5 Takeaways From Chicago Bears First Preseason Game
5 Takeaways From Chicago Bears Vs. Carolina Panthers
The Chicago Bears took the field Friday night for their first preseason game of the season in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers. They fell 24-17 -- not that it matters -- but there are plenty of positives to take from Marc Trestman's first exhibition game as head coach.
It was a game filled with offensive mistakes, including two pick-sixes and several other turnovers, solid defense and special teams and a little bit of excitement -- just a little. Of course, it's preseason, and for the first game, you can't really expect much more out of your team's performance. Considering both teams aren't trying to give anything away for the regular season either, the gameplans certainly aren't too comprehensive.
In years past, the Bears defense would play just so very average, or even worse, until the regular season started and they would implement all of their stunts, blitzes and hidden coverages. At that point, we'd actually see how good the unit would be, and ultimately how competitive the team would be that particular season. That's truly the case each year for every team, and I have a strong feeling that will once again be the case for the Bears in 2013. Sure, the offense wasn't anything spectacular, but they've got a month to continue to learn and improve this complicated offense. And if you think about, they've really got another month or so for the first quarter of the season in which they'll still be finding a groove and developing chemistry for the long stretch toward the playoffs.
So, really, if you're having any problems dealing with anything you saw tonight: calm down. It's going to be OK; it's only the first game of the preseason. It might as well be a glorified joint practice.
What you need to look at are the positives, and here are five of them from tonight's game.
Nate Collins Separates Himself As Third DT
One of the biggest questions coming into camp this year was depth at the defensive tackle position. Sedrick Ellis retired out of nowhere at the beginning of training camp, and he was supposed to be one of the key guys in the rotation. With him gone, who was going to step up?
Nate Collins began to come into his own at the end of last season, and he showed that he could be someone to rely on for the entire season this year in this game against the Panthers. He had several tremendous plays against the Carolina's first-team offense where he burst through the offensive line and made a play on the ball. It would be a big help to the Bears if he could fulfill the role of backup three-technique to spur Pro Bowler Henry Melton. Obviously, it was only one game, but he looked very good and that's what everyone wants to see.
Offensive Foundation Displayed
Tonight, we saw the foundation of Trestman's West Coast offense start to take shape. Obviously, it didn't start pretty with the miscommunication between Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery which resulted in an interception by the Panthers. However, after that, things calmed down for the first-team offense. Cutler completed six of his next seven passes. The promising thing was the effort to get the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly with slants and designed swing passes to the backs.
It's clear that they're a ways away from being the potent offense Bears fans are hoping for, but even so, it's tough to gauge the offense in their first preseason game, especially without their biggest threat in Brandon Marshall on the field as he sat out for precautionary reasons. The only thing that was promising is the play-calling that appeared to be predicated on timely quick passes to protect and give confidence to the quarterback.
Young Guys Display Talents
Many young players vying for roster spots made significant impacts on this game. Rookie draft picks Khaseem Greene, Marquess Wilson and Cornelius Washington all made big plays. Greene was in on a lot of stops on both defense and special teams. Washington showed his speed and pass-rushing abilities. And Wilson had perhaps the biggest offensive play of the night for the Bears with a reception off of a deep dig route and then took off for 58 yards before stepping out of bounds at the four-yard line. The Bears would punch it in on the next play.
While those things are good and all, after Kelvin Hayden tore his hamstring -- a season-ending injury -- cornerback became a major issue. Who will step up? Two guys showed they could potentially be strong replacements.
Isaiah Frey, a sixth-round pick out of Nevada in 2012, has been the talk of training camp after spending the season on the practice squad last year. Tonight, he played some solid defense, nearly intercepting a pass in the second quarter. Another young corner who played great was Sherrick McManis. The Bears traded fullback Tyler Clutts to the Houston Texans last year for him to play special teams. However, tonight, he played tremendously. He made a great punch at a ball while getting blocked by the receiver as the back came by and forced a fumble, then proceeded to chase it down and dive on it. He also had a couple of pass-breakups, nearly getting an interception himself as well.
If these guys can all build on these performances for the rest of the preseason, we could see them all make strong contributions to the team during the regular season. Despite all of these young players doing positive things, two players stood out in particular, and they follow.
Michael Ford Looks Like Fantastic No. 3 RB
Running back Michael Ford is a stud. The undrafted free agent out of LSU is lightning fast, and a very powerful runner. At 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, he has ideal size for the running back position, and it shows. The first time he touched the ball was on a kickoff return, and I was instantly impressed. On offense, he picked up two tough third-and-short conversions, caught passes out of the backfield and highlighted his night with a four-yard touchdown run setup by Wilson's big 58-yard reception. While he could only be the third back at best with proven backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush cemented as the top two guys, Ford looks to be a steal, and after just one game, I'm convinced he'll make the team as the the No. 3 back.
Jon Bostic May Be A Major Steal
Now here we are, the most important revelation of the night. Jon Bostic was fantastic in tonight's game. The second-round pick out of Florida started the game in place of the injured D.J. Williams and took full advantage making the first huge play of the game for the Bears intercepting a Cam Newton pass and returning it 51 yards for a touchdown. He disguised himself beautifully and read Newton's eyes the whole way to making the pick. From there, he showed his athleticism and speed, one of the biggest reasons the Bears took him even while Arthur Brown was still on the board back in April. He also had two tackles on the night, and showed his speed again chasing DeAngelo Williams down the line of scrimmage until he was finally forced out of bounds. He may not be Brian Urlacher, but he looks like he could be something special.