The Chicago Bears had their first preseason game of the 2018 season on Thursday night, losing a close one to the Baltimore Ravens 17-16 in the Hall of Fame Game.
It was Matt Nagy’s debut as the team’s new head coach as he was brought in to provide an offensive mindset. Although a majority of the starters didn’t play, a lot was still learned in Nagy’s first game as head coach and here are three takeaways:
The rookies performed extremely well
General manager Ryan Pace has been subjected to a controversy surrounding the holdout of the team’s first-round draft pick Roquan Smith. Pace’s other draft selections from this year’s draft played extremely well in Thursday night’s game.
Outside linebacker Kylie Fitts recorded a sack and was consistently providing pressure on the opposing quarterback in the first half. Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols flashed in the second half as he posted a sack and consistently controlled the line of scrimmage. Seventh-round wide receiver, Javon Wims was the biggest rookie to produce as he caught seven passes for 89 yards in the second half. All three could see extended playing time in the team’s next game next Thursday in Cincinnati. If they become important pieces for the 53 man roster, it will be a big win for Pace.
Nagy has a lot of confidence in his starting offense
Nagy and his coaching staff chose to rest his entire offense including his top four wide receivers which came as a surprise. Receivers Kevin White and rookie Anthony Miller were expected to play but did not play at all in the game. White was coming off injury and Miller as the rookie could have used the experience. Both have performed well in training camp and the inactivity on Thursday night could be Nagy showing his confidence in the two.
Also inactive was backup running back Tarik Cohen and tight end Trey Burton. Many believed more of the Bears starters would have at least played a series or two to get more experience with the new playbook.
Vic Fangio’s defensive staff has their players coached up.
The Bears defense played extremely well against the Ravens as the defense registered eight sacks. This is important as the Bears lost several pass rushers in the offense and did little to address the situation. It was a mix of rookies and reserves throughout the game that provided constant pressure on the Ravens quarterbacks. Both Isaiah Irving and Fitts provided pressure at the outside linebacker position. Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard did it from the defensive end position.
The play means little against fellow reserves and back-ups, but its important for a Bears defense that has lost starters the last two years to season-ending injuries. For reserves to perform well when needed speaks volumes about the coaching continuity provided by defensive coordinator Fagio and his coaches, especially when it comes to roster depth late in the year.