Preseason Wk 2: First unit improves; depth issues taking toll on roster
Here are five big things (and a few small things) that I noticed during the Bears’ second preseason game against the Patriots.
1. The offensive line, and Jeremy Langford, got rolling
You figured the Bears wanted to establish the run game after a subpar outing last week against the Broncos, and that’s exactly what they did, upping their non-quarterback rushing yards from 34 yards last year to 112 this week.
Langford showed burst, vision, and elusiveness on his first big run—a 34-yarder that featured key blocks from Kyle Long, Cody Whitehair, and Alshon Jeffery downfield—and then read a cutback play perfectly to walk in virtually untouched from five yards out to give the Bears their first touchdown of the preseason.
The second-year back had a few other nice runs called back due to penalties and consistently flashed his potential to be an every down back, even catching an early pass out of the backfield from Jay Cutler. Said head coach John Fox about Langford after the game, via the Chicago Sun-Times:
“He made a step forward. He had a good week of preparation, a good week of practice. I thought he had a heckuva season a year ago as a rookie, and he continues to impress and get better.”
2. Run defense needs a shot in the arm
For the second straight week, the Bears struggled to hold a physical rushing attack at bay. After holding to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots to a three-and-out on their first possession, the Bears allowed them to march all the way to their own 7, aided by poor tackling and one brutal angle from Tracy Porter on a 21-yard run by LeGarrette Blount.
While he redeemed himself a few plays later by stripping running back Brandon Bolden and recovering the ball on the 4, it doesn’t quite negate the Bears’ inability to stop opposing backs, having now surrendered 90 and 114 yards rushing in their first two games—Blount gained 69 in about two quarters of work last night.
Just generally, the Bears need to be more fundamentally sound on tackles and pursuit angles all around, and they’ll benefit from getting Danny Trevathan back soon. Additionally, look for Jonathan Bullard to start pushing Mitch Unrein for snaps at defensive end. If he can consistently breach the line of scrimmage as he did last night, it would be a huge boost for this defense.
3. The cornerback situation is only getting worse
The Chicago Tribune’s Dan Wiederer reported yesterday that Kyle Fuller is now out “indefinitely” after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, and while the Bears are staying optimistic that he’ll be back to practice in a couple weeks, his status for the season opener is now officially in doubt.
Add to that the fact that Bryce Callahan isn’t 100% right now, missing last night’s game, and Fuller’s replacement last night, Jacoby Glenn, left the game with a concussion, and the cornerback position is thinner than paper.
Other #Bears injuries:
TE Tony Moeaki: left hamstring
CB Jacoby Glenn: concussion
WR Deonte Thompson: knee/ankle
CB Bryce Callahan: hammy
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) August 19, 2016
To make matters worse, Deiondre’ Hall and De’Vante Bausby didn’t do much to distinguish themselves, though it looks like Hall could be starting soon by default if Callahan is hampered/the Bears keep him at nickel. The Pats’ Chris Hogan lost Hall so bad on a 20-yard catch that he might not have been within 10 yards of him.
Reports are that former Chargers/Jets/Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie is working out with the Bears today as they try to address both porous depth and lagging talent. If he signs with the team, he probably will jump right in as the starter opposite Porter in Fuller’s absence.
4. Brian Hoyer may be playing his way out of a job…
That was a night to forget for Hoyer from the jump, as he literally threw his first pass right to New England’s Cyrus Jones.
There might have been some miscommunication with Josh Bellamy on the route, as it seemed Hoyer was trying to throw to the back shoulder to beat Jones’s coverage. Given how much he jumped the route by, though, I’m not sure how you can justify that pass being thrown.
Hoyer sailed and missed several targets on the night all told, something that has been an issue throughout training camp. Whatever his issue is, he’s making it difficult to trust him in the event Cutler gets injured (though at that point, the season would probably be lost anyway).
Look for the Bears to explore their options: another veteran QB could be worked out soon, and Conner Shaw will likely get a lot of playing time in Week 4 of preseason to see if he offers more than Hoyer does at this point.
5. …and Ted Larsen might be joining him
Even with Cody Whitehair’s early struggles, Ted Larson still appears to be the weakest link on the offensive line.
His holding penalty helped limit the Bears’ first drive to a field goal, and his inability to get out on the edge and block in space hurts their ability to run outside. He had a few good plays to help spring Langford, but overall, he’s basically proving to be exactly what he’s always been: a backup-quality player.
Fortunately, the Bears might be lucky enough to at least miss having to handle the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, whose status for the season opener is uncertain as he recovers from back surgery. If he were to play, I’ll give you one guess as to which player Watt would try to line up near every single play. Hint: that guy’s name rhymes with how he would end up in that matchup: dead.
Rumor is that the Bears could be interested in trading for a veteran center help shore up the position soon. I think we’ve seen this movie before…
-If Daniel Braverman is going to earn snaps with the first team at some point, his route running needs to improve. On third-and-goal from the 2 in the third quarter, his quick out route didn’t fool anyone, and Hoyer had to throw the ball away en route to a turnover-on-downs the next play.
He’s been getting open all camp and was billed as a crafty route-runner out of Western Michigan, but he needs to be better at separating against people that aren’t the Bears.
-Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White both had catches in the Bears’ first drive and consistently got open against New England Patriots DBs. If Cutler continues to get time to throw the way that he had last night and both guys stay healthy, they’re going give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares all season.
-When Bullard and Leonard Floyd stormed the backfield together to split their first sacks, I couldn’t help but think how awesome that combination could be. With Bullard’s explosiveness off the snap and Floyd’s pass-rushing prowess, we could see plays like that for years to come. Now we just need Floyd to stop getting stuck to people in the run game…
-Jordan Howard deserves some carries in the next few games, given the way he’s been churning out yards with almost no help with fourth-string offensive line unlikely to have a job in a week or so. He might just be a