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Evaluating the 2013 Chicago Bears preseason: offense

The Chicago Bears starting offense -- lead by quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall -- had an up-and-down 2013 preseason campaign.

The Chicago Bears starting offense — lead by quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall — had an up-and-down 2013 preseason campaign.

Now that the preseason is over for Chicago’s starters, it’s time to look back and see what—if anything—we can learn about the Chicago Bears roster heading into the season.

Taking a cue from WCS’ own Russ Thomas, I am going to evaluate the expected starters and key contributors for the Chicago Bears based on their play this preseason. Adding up the quarter they played in each of the first two games and the half in the third, it works out that they have played roughly one full game this preseason. Let’s take a look then to see how the starters performed in this “game,” aided by the help of our friends at ProFootballFocus (PFF).

Before I get too into the nitty-gritty details, there are a few important points to keep in mind.

One, this is just the preseason, where teams limit game-planning for specific opponents and offensive and defensive schemes are often simplified. Players will not necessarily perform the same in the regular season.

Quarterback Jay Cutler was in midseason form this preseason, swinging from outstanding plays to terrible ones with frightening rapidity.

Quarterback Jay Cutler was in midseason form this preseason, swinging from outstanding plays to terrible ones with frightening rapidity.

Second, teams use the preseason to set their depth charts, so some projected starters played a decent portion of their snaps against second-string players, not other starters.

Finally, it is important to remember that the bulk of the starters’ playing time for the Chicago Bears came against two bad teams in the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. Those two teams would both likely be considered the easiest opponent Chicago faces this year if they matched up in the regular season, and looking good against bad teams is a lot easier than looking good against good teams.

With all that said, let’s take a look at how Chicago’s starters did. We’ll examine the offense today, and look at the defense and special teams in a later post.

Offense

At first glance, the Chicago Bears starting offense played very well, as they scored 41 points. It should be noted that all 41 came against the terrible defenses of Oakland and San Diego, and they did not score at all in a quarter of plaz against the decent defense of the Carolina Panthers. It should also be noted that 14 of those points came on short fields after turnovers, and the first string offense gave up three sacks and turned the ball over twice.

So ultimately we can say that the offense was neither great nor terrible in the preseason. Clearly, they still need to work on avoiding turnovers.

The numbers say that quarterback Jay Cutler himself had a very mediocre preseason, throwing for two touchdowns, two interceptions, and posting a quarterback rating of 80.0. Cutler was up and down but generally played pretty well. He really only had two bad plays, however, both of which came in the first quarter against San Diego: the interception he threw into double coverage and the second sack he took, which was entirely his fault and ruined some excellent blocking by the offensive line. On the other hand, one or two mistakes like that can easily cost a team a close game.

Featuring four new starters including Kyle Long (pictured), the offensive line looked improved this preseason.

Featuring four new starters including Kyle Long (pictured), the offensive line looked improved this preseason.

The one noticeable positive for Cutler was that his completion rate was 65 percent, a very respectable number that is much improved from his norm of about 60 percent in Chicago. Cutler will undoubtedly be looking to continue the higher completion percentage and cut down on the interceptions in the regular season.

Arguably the biggest positive for Chicago’s offense this preseason came from the offensive line. Rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills ascended to the first team after the first game, and the unit looked good from there on out.

Of Cutler’s three sacks, none of them were the fault of the current first-string offensive line: one was charged to second-string tackle J’Marcus Webb, another to tight end Martellus Bennett, and still another to Cutler himself. The five current starters gave up a combined seven quarterback hurries and two quarterback hits in 460 snaps, which is a little over a complete game for five players.

Since the line as currently constructed played against two defensive fronts expected to be among the worst in the league, though, we don’t yet know how they will look against high-quality competition.

Overall, PFF really liked the starting offense, giving them a cumulative grade of +15.3 for the preseason (where 0 is average). This grade accounts for all expected key contributors, which included 14 total players: 11 starters plus an additional wide receiver, tight end, and running back). The offense graded out as above average in every area — passing, rushing, pass blocking, screen blocking, run blocking, and penalties). The one that has me most excited is penalties, a problem with which Chicago’s offense has struggled in past years.

Chicago’s depth on offense — the eight players projected to make the roster but only play meaningful snaps in the event of injury to starters — did not look so good, totaling a cumulative grade of -15.9.

Is anyone excited about the fact that Steve Maneri (87) is the second best tight end on the Chicago Bears?

Is anyone excited about the fact that Steve Maneri (87) is the second best tight end on the Chicago Bears?

