Observations from Chicago Bears second preseason game

Observations from Chicago Bears second preseason game
Defensive end Corey Wootton celebrates after sacking Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers in the first quarter. — Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Bears walked away from their second preseason game against the San Diego Chargers with a 33-28 win. Here are the highlights:

First-team offensive line impressive, especially rookies

Jay Cutler was sacked twice, but the fault wasn’t on the offensive line. TE Martellus Bennett allowed the first sack of the night by not finishing his assignment. The second sack was simply on Cutler, who held on to the ball too long (could also have been a coverage sack).

Outside of that, the OL was fantastic, with the highlight of the night being the play of rookie o-linemen Kyle Long and Jordan Mills. Both guys were complete maulers as run blockers, showing the nasty mean streak that has been missing from this Bears’ OL for quite some time now.

Both players were also far from liabilities in pass protection, especially Long who stonewalled whoever lined up across from him. Long used his hands very well and displayed the quick feet to mirror his defender.

Mills looked pretty decent in pass protection; he was quick out of his stance, wasn’t overwhelmed when bull rushed or against the speed rush, and had the instinct to drive the defender out of the play. It was a nice starting point for pair of rookie OL who in all likelihood will be starting on the right side come Week-1 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Good Jay, Bad Jay

We saw Good Jay and Bad Jay all in one quarter. The good: the connection between him and Brandon Marshall on that back shoulder pass, at times getting the ball out quick, and the throw on the run. The bad: forcing the ball to Marshall (all five of his pass attempts targeted Marshall), and holding on to the ball too long to where he leaves his o-line out to dry.

Cutler is a pure see-it-and-throw-it type of passer, so it’s going to take some time for him to get comfortable as an anticipation passer. What was disturbing about Thursday’s performance was his willingness to ignore the rest of his WRs.

Alshon Jeffery needs the targets to continue developing a solid rapport with Cutler. Martellus Bennett and Devin Aromashodu are two new additions to the offense who also need their fair share of targets to develop a rapport. Last but certainly not least, you have a Pro Bowl-caliber RB in Matt Forte, who is capable of making big plays on the ground and through the air.

With all of those targets and Earl Bennett, who should return soon, there’s no excuse for Marshall to have an excessive amount of targets this year. Trestman’s west coast offense puts a big emphasis on spreading the ball around so they won’t be too predictable. Cutler needs to get that ingrained in his head quickly or this offense is going to look a lot like 2012’s.

Defensive line could be a strength again in 2013

Corey Wootton, Nate Collins and Shea McClellin all shined this past Thursday against the Chargers. First off with Wootton: he seems to have finally put it all together not only as a DE but as a football player period. He’s starting to develop into a versatile defensive weapon on that line with his ability to get after the passer from the outside or inside at DT. His inside rip move against D.J. Fluker to get to Phillip Rivers was vicious, and he has shown the speed to threaten outside also. Wootton has the potential to have a monster year in this defense.

The fourth DT spot continues to be a concern with the leader for that spot, Corey Irvin, injuring his ankle in the second half of the game. However, the Bears look to have a strong three man DT rotation with the emergence of Nate Collins.

I tweeted during the game that Collins could potentially threaten Stephen Paea for that starting NT spot, but he has good value as a third DT in that rotation. He can play both DT positions because of a good combination of power and speed, so whenever he comes in for either Melton or Paea there won’t be too much of a drop off.

Coming into this game, I felt McClellin had to show us something of why Phil Emery selected him last year in the first round, and he came through. McClellin showed that great speed and explosiveness off the edge on the sack fumble, where you can’t help but salivate at his potential as a situational pass rusher in this defense. I fully expect defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to line up McClellin all around the line of scrimmage this year in hopes of creating good match-ups for the second-year player.

Quick hits

  • J’Marcus Webb had an okay game against the third stringers. That’s a bad look for a former starter.
  • After a solid debut last week, the rookie LBs Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene had a rough night against the Chargers.
  • The depth behind Chris Conte and Major Wright concerns me, especially if one of those two were to miss some time this season.
  • Brandon Harden has been non-existent these past two games and is in jeopardy of not making the roster.
  • Michael Ford, J.T. Thomas, and Terrance Tolliver made a strong case for a roster spot with their performance on special teams.
  • Couldn’t get a good evaluation of the second string WRs because of the unfortunate injury to Matt Blanchard, but apparently Aromashodu has surpassed Joe Anderson as the fourth WR on the depth chart.
  • If Marquess Wilson wants to make the 53 man roster, he has to embrace his ST role. A few times he shied away from contact in return coverage.

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