The Bears concluded their training camp in Bourbonnais on Thursday with a light, free-spirited practice in which players exchanged jerseys and had a walkthrough preparing for tonight’s second preseason game in Seattle. Much like last week’s preseason opener against the Chiefs, the Bears have a lot to prove tonight, maybe not as a team, but definitely as individuals.
The following are ten things I would like to see as I watch the Bears take on the Seahawks tonight:
1. Defensive intensity – Last week, we witnessed something we’re not accustomed to seeing in this town: our defense getting pushed around. This defense has Pro Bowl players in Tommie Harris, Alex Brown, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Nathan Vasher, and Mike Brown, as well as Pro Bowl caliber talent in Adewale Ogunleye and Charles Tillman. It’s high time they start showing it. I want to see them come out and hit somebody hard and stay on the field as little as possible, unlike the 16-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that consumed nearly 9 minutes last week.
2. Long opening drive – Against the Chiefs, the Bears were on the wrong side of the long opening drive I want to see. I’d like for the Bears offense to get on the field and move the chains at least twice, if not more, in their first series. Let’s make sure we get a good look at all players on the first string offense with both quarterbacks getting ample playing time.
3. Offensive line protection – Bears quarterbacks were only sacked twice last week and you can make a case that neither sack was the offensive line’s fault. Rex Grossman was sacked when he stumbled and fell backwards and a Chiefs player was there to cover him up, while Kyle Orton was scrambling to evade the pass rush and fumbled the football. Had he not fumbled the football, he might have had time to throw the ball away and not get sacked. I want to see the line appease my concerns by protecting the quarterback and allowing the running backs to show their stuff.
4. Ball protection – Keeping with the protection theme, the Bears’ offense must protect the football. I don’t want to see the ball lying on the field at any point during the course of a play, nor do I want to see it in the hands of a Seahawks defender during live action. The quarterbacks have to make smart and accurate throws and the running backs have to hold on to the ball until well after the whistle blows.
5. Quarterback consistency – I think I’ve made it abundantly clear at this point that I don’t care which quarterback emerges as the starter. Do I have my favorite? Sure, I think Grossman is the better overall NFL player and his downfield passing ability will keep defenses from stacking the box and stopping the run. But I’m not going to boo Orton or ridicule the organization for choosing him over Grossman if Orton proves to be more consistent in the preseason. At this point, I just want to see one of these guys step up their play above the other and distance himself in the competition.
6. Cut down on missed tackles – Missed tackles are going to happen. It’s a fact of nature, especially with a defense that plays fast. But when those missed tackles happen, I don’t want them to be in the open field in one-on-one situations. I’d prefer them to be when there are three or four defenders swarming the ball carrier, so that if the first guy misses, he has backup. Basically, I don’t want to see any missed tackles that keep the defense on the field and prolong drives.
7. Explosive running – I’d like to see the Bears’ running backs hit the hole with authority. Matt Forte did that in the first game and I’d like to see that trend continue. Garrett Wolfe had a great day against the Chiefs’ backups, and if we’re to believe that that game wasn’t an aberration, he needs to have another solid outing against the Seahawks’ second and third string players. The one thing we saw last year was too much dancing in the backfield. Even if there aren’t any holes — which could happen a lot this year — it’s the running back’s job to plow straight ahead and keep his legs churning. After all, a two-yard gain is better than a one-yard loss. It’s a difference of three yards. In a nutshell, our running backs need to know when a play is going nowhere and to just salvage what they can.
8. Special teams play – Robbie Gould got the Chiefs game started the right way with a kickoff one-yard deep into the end zone. The coaches have been working with him on getting his kickoffs deeper and I’d like to see that continue. I also want to see good special teams coverage. Without Brendon Ayanbadejo, some other guys — Rod Wilson and Jamar Williams, for instance — will have to step up their coverage and tackling if the special teams are to make another run at a frist place ranking. Also, I want to see some good returns. Devin Hester has been pleading with the coaches to let him return some kickoffs so he doesn’t go into the season “cold”, but even if he doesn’t return any kickoffs, I’d like to see Danieal Manning, Rashied Davis, or Earl Bennett get the ball out past the 30 on kickoffs and I’d like to see some good punt returns as well.
9. Receiver separation – By separation, I don’t mean distancing one’s self from the defenders — although that would be nice to see, as well. What I mean is that I’d like to see two or three guys separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Right now, there’s a muddled depth chart and somebody needs to step up. The only certainty is that Hester will get a lot of playing time. But which receivers will join him is still a question mark.
10. Paltry preseason penalties – …and mistakes. I could’ve used the word mistakes, but then I wouldn’t have gotten to use alliteration. Seriously, though, last week against the Chiefs, we didn’t see a rash of mistakes and penalties — a staple of preseason games — until the very last drive. I’d like to see a continuation of that effort. Granted, it’s just a preseason game, but Seattle is still a loud stadium to play in and that could mean false start penalties for a line that is still trying to gel. But the fewer penalties and mistakes made, the happier I’ll be with the Bears’ overall performance tonight.
Once again, I encourage you to keep your TV on for the entire game tonight and watch the Bears’ youngsters to see whether or not they can play. Plus, there’s just not too much on TV that beats Bears football.
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