When they host the Vikings Sunday, the Bears hope to have their regular secondary completely intact for the first time since the season opener against the Packers.
Nickel back Kyler Gordon broke his hand in Week 1, safety Eddie Jackson hurt his foot in Week 2 and cornerback Jaylon Johnson injured his hamstring in Week 3. All three have been sidelined since getting hurt.
"Shoot, that'll bring the energy, bring the juice," Johnson said about the possibility of the regular defensive backs returning Sunday. "The DBs last week started that off. They played a very solid game holding that down for us. We definitely have to get back and up the energy, up the execution, just get back what we were missing. Just getting everybody back, we have to come back, and we have to start to click. We don't have time for any more mess-ups or anything like that. We've got that all out of the way. We have to come back and execute at a high level."
Johnson practiced without restrictions Thursday and Friday after being limited Wednesday and was not given an injury designation for Sunday's contest.
The Bears hope that the 2020 second-round pick from Utah will pick up where he left off before getting injured Sept. 24 against the Chiefs.
"You really saw him making plays the way we want him to," said coach Matt Eberflus. "Making plays on the ball. He was tackling really well. I thought he was aggressive in his technique but under control at the same time. He's got really good stop and start at the top of the route to be able to close and bust the triangle and make deflections. He's done a really good job with that. I really see him focusing on the ball more. He had that nice caused fumble in the Tampa Bay game. He's on the right track. We like where he is."
Jackson is listed as questionable after being limited in practice all week.
Asked whether the veteran safety will face Minnesota, Eberflus said: "We're very hopeful for that,. We'll see where it is though. We'll see where he is in terms of his conditioning and things. We're still working through that. We'll work through that today."
Eberflus liked what he saw from Jackson this week in practice.
"We ramped him up a little bit the first couple days, but he was good to go [Friday]," Eberflus said. "It was good for him. It's always good to have his leadership back there. He makes a lot of calls. He's very communicative back there with the defense. It's good to have him paired back there with [Jaquan] Brisker. That's always a positive thing."
Jackson told reporters Friday that his foot is "feeling good. Moving better. Running. High speed. Cutting. It's feeling a lot better."
Gordon practiced in full Friday after being limited Wednesday and Thursday and was activated off IR Saturday.
Gordon looked impressive this week on the practice field.
"We're excited where he is," Eberflus said. "That nickel spot is a big spot for us, and he's done a good job with that. [There's] a lot of things in there to do, and he does them well. He's done a good job all week with that. He's a real positive guy, so it's always great to have his energy out there as well. He certainly brings that passion."
Cornerbacks coach/defensive passing game coordinator Jon Hoke described the nickel spot as "a hard position to play in pro football."
"You have to be a corner, you have to be a linebacker, you have to be a safety, you have to be able to blitz, you've got to be able to play man coverage, you've got to be able to play zone coverage," Hoke said. "Having him back is a huge plus because he has really good experience in there. He has very good instincts as a player. He's a physical guy, he's a good blitzer. He has a lot of attributes that you're looking for in that position, and he does them at a high level."
One member of the secondary who definitely won't play Sunday is cornerback Terell Smith. The rookie fifth-round selection from Minnesota has been ruled out of the game due to an ankle injury and illness after not practicing Friday.
The Bears backfield, meanwhile, will sport a different look against the Vikings, with all three running backs who exited last week's victory over the Commanders being ruled out of the NFC North clash.
Those injuries figure to give D'Onta Foreman expanded playing time. The six-year NFL veteran was a healthy scratch in the last four games after rushing for 16 yards on five carries in the season opener versus Green Bay.
Foreman signed a one-year contract with the Bears in March. Last year with the Panthers he established career highs in all rushing categories with 203 carries, 914 yards and five touchdowns, highlighted by five 100-yard outings.
"There's a ton to like," said offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. "His play style. His downhill running. His violent, explosive gains. We're excited to see what he can put out there this week."
Like Herbert, receiver Equanimeous St. Brown also was placed on injured reserve Friday after exiting the Washington game with a hamstring injury.
Center Lucas Patrick returned to practice in full Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday. The seventh-year pro remains in concussion protocol and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
"There's several hurdles you have to clear," Eberflus said. "He has to clear one more and once he does that, we'll be able to assess where we are in terms of our depth."
Doug Kramer Jr.