Bears fall to Broncos in preseason opener: what's worth taking away

Bears fall to Broncos in preseason opener: what's worth taking away
Shea McClellin certainly made an impression in his first game in a Bears' uniform.

Since Lovie Smith has been in Chicago, preseason games have never been an indicator of how his team will perform during the regular season. Never. And there’s a reason for that.

In 2010, the Bears didn’t win a single preseason contest but went on to play in the infamous NFC title game against the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

In 2006, the year the Bears earned a trip to Super Bowl XLI, they lost their opening preseason contest badly to the 49ers, only to wind up throttling them 41-10 later that year when it mattered.

Teams don’t gameplan against preseason opponents. And really, it’s not until the third dress rehearsal game that they will implement much of what they’ll do during the regular season. They just don’t want it all on tape that early.

So the fact that after one preseason game, the Bears, who are said to have potentially their most explosive offense ever, are ranked dead last in total offense amongst teams who’ve played their first preseason game should not bother you. At all.

And, a 31-3 loss at the hands of the Denver Fighting Hanie’s (that’s their name now, right?), while tough to watch, should not have you down in the dumps. Especially on a Friday.

There are things we can take away from last night’s game, however; individual player performances among them. Here’s what I took note of during last night’s practice session:

Health – About mid-way through the Bears’ exhibition opener last night, the Green Bay Packers tweeted that LB Desmond Bishop had been carted off the field during their preseason contest against the Chargers. Shortly following, Chargers’ RB Ryan Matthews broke his collarbone during the game, will now require surgery, and miss 4-6 weeks. So, for those of you who were upset about Cutler, Peppers or Forte sitting out: it’s your move, and I’m listening.

Bears’ strong safety Major Wright left the field last night and was held out for the rest of the game with what was called a hamstring injury. “It’s nothing major,” Wright said (pun possibly intended). “It just tightened up on me. I’ll be alright.” Still, it’s worth watching as Wright has struggled to stay healthy in previous seasons. As for Brian Urlacher, I’ll remain worrisome about his condition, but miss every training camp practice from here on out if that’s what it will take, Brian. Please.

Left tackle is still a concern. Duh. – I’ve been down at camp a lot this year. And I’ve been watching Webb a lot. This past Monday I did a radio spot and warned to not buy all the hype coming out of camp about Webb having a fairly nice showing; it wasn’t what I had been seeing. What I saw in camp is what we got last night.

Webb struggled in pass protection, gave up a sack and a false start against the Broncos Thursday night. Mike Tice, who also hadn’t been pleased with Webb’s showing thus far, left him in the game well into the fourth quarter. It’s still Webb’s job, mind you, but it’s his to lose and he started that process last night. There’s a long way to go, and the Bears have little options at the position right now. I said in my pre-game post yesterday that Mike Tice would look to test Webb in one-on-one matchups during the preseason, while scheming to assist him whenever possible during the regular season. It looks like he got the film he needed.

Can someone get started on Shea McClellin’s bust for Canton? – Kidding, kidding, but the rookie looked good. His speed off the line and relentless motor were too much for the Broncos’ line at times, and he came away from the game with a sack on former Bears’ QB Caleb Hanie—the crowd at Soldier Field went nuts. Instant star. He tallied an additional two QB hits on the night.

I’ve said since camp that McClellin will benefit from some time in the gym—something the Bears have asked him to do. He’s a strong kid, but looked not strong enough to step up in run support last night. He’ll thrive dropping back into coverage and as a situation pass rusher, I think, but until he beefs up, he could be a liability against the run. But based on what we saw last night, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic. As a pass rusher, he’ll still need to develop his moves, but all rookies do.

“It’s always good to get a sack,” McClellin said. “No matter what it is, it boosts your confidence a little bit. After that you can kind of relax and just go out and play. I definitely have a lot of learning to do, [but] I’m just looking forward to getting back out to the practice field and getting better.”

Kahlil Bell out-performed Armando Allen – Since camp began, Armando Allen has impressed. Kahlil Bell, on the other hand, got off to a rough start with a couple early fumbles in practice—something he’s had a propensity toward. But on Thursday night, Bell looked smooth with the second team. He didn’t get a lot of opportunities, but he clearly looked better than Allen, who struggled with the third-team. Not saying this one is over by any means; just a note.

While we’re talking running backs, Michael Bush had a big fumble off a toss early on in the game. Certainly not something you want to do in your first preseason game with a club, but not a big deal for a veteran like Bush. I do find it worth noting, though.

Alshon Jeffery looked good, but not great – Jeffery saw a lot of praise during the game, and while I thought he looked good, I want to discourage any idea that he’s a starter based on what we saw last night. No, I’m not a scout. But the rookie still has a long way to go. He has to be able to get off his press at the line of scrimmage, and he has to get more crisp in his routes. But that’s why he saw a lot of time last night.

Jeffery will be an immediate and legit threat in the redzone this season, in my humble opinion. His size and super sticky hands will allow him to go up and get the ball; especially with guys like Brandon Marshall and Kellen Davis out there with him. I’m looking forward to watching his development this season.

Random players I thought made an impression – I won’t go into to detail on them all right now, because it wouldn’t be worth it at this point, but it’s worth noting those players on the depth chart who showed up: LB J.T. Thomas had a game-high seven tackles, a pass deflection, and a tackle-for-loss (nice); Nate Collins had a sack and a QB hit; Geno Hayes had a pass deflection; Corey Wootton got free and put on the pressure a couple times; Major Wright had a pick off a D.J. Moore pass deflection; Adam Podlesh only averaged 47.5 yards per punt (kidding w/ the “only”); Cheta Ozougwu had a sack, a tackle-for-loss, and a QB hit. Good work, fellas.


Filed under: Post Game Report

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