Here are five big things (and a few small things) that I noticed during the Bears’ dress rehearsal game against the Chiefs.
1. The Bears offense misfired on all cylinders…
This was like a replay of the first preseason game against the Broncos, expect worse.
Without Kyle Long, the Bears’ offensive line looked slow and dysfunctional. Outside running plays—particularly to the left side—showcased backup center Cornelius Edison’s lack of speed to get on the edge and block in space.
Ted Larsen, playing at right guard in place of Long, had a false start penalty and got beaten badly on a third down play, forcing Jay Cutler to scramble. Even Charles Leno Jr., who has had a good preseason, looked lost attimes, letting a man go unblocked and swat down a pass by Cutler.
Here’s what Fox had to say about the line’s performance after the game, via Scout.com’s Bear Report:
“I think we’ve been short in both games up front. In the first game we replaced our center two days before the game and obviously Kyle Long wasn’t out there today. He’s a pretty steady performer. Those aren’t excuses, it’s just the reality. I don’t think it was all bad, even though it might have looked like that.”
The offensive line wasn’t the only problem spot, though. Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White, after spending last week abusing New England Patriots defensive backs, didn’t play well. Jeffery dropped two passes, including one that would’ve been a huge gain, before having a better start to his second half, and White was a non-factor, dropping a bubble screen himself.
After three preseason games, Kevin White's numbers: eight targets, three catches, 12 yards.
— Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) August 27, 2016
To add insult to injury, Robbie Gould missed a field goal on the Bears’ best drive of the game, keeping Chicago’s first-team offense scoreless at home until a later touchdown throw by Conner Shaw to Cameron Meredith.
If you want bright spots…Jay Cutler, while clearly frustrated with his team today, continues to play well overall. He’s taking care of the ball, making accurate throws for the most part, and looking comfortable with the offense. Also, Jeremy Langford had a few more nice runs, including making a first down out of a terribly blocked play.
The rest though? Well, let’s just say the Bears have a lot of work to do.
2. …And the defense paid for it
What happens when your offense can’t sustain drives? Your defense gets stuck on the field, and that’s exactly what happened to the Bears. In fact, the Chiefs offense ran 45 plays in the first half, which was just 15 plays shy of their per-game number of offensive plays last year.
To their credit, the Bears’ defense battled, holding the Chiefs to field goals before giving up a touchdown at the end of the first half. By halftime, they were clearly gassed, and the pressure from the front seven slowly faded out, leaving Alex Smith to essentially do as he pleased with the Bears’ secondary. Fox had this to say about the defense’s performance, as reported by Scout.com:
“I thought our red-area defense improved. We got a couple of turnovers down in the low red area. Our 3rd-and-long defense wasn’t very sufficient. Again we were without some key members in the secondary but we got a chance to look at some young guys and make evaluations and that’s what the preseason is for.”
The Bears’ defense, while much better than last year at least on paper, cannot handle this kind of workload every game without consequences. With a secondary that struggles on the whole to play to the ball, the burden is already unfairly on the front seven to dominate every play. The more they’re on the field, the less effective they’ll eventually become as the game wears on.
For the defense’s sake, the offense badly needs to get its act together. And for their own sake, the Bears’ D needs to find ways to get off the field on third down. If these issues don’t get rectified, this promising defense will suffer this season.
3. Jacoby Glenn is outplaying Deiondre’ Hall
Hall certainly had a couple of positive plays in this game, with tight coverage on the Chiefs’ best receiver Jeremy Maclin to force an incompletion in the end zone and an interception off of a deflected pass later in the game.
But his lack of awareness in finding the football struck again on a 58-yard prayer by Nick Foles in the third quarter; if he had only located the ball, he could’ve stopped and caught it easily. Instead, he overran the ball and the receiver, allowing his man to come back and make the play.
Additionally, Hall’s subpar recovery speed for a corner keeps showing up as well, as he at times gets beaten so badly that he isn’t even in the picture when his man makes a reception. For all the talk of his freakishly long arms, he’s not using them very well in press coverage to re-route anyone, and they’re not helping him affect enough plays when he’s in off-coverage, either.
