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Stock Watch: Chicago Bears' DL future bright with Ego Ferguson

Bears rookie defensive tackle Ego Ferguson deflected two Cam Newton passes during the second quarter on Sunday. AP Images/Mike McCarn

RISING

1. Ego Ferguson, DT: Ferguson had a limited body of work in college at LSU, which led some to wonder if the Bears reached when they selected him in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft. Through five games, Ferguson has rewarded the Bears' faith in him, supplying the defense with solid play along the interior of the defensive line. Ferguson had a memorable series in the second quarter in Week 5 when he deflected two Cam Newton passes at the line of scrimmage, the second tipped ball ending up in the hands of linebacker Lance Briggs for an interception. Ferguson, who also contributed two tackles in 31 total snaps against Carolina, has been one of the highest-rated rookie defensive linemen in the league in several statistical categories, despite being on the field for about half a game every week. Ferguson and third-round pick Will Sutton have given Bears fans reasons to be excited about the future of the defensive line.

2. Willie Young, DE: Numbers are an important tool used to evaluate performance in the NFL, but they can be deceiving. You can lean on obscure facts to try to win an argument about a player or team, even when your eyes tell a completely different story when watching games in real time. But there is no gray area when it pertains to impact plays. Young is an impact player. The defensive end had a fabulous first-quarter sequence when he hammered Newton's arm and jarred the ball loose deep in Carolina territory. The Bears recovered the fumble and promptly punched the ball in the end zone to take a 14-7 lead. That is the definition of an impact play. Young has a team-high five sacks on the season. Those statistics are never misleading.

3. Pat O'Donnell, P: Toss out O'Donnell's pedestrian 32.0 net average at Bank of America Stadium. That number is skewed because of the coverage miscues that led to Carolina's 79-yard punt return touchdown. O'Donnell crushed the ball in Week 5. His four punts averaged 52.3 yards with a long of 63 yards. He pinned the Panthers inside the 20-yard line on two of his four attempts. Here's the special teams silver lining: Pat O'Donnell.

FALLING

1. Lamarr Houston, DE: NFL players will never win in a fight against the fans. Never. Houston needs to understand this. I'm sure people send him nasty stuff on Twitter. It happens to most professional athletes or celebrities, but you have to learn to take the high road. Telling fans to "eat dirt" after a disappointing loss is regrettable. If Houston is stung by criticism, he needs to stay away from social media. His quality of life will probably improve. Also, Houston would probably be able to mount a better public campaign if he sacks the quarterback. Houston is a talented, run-stopping defensive end, but people want to see some sacks to justify the salary. That's just the way it goes.

2. Jay Cutler, QB: Eight turnovers in five games. What else is there to say? Cutler has made clear progress since Marc Trestman arrived. He's a better quarterback right now than he was two seasons ago. That's a fact. But he still makes poor decisions at seemingly the worst times. Cutler was brilliant in the second half against San Francisco. He can fill out a stat sheet in certain weeks, but he commits fatal football mistakes often enough to make people wonder if Cutler can ever be a championship-caliber quarterback. This is Cutler's ninth season. How much more can we expect him to change? At this point, he is who he is.

3. Special teams (minus Pat O'Donnell): Sunday's first-quarter debacle on punt coverage is the latest in a long string of gaffes. Penalties, blocked punts, poor returns, Teddy Williams crashing into the Carolina punt returner two seconds before the ball even arrives ... we've seen it all in five weeks. But this is not solely a Joe DeCamillis problem. Many of these younger players don't know what they are doing. OK, that's understandable. Most star collegiate players aren't used often on special teams until they reach the NFL. Raw players are required to learn on the job all the time around the league. But in most situations, the youngsters can ask questions to the older, veteran players to help ease the transition. Where are the veteran leaders on special teams? There's nobody left outside of Robbie Gould (Sherrick McManis is hurt). That's a problem.