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Chicago Bears show improvement and regression in second preseason game

Defensive end Corey Wootton spearheaded a dominant defensive effort for the Chicago Bears.

Defensive end Corey Wootton spearheaded a dominant defensive effort for the Chicago Bears against the San Diego Chargers.

The Chicago Bears “beat” the San Diego Chargers 33-28 in the second preseason game on Thursday, but somehow I doubt either team cares much about the final score. Much more important to the Bears was that they avoided any major injuries, although third string quarterback Matt Blanchard did leave the game with a fractured knuckle in his left hand. 

The game also featured an opportunity to get a glimpse at most of the ninety players currently on the Chicago Bears roster.  Let’s take a look at how some of them performed.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler appeared to lose his composure after an early sack.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler appeared to lose his composure after an early sack.

Offense

The numbers won’t back this up, but Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was terrible in this game.  Sure, he completed four out of five passes, threw for a touchdown, and put up a very good passer rating of 98.3; that doesn’t reveal what really happened.  Cutler was sacked on his first dropback thanks to a missed block by tight end Martellus Bennett, causing him to lose his head and fall back into some back old habits.  On the next play, Cutler wasted excellent protection from his offensive line (more on this later), gave up on trying to throw the ball, and bounced around the pocket like a pinball before finally being brought down.

On his remaining five dropbacks, Cutler did nothing but throw the ball to wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who he locked onto as soon as the ball was snapped.  This resulted in four nice catches by Marshall and a terribly thrown interception into double coverage.  Cutler had a major problem last year with ignoring non-Marshall passing targets, and it seemed as though that is his default setting when he gets rattled.  This is something that will have to be fixed.

Rookie Kyle Long has been a dominant force on the Chicago Bears offensive line through two preseason games.

Rookie Kyle Long has been a dominant force on the Chicago Bears offensive line through two preseason games.

The other major offensive story for the Chicago Bears in this game was the offensive line.  They were very good in the first half, providing solid pass protection while helping pave the way for 106 rushing yards (at 5.9 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns.  Sure, starting quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked twice, but neither was the fault of the offensive line.  The first was solely on the tight end and the second was solely on the quarterback.  Two rookies—guard Kyle Long and tackle Jordan Mills—formed the right side of the starting line, and they were very good.  Pro Football Focus credits them with only giving up one quarterback pressure in 66 combined snaps, and the Bears were able to effectively run the ball behind them, particularly near the goal line.

The second string offensive line was also effective.  This unit included the two rookies staying on the right side, while starting left guard Matt Slauson shifted inside to center.  James Brown came in at left guard, while J’Marcus Webb played left tackle.  That group provided impeccable protection of quarterback Josh McCown while also opening some nice holes for running back Michael Bush.  These seven players (the five starters plus Webb and Brown) seem very likely to make the final 53 man roster, while the eighth spot will likely come down to tackles Eben Britton and Jonathan Scott.

Defensive end Shea McClellin had a solid showing against the Chargers.

Defensive end Shea McClellin had a solid showing against the Chargers.

Defense

The Chicago Bears defense continued their dominant ways in this game, with the starters giving up zero points while forcing two turnovers and notching three sacks in just over a quarter of action.  Perhaps more impressively, they did this while missing Julius Peppers and Henry Melton, their two Pro Bowl defensive linemen from 2012.  Defensive ends Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton both looked very good, as did defensive tackle Nate Collins.  The Chicago Bears defensive line looks like it should be a scary group in 2013, assuming they can keep their guys relatively healthy.

One area where the Chicago defense struggled was against the run, as they allowed San Diego running back Ryan Matthews to gain 45 yards on nine carries (for a robust average of five yards per carry).  Of course, that didn’t matter, as San Diego never threatened to score until Chicago’s starters had left the game.  Still, stopping the run is something you have to worry about in the NFL, particularly when you are in the same division as Adrian Peterson.

