DENVER - The pecking order at wide receiver still is muddled after Sunday night's game, in which coach Lovie Smith was looking for progress more than anything else.
"Just another step as much as anything," Smith had said. "That's what we've asked from game to game."
But not much was decided as Devin Aromashodu's 8-yard reception was the only catch by a nonstarter in the first half. Aromashodu saw most of the playing time as the third receiver with the starters.
Brandon Rideau's first catch, a 4-yarder, didn't come until near the end of the third quarter.
One of the considerations in determining playing time behind starters Devin Hester and Earl Bennett is the ability to play the slot position when the Bears go with three wide receivers.
Rashied Davis has the most experience in the slot, and Bennett has played there some, starting last season in very limited activity as a rookie. In the Bears' offense, the slot receiver normally works underneath the defense and in the middle of the field. "It's tough to find a guy like that," said wide receivers coach Darryl Drake. "Not all of them can do it."
In the second half it was rookies Johnny Knox and Juaquin Iglesias who made the big plays. Knox caught a 43-yard pass from Caleb Hanie, and Iglesias had a 25-yard reception from Brett Basanez.
"I don't know that they had a whole lot of opportunities," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said of the nonstarters. "Johnny Knox obviously made a nice play in a third-down situation when we needed a play. Juaquin made a good play down the stretch."
Not so novel: The Broncos play a 3-4 defense which, in the past, has caused opponents problems because so few teams used that scheme.
But as many as 14 teams could be playing three-man defensive fronts this year, either as their base alignment or in tandem with some 4-3 alignments.
"I don't know what advantage one has over the other," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "It used to be the advantage was that not a lot of teams were playing the 3-4; now a lot of teams are. We play one this week (the Broncos), we play one next week (the Browns), and of course Green Bay does it, so it's just another thing to deal with."
The Packers switched in the off-season from a 4-3 to a 3-4. In addition to the two games vs. the Packers, the Bears also will face 3-4 teams when they play Pittsburgh in Week 2, Cleveland again (Week 8), San Francisco (Week 10) and Baltimore (Week 15). Arizona (Week 9) plays a version of the 3-4.
In and out: Starting safety Danieal Manning (hamstring), starting cornerback Charles Tillman (back) and cornerback Zack Bowman (hamstring), a potential starter, have yet to play in a preseason game, after sitting out Sunday night. But the remaining defensive backs have tried to pick up the slack.
"Guys are always going to be missing," said Corey Graham, who has been playing nickel back while Manning heals. "There are going to be injuries. Things are going to happen, and the next guy has just got to step in and make plays."