Glenn, on the other hand, has looked more comfortable in press coverage, including getting a physical pass break-up on third down. What impressed me about that play though wasn’t just that he played the ball, as rare as that’s been for the Bears’ secondary. He also showed good positioning, awareness of the down and distance, and quick reaction to the route.
Jacoby Glenn w/ the PBU. Contact was within five yards so no call there pic.twitter.com/4N3N1KrDkc
— ChiCitySports.Com (@ChiCitySports23) August 27, 2016
If Bryce Callahan can’t contribute on the outside in place of Kyle Fuller due to his own injuries, keep expecting to see Glenn getting the first crack at filling in for Fuller. He’s earned it. Then again, if Tracy Porter is out for any extended time—he’ll surely go into concussion protocol after this game—Hall might have to start anyway. The Bears’ injury woes continue…
4. Jordan Howard deserves to make this team…
The Bears’ fifth-round running back has repeatedly showed throughout this preseason that he can play, whether through hard, downhill running, nifty cuts and vision, or catching the ball smoothly out of the backfield.
He continues to be listed as the fourth running back on the team after Ka’Deem Carey, who has also played well when healthy, and Jacquizz Rodgers, but he has given the Bears no reason to cut him. In his limited time, Howard has been much more impactful than Rodgers, though the latter is valued for his experience as a pass-protector and all-around game.
Howard’s strong play has likely put the Bears in a bind though. There’s a good chance that if the Bears opted to cut him, another team would probably snap him up before he got to the practice squad. As such, don’t be surprised if Chicago keeps four running backs. And also don’t be shocked if Howard carves a role out for himself before the year is out.
5. …And so does Cameron Meredith
Yes, all his production came against the third/fourth-stringers, but his excellent sideline catch and effort to get into the end zone on his touchdown transcends whatever competition he was against.
For a young receiver, Meredith also showed good awareness of scramble rules; on his touchdown, he followed Shaw as he escaped from the pocket and found a window in the defense before making the catch and fighting through a tackle for the score.
— NFL (@NFL) August 27, 2016
Given Eddie Royal’s inability to stay on the field for the Bears, it’s honestly not a stretch to think the veteran receiver won’t survive the roster cuts starting this week. And even if he does stay on the roster, players like Meredith and Josh Bellamy, who also had a nice 4th-quarter showing, will be very difficult to cut due both to availability and special teams value.
If it’s my team, Meredith makes it. His potential overall value to the Bears over 16 games in his second season—one in which he’s clearly improved as a pass-catcher—beats 9 games of limited production from Royal. Let’s see if the Bears agree.
-After a subpar game last week, Daniel Braverman clearly made some adjustments. On his nice third-down grab from Hoyer late in the game, he threw in a quick, shifty inside juke to his out route that bought him separation and gave Hoyer and easier throw.
Just last week, he failed to separate on basically the same route because his route was sloppy and too easy to read off the line. That tells me what the Bears have been alluding to throughout training camp: Braverman is both a smart player and a very diligent worker.
No wonder wide receivers’ coach Curtis Johnson likes him so much.
-Mitch Unrein must’ve heard the people calling his job the past few weeks, because he was making some real impact today, especially on pass rushes. He drilled Alex Smith on a play where he was, perhaps questionably, flagged for a blow to the head, and also had a strong pass rush that forced Smith into the path of Akiem Hicks, who sacked him.
Maybe he’s not ready to cede snaps to Jonathan Bullard and Cornelius Washington just yet…
-Speaking of Bullard, someone finally took advantage of his explosive get-off and timing of the snap count, enticing him to jump offsides and get called for encroachment. Just saying…I totally predicted that would happen…
That said, Bullard continues to make his presence felt when he’s on the field. He picked up another sack of 3rd-string QB Aaron Murray, commanded several double teams, and burst through the line to almost blow up a Chiefs’ late touchdown run.
He’s also starting to display some more finesse moves, using a few spin and swim moves to beat defenders rather than just pure speed. The more he plays, the better he gets, which has to be exciting for Bears’ brass and fans alike.
-Conner Shaw gave the Bears’ offense some life in the 4th quarter, throwing a touchdown pass, delivering nice throws from the pocket, and keeping plays alive with his legs. And then, just because this is how today went for the Bears, Shaw broke his leg. Just when he was looking like the second-best quarterback on this team, too…