Special Teams

The Chicago Bears special teams were excellent in all phases last night.  Kicker Robbie Gould made all four of his field goal attempts, while Chicago’s punters combined to average 47 yards per punt.  The kick returners combined to average over 45 yards per return, and the coverage teams routinely forced the Chargers to start inside their own twenty (and also recovered a muffed punt).  There were questions about this unit after losing longtime coordinator Dave Toub this offseason, but they have not shown any problems through two games now.

Rookie linebacker Jon Bostic came back to Earth after a strong preseason debut.

Rookie linebacker Jon Bostic came back to Earth after a strong preseason debut.

Young players

The young players battling for a roster spot were a mixed bag of results for the Chicago Bears.  Offensive linemen Kyle Long and Jordan Mills stood out, as did defensive end Shea McClellin.  Other young players being counted on as contributors this year—including cornerback Isaiah Frey and linebacker Jon Bostic—did not look as good.  Promising young receivers Alshon Jeffery, Joe Anderson, and Marquess Wilson were not really involved in the game, as they did not receive a single target (to be fair, however, the Chicago Bears only attempted fourteen passes).  Young reserve defenders Khaseem Greene, Cornelius Washington, and Zach Minter all struggled a bit after playing well in the preseason opener last week.

Overall

Overall there were several promising things to take away from this game for the Chicago Bears, especially for their starting offensive and defensive lines.  In the interests of fairness, however, it should be noted that San Diego is not exactly known for having good offensive and defensive lines, so the Bears may simply have been dominating an inferior opponent.  Still, it is better to look good against a bad team than to struggle against them.

As with any game, not everything was rosy.  The most concerning aspect of this game, at least to me, was quarterback Jay Cutler.  He appeared to get extremely rattled after an early sack, and needs to learn to keep his composure under fire.  Ultimately, this was only one preseason game, and the starters only played about a quarter, so it is hard to draw too many conclusions.  So let’s not get overly optimistic or down in the dumps, at least not quite yet.

701 comments
robertj72
robertj72

Shit...that league filled up in less than two minutes...guess I should have made it private. Did anyone get in?

smtate91
smtate91

Randoms in real drafts are no better than mock drafts. Gostkowski just went for $8.

robertj72
robertj72

How about we set up a league at ESPN for 8:45...we all join then open it up for all others to fillin the spots?

robertj72
robertj72

That is fucking crazy...I guess I could leave it and start a new one...clearly someone will fill in my spot

robertj72
robertj72

Join now...crazy thought...we could make it 2 QB, 2 D/ST and remove kicker...if you guys like that thought!

robertj72
robertj72

Auction...4 pt passing...6 point rushing...sound good to all?

nonstradamus
nonstradamus

@robertj72 Damn, mate, that is almost three hours from now. We could have done two drafts between now and then. 

Sounds good to me, but I think I am going to need some foreplay leading up to it.

natesweet
natesweet moderator

@Rajifarian @_MKE_ You fucking that fluffy Love Seat right now, aren't you? You are not meant to take that name literally you know?

nonstradamus
nonstradamus

@robertj72 I think passing and rushing touchdowns should be the same number of points. A score's a score.

nonstradamus
nonstradamus

@_MKE_ Enough to represent a Spanish-speaking client who has no English?

natesweet
natesweet moderator

@_MKE_ @Natesweet @robertj72 *fancy pants voice* "Look at me and my fancy Fantasy Football erection. I'm so cool. I love mocking football with mock drafts of fantasy games. I't so meta and so cool. I'm so cool. I can beat everyone at Fantasy Football." -MKE

natesweet
natesweet moderator

@Rajifarian @Natesweet You should check out the albums, The Early Years and the Early Years vol. 2. Some really, really good shit in there. I think you can find all of those songs on youtube.

robertj72
robertj72

@The Flo: here for good @robertj72 Again I am open to the group...setting it up now...let me know. But there is a real, solid reason that passing 4 pt is the default setting.
 (P.S....anyone one not going RB in the first is a fool regardless)