that Chicago plans on a ground-heavy attack.
“We’ve got to keep to the game plan,” Cutler said. “We can’t get into a heavy pass situation, where we’re pass-pass-pass, and try to get some quick ones and put points up quickly. We have to just be patient. Whether it’s 7-0 or 0-0 or 10-3, we gotta keep to the game plan.”
Clarity on offensive line coming Friday
With Slauson out for Sunday, the Bears have been shuffling players at practice at left guard and right tackle in search of the best combination. The starting line at practice from left to right was Jermon Bushrod, Michael Ola, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills. More clarity about the situation will come on Friday after Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer review the tape from Thursday’s practice.
“We did move them around today,” Trestman said. “Brian played some guard. Ola played some tackle. Ola went inside and played guard, of course. And Jordan was at the tackle position. We moved him a little bit as well. We really have tried to move some people around, based on the situation we’re in, losing Eben, No. 1, and working Charles Leno into the group as well. We want to come to some conclusions by the end of the day and establish the lineup for tomorrow.”
The Bears use a sixth offensive lineman more than any team in the league, so they’re affected by both Slauson and Britton’s injury heading into Sunday night.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.