I am sure that the panic button is being pressed all over the Chicagoland area as the Chicago Bears lost their first preseason contest against the Denver Broncos 31-3 in front of wet crowd at Soldier Field. The national headlines from this game will be Peyton Manning taking his first snap as a member of a team not called the Indianapolis Colts. Other than that, the drama ended when former Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie entered the game to a loud boo from the crowd following Manning’s one and only series.
There are things to be concerned about after tonight’s contest. The offensive line failed to open any holes for the running game and the offensive tackles weren’t impressive. J’Marcus Webb played well into the second half and Chris Williams also joined in him late-game action. While Webb didn’t do anything noticeable, Williams looked flat footed and lacked technique on several plays. This continues to be a negative theme for this team and one that certainly cannot be ignored. Gabe Carimi started the game at right tackle and shook some of the rust off from being inactive most of last season after suffering a dislocated knee in week two. While the interior of the line seems to be the strength of this group, the tackles must get better. Tonight really didn’t show this one way or another.
Three members of this year’s draft class stood out tonight. Two for good reasons and one for all the wrong ones. First round selection Shea McClellin was able to get after the quarterback. While he was blocked on some plays, he has escapability and a nose for the football. I was impressed with his speed and angles to the football. I think many Bears fans were pleasantly surprised with McClellin considering the pounding he’s taken during training camp. Second round selection Alshon Jeffrey made some nice grabs and found ways to get open. He’s been impressive during camp and didn’t disappoint.
That was what was good. The bad tonight was Brandon Hardin. He regularly was out of position (including standing in the end zone during a passing play and coming up short attempting to make a tackle). I am very concerned about his technique and understanding of the position. He was a cornerback in college and from my perspective, hasn’t adjusted to his new position of safety. Some of this will take time, but I am concerned about his fundamental mistakes. He has the size to play in this league, but I don’t know if he has the brains to do it. Just like Major Wright and our favorite ex-Bear Brandon Meriweather from last season, physical gifts and football IQ don’t line up with these guys. Hardin is off to that kind of start.
Other guys that stood out were last year’s seventh round selection and nice guy J.T. Thomas. The linebacker out of West Virginia showed some athleticism and good technique playing outside linebacker. I think he may be a keeper. I also like what I saw out of defensive tackle Nate Collins and defensive end Corey Wootton. Collins may be more of a long shot, but he made some plays tonight coming from the inside. Wootton needs to stay healthy.
WIth the exception of Jeffrey, there wasn’t much to celebrate offensively. Rookie quarterback and Lake Zurich product Matt Blanchard hooked up with fellow rookie receiver Chris Summers on a fourth down pass. Other than that, there’s very little to be excited about.
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