Last week the Chicago Bears opened their preseason schedule with a 22-0 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. The game was worse than the score indicated. The Bears suffered breakdowns on offense, defense and special teams as they stumbled to their worst preseason loss in 35 years, a 1981 shutout loss to the Buffalo Bills.
This week the Bears traveled east to practice against the New England Patriots before facing them in their second preseason game Thursday night. After three days of live practices, the Bears should look more in sync the second time around.
Here are areas to watch that need the most improvement.
The Bears on Offense
As bad as they looked, the Bears offensive line could have had it much worse last Thursday if Von Miller or DeMarcus Ware played instead of enjoying the game from the sideline.
Broncos’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips did more scheming and threw more tricks at the Bears’ offense than a majority of coaches are willing to do in a preseason game, especially the first one, but the Bears also showed no ability to adjust to, and counter, what they were seeing. This week the Bears drilled against New England’s defense and shouldn’t show as much confusion once they get them on the field at Gillette Stadium.
Keep an eye on Ted Larson, especially after the snap. On pass plays, Jay Cutler’s favorite move to create time to make a play downfield is to step forward past the rush and deliver the ball while he’s on the move. Cutler had no space to move up or roll out of the pocket last week. He finished his day with three completions in four attempts for 18 yards while also taking two sacks for 12 yards.
Newly signed Khaled Holmes should get a long look at center with the second team line in place of rookie Cody Whitehair, who snapped for one disastrous series against the Broncos last week. With Larson at center Whitehair needs to concentrate on learning his potential starting spot at left guard.
At running back, with Ka’Deem Carey in concussion protocol Jeremy Langford, Jaquizz Rodgers, Jordan Howard and Senorise Perry will get more chances to separate themselves from the pack in the fight to be the Week 1 starter.
Bears backs scratched out 34 yards on 15 carries against the Broncos. Even with the offensive line problems, one among that group needs to prove they can make a play when needed. Look for the Bears to try running more behind Kyle Long and Bobbie Massie on the right side of the line.
According to reports, Marc Mariani and Cameron Meredith had good practices Monday in 11-on-11 drills. Cutler seems to be developing faith in Mariani when he needs a receiver to make a play on third down. Keep an eye on him, especially if Eddie Royal continues his inability to stay healthy.
The Bears on Defense
Kyle Fuller stayed in Chicago to continue working through a knee injury. Deiondre’ Hall and Demontre Hurst will do their best to make him regret it.
Hall was impressive against Denver in his first action, five tackles and two pass breakups, and Hurst tallied three tackles of his own.
The one cornerback who needs to make plays to wash the bitterness of Monday’s practice out of his mouth is De’Vante Bausby. New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo picked on Bausby three times on one touchdown drive.
Against Denver, Leonard Floyd showed that he’s spent the summer going to school on pass rush moves to take better advantage of his speed at outside linebacker. Third round pick Jonathan Bullard showed a lot of fire and forced watchers to take notice when he was in the game. A key on Thursday night to their improvement will be if they can finish a rush and pick up their first professional sacks.
From the linebacker group, Lamarr Houston needs to raise his game this weekend. Houston looked to be always chasing the play when he was on the field against Denver and ended up with no contributions to the final box score.
Also, near the end of Monday’s practice when the teams were working on field goal drills, Houston got involved in a dust-up with Nate Solder and former Bears tight end Martellus Bennett. All were sidelined for the final minutes of the day’s activities. While Houston didn’t score any points with the coaches for the skirmish it’s certain that quite a few teammates who witnessed the incident were smiling behind their face masks.
The final development to watch for that would mark a giant step forward for the Bears after last week would be seeing Robbie Gould walk onto the field for an attempt to boot one through the uprights.
Win or lose, points on the scoreboard would help show that the Bears’ fortunes are beginning to trend in the right direction.