The depth at tight end, quarterback, and on the offensive line in particular looks shaky, so injuries at those positions could really hurt Chicago’s offense this year. I am not one to rely solely on PFF grades for analysis, but in this case my eyes match what their grades tell me: the backups at those positions were entirely unimpressive. This also makes sense, considering Chicago’s backup offense scored only 29 points in about two games’ worth of playing time.

Conclusion

The 2013 preseason showed a lot of promise for the Chicago Bears offense, but they still have some work to do. They certainly showed some ups and downs, which is to be expected for a team learning a new system, but things seemed to click pretty well once they got their offensive line set. It is good to see them dominating bad teams instead of the significantly less appealing alternative of playing down to their competition.

The preseason offers hope that the offense will be able to take a step forward this year, particularly if the offensive line can continue to perform at even an average level. Injuries to the offense could really derail them, though, as the depth is not good.

Stay tuned for our upcoming look at the defense and special teams.

1646 comments
Super Mantha
Super Mantha

have any of you guys played mirrors edge?

JVince 11
JVince 11

you guys are texting your wives outrageous things??


If I said that to my wife... I have a fear that my helmets would be in the street.

jmac3444
jmac3444

Brian Carriveau @BrianCarriveau 42s

No surprise there. RT @RobDemovsky: Was told the #Packers have not made any cuts yet and may not until tomorrow.

matt_vfalcon32
matt_vfalcon32

@tmonson78 you're right...it would be a bidding war...but I know our GM is not shy to throw away draft picks like it was monopoly money.

niemerg1
niemerg1

im out...have a good weekend guys

niemerg1
niemerg1

did anyone else notice in rourke's wifes reply, there was an attachment...i wonder what it could have been...

Childerz...
Childerz...


From a Guy on Facebook LOL 


Tyler Frees · Anderson University

Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson didn't even have the best respective years at their positions. Megatron had 5 touchdowns... seriously? Jerry Rice caught 22 TDs in 12 games back in 1987. Who cares about overall receiving yardage when your team sucks? AP only had 13 total touchdowns last year. I'd take Terrell Davis' 1998 campaign over that. 2008 yards, 23 total touchdowns, super bowl champ. As for Brady and Rogers, Manning had a higher QBR in 2012, and he'll be better in 2013. He should be number 1.

JVince 11
JVince 11

@Buhlitz Mirror's Edge?? sounds like some kind of fashion show...


I enjoy sex involving my penis and a vagina.

G & G
G & G moderator

@tmonson78 WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!

Look my avatar picture!!

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

@LaCWrestler @matt_vfalcon32 

A lot of teams would be wise to go after him (in this hypothetical).

He's a better LT than what is available on at least 25 teams in the league.

Childerz...
Childerz...

@Dr. Prof. Reggie  Fact- Peterson averaged more yards per carry on a shittier team than Terrel davis was on. Terrell Davis was playing with a HOFER QB and one of the best Olines in NFL history. and averaged a full yard less Per carry than AP. Defenses didn't stack the box for Davis. 

Reggie/Agnew 2016
Reggie/Agnew 2016 moderator

@Childerz... @Dr. Prof. Reggie   

Or. And we could try this for a second.

I can choose either one and be right, because 1. it doesnt really matter, 2. both were incredible seasons, and 3. I was never taking anything away from AP. Just that I'd take the season that DID happen (the 2000yds and 23td's) over APs.


(DID as in not saying if AP touched this such and such)

Childerz...
Childerz...

@Dr. Prof. Reggie  Based on your response I can already state that I am in fact right and you know it but don't hav ethe balls to say it. 

Childerz...
Childerz...

@Dr. Prof. Reggie  44 more touches with AP's average.. gives him another 264 yards and presumably another 3-4 TD's 

.

Fact is What AP did last year was better than almost every running back except for Dickerson.. who faced somewhat of the same. 

Let me ask you this on that 1998 Bronco's team If you could Would you take TD or AD? 

Childerz...
Childerz...

@Dr. Prof. Reggie  Sort of... not really. Davis 5.1 ypc ap 6.1 ypc


Terrell Davis touched the ball 392 yards almost 400 times.. think what AP's #'s wouldb'e been with another 50 touches. 

Reggie/Agnew 2016
Reggie/Agnew 2016 moderator

@Childerz... @Dr. Prof. Reggie   

Megatron and AP did what they did last year because they were all their teams had.

So. Yeah.

I'm not saying either one of you are wrong, but points were made that are legit.