The Bears have been determined to examine every combination possible as they search for two safeties to emerge as starters. And Friday, the spinning wheel stopped on Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray for the exhibition opener against the Eagles.
During a 34-28 victory, Mundy and McCray played the entire first quarter with rookie Brock Vereen and veteran Adrian Wilson replacing them and working together into the second half.
Mundy has seen the most time with the first-team defense during training camp and delivered an interception on Friday's opening possession. It came on a Nick Foles pass toward Ifeanyi Momah. Foles was under pressure from defensive end Willie Young and misfired with Mundy in position to capitalize, an encouraging contribution at a position that produced few big plays in 2013.
When camp began, general manager Phil Emery promised plenty of mixing and matching across the depth chart and the shuffling has been most obvious on the back end of the defense.
Adding to the safety uncertainty, Chris Conte, a 16-game starter last season, appears to be nearing a return. Conte had offseason surgery on his right shoulder and hasn't practiced since December. But he was on the field Friday for a pre-game workout, a sign that he's readying to enter the safety competition soon.
Missing in action: Nine Bears didn't dress for Friday's game, including starting offensive linemen Kyle Long and Jordan Mills and defensive end Jared Allen. Long missed Wednesday's practice with a right ankle injury. Mills has been experiencing soreness this week in his left foot, the same one he fractured in December.
Allen, hasn't practiced since Aug. 1. He was held out of the team's Family Fest practice at Soldier Field on Aug. 2, then missed three more practices in Bourbonnais to be with his family after the birth of his second daughter.
Others not dressing Friday were safeties Conte (shoulder) and Craig Steltz (groin); cornerbacks Tim Jennings (quadriceps) and Isaiah Frey (hamstring); offensive lineman Eben Britton (hamstring) and tight end Martellus Bennett (suspension).
The dirty dozen: Twelve penalty flags were thrown in the first quarter alone, eight of them accepted, a sign that the early stages of exhibition football still feature plenty of sloppiness. The Bears had five penalties for 44 yards in the quarter. On one play, both teams drew flags — a hold on Bears running back Matt Forte and illegal contact on Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans — negating what had been a 40-yard bomb from Jay Cutler to Alshon Jeffery.
Extra points: Cutler's final line: two drives, 9-for-13, 85 yards, one touchdown pass. Six of those pass attempts went to Brandon Marshall, five for completions totaling 31 yards. … Guard Brian de la Puente left the game in the second quarter with a left knee injury. … Rookie running back Ka'Deem Carey got little going, producing 23 yards on 10 rushes.