CHICAGO – Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears’ 20-19 preseason victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
1. Relax, it’s the preseason: Emotions run high for NFL fans no matter what time of the year. But preseason games don’t count for a reason. No, the Bears defense did not look particularly sharp in the first quarter as Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne guided the Jacksonville offense down the field with relative ease on multiple occasions. But again, it’s the preseason. As defensive end Jared Allen put it: “Look, this was an ugly game. But if we win this game in the regular season, we’re loving it, because you have to learn how to win ugly games. Better to have this stuff happen now as opposed to the regular season.” In 2010, the Bears’ defense couldn’t stop a soul in the preseason. That year seemed to work out pretty well for the team, if I remember correctly.
2. Bears lose valuable piece on offense: Now, when a key player is injured in the preseason that is an important development. Tight end Zach Miller was having an outstanding summer before he suffered what sounds like a serious foot injury Thursday night. Too bad. After Martellus Bennett, Miller had emerged as the next best threat in the passing game from the tight end position. Miller will be missed.
3. Jon Bostic flashes in run defense: When Bostic eventually puts it all together; he’s going to be a good NFL player. Bostic blasted Toby Gerhart for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-1 in the first quarter, in the process demolishing the Jacksonville offensive lineman that stood in his way. You can’t teach speed, and Bostic has an abundance of it. Say what you want about Bostic’s struggles last year, and there were plenty of them, the linebacker has showed the ability to make plays. Sure, Bostic needs to even out his game and improve on the mental aspects of playing linebacker, but his athleticism is off the charts.
4. Rookie punter looks tough to beat: Pat O’Donnell had a decent night versus the Jaguars. He had a 48.7 average and 48.3 yard net average on three punts with a long of 57 yards that happened when the Jacksonville return man slipped and fell down allowing the ball to roll. Tress Way also booted a 54-yard punt, but averaged 43.3 yards per kick with a 40.0 net average. Kind of seems like O’Donnell -- while not as consistent as he needs to be -- makes fewer fatal mistakes over the course of a game. The Bears probably have a higher level of trust in O’Donnell at this stage of the competition.
5. Return woes apparent: Say what you want about Devin Hester, the Bears never had a kick return controversy in the preseason. Some fans acted pleased when Hester left for Atlanta in the offseason, but there is a major void in the return game. Eric Weems has done little to impress in that phase of special teams (Weems remains excellent in coverage), and Chris Williams has been out with a hamstring injury. The Bears better have something else up their sleeve.