Chicago Bears: 2014 NFL Preseason Week 2 PHI at CHI

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears' first-team offense played two drives during Friday's 34-28 preseason opening victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, but in those 16 snaps, the group appeared to basically pick up where it left off from 2013's record-breaking campaign.

After a three-and-out possession to start, the Bears overcame two holding penalties (one was an offsetting penalty, which resulted in the down being replayed) on the next drive. It spanned 69 yards in 13 plays, capped by Jay Cutler's 10-yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller for the game's first points.

"Yeah, three-and-out, I figured we would get back into it and get another drive, which I'm glad we did," Cutler said. "We were backed up a few times, overcame a few penalties. So, it was a good drive for us."

The performance seemed markedly different from the club's 2013 preseason opener at Carolina. In that game, Cutler tossed an interception on his first throw, and finished with 56 yards through the air and a passer rating of 54.2.

Against the Eagles, Cutler ripped the Eagles for 85 yards and a touchdown to go with a passer rating of 112.7.

Center Roberto Garza called the offense's performance "a start," but acknowledged the difference a year makes. After all, in 2013, the Bears were playing in a new offensive system with an entirely new coaching staff.

"We knew what we were doing. We were a little more confident with what we're doing," Garza said. "Obviously, technique-wise football is football. But we've got a long way to go, man. We were definitely rusty out there."

It certainly didn't show after the first drive, although the rushing attack didn't perform as well as expected as Matt Forte lost 5 yards on three attempts. Typically, though, the rushing attack takes a little longer to come along as the backs and offensive linemen take time to get in synch. But the offensive line allowed only one sack all night.

"Our first group, I was encouraged we overcame two penalties in the second drive to go in for a score," Trestman said. "I thought that was a good thing, and I thought all the quarterbacks at some point had some adversity along the way, and they were able to come back and make it a positive night in some fashion."

Cutler, Jimmy Clausen, Jordan Palmer and rookie David Fales combined to complete 29 of 44 for 399 yards and four touchdowns with a passer rating of 106.9.

"There were some mistakes out there," Cutler admitted, "some on our part. Some things to clean up, but the guys were really efficient, getting in and out of the huddle, getting the play called, getting to our checks, going through our reads. The guys did well."

Zach Miller leads Bears with two TDs

August, 9, 2014
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller last played in a meaningful NFL game in 2011, but if Friday night's performance against the Philadelphia Eagles is any indicator, that streak may be on the verge of ending.

Miller, a fifth-year veteran and former 2009 sixth-round draft choice of the Jacksonville Jaguars, led the Bears with six catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears' 34-28 preseason victory over the Eagles.

With Martellus Bennett currently serving a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, Miller and fellow tight end Dante Rosario received extensive snaps in the first-half with the starters and top reserves.

"You know, if anybody isn't surprised about how Zach played, it's me," Bears quarterback Jordan Palmer said. "I was with Zach in Jacksonville and he's one of my good buddies. I told people when the Bears signed him; watch how Zach runs his routes. He can really catch the ball."

Miller's first score of the night came courtesy of starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who fired a bullet to Miller in the endzone for a 10 yard touchdown. Palmer later found Miller on a 12 yard scoring completion when the 6-foot-5 tight end jumped in the air to complete the catch against an Eagles defender positioned in front of Miller.

"It was actually the same play call – almost the same throw from both Jay [Cutler] and Jordan [Palmer]," Miller said. "It was a back-shoulder throw, and they put it where they needed to."

Cutler added: "[Miller has] had a good camp. We just want to get him in games and see how he can do. Every time he's had an opportunity he's made a play. We just have to keep progressing him along. He has been a nice addition for the offense and we're excited to use him more."

Miller appeared in 33 games (five starts) for Jacksonville from 2009-2012, catching 45 passes for 470 yards and four touchdowns. He spent all of 2012 on the Jaguars' injured reserve before spending the next offseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, only to be waived prior to the start of the 2013 regular season.

The Bears signed Miller on December 30.

"It felt good to go out there and make some plays," Miller said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity. I've had a decent camp so far, but I'm just trying to take it one play at a time and improve."
CHICAGO -- With Martellus Bennett serving an indefinite suspension, reserve tight end Zach Miller took full advantage of the extra repetitions, catching six passes for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Chicago Bears soared past the Philadelphia Eagles 34-28 on the strength of strong play from their quarterbacks.

Chicago's top three signal callers combined for 339 yards and four touchdowns.

Here are some other thoughts on the Chicago Bears' first preseason game of the year:
  • Considering Jay Cutler hasn't played an entire 16-game season since 2009, Chicago's competition for the No. 2 quarterback is vitally important. Both candidates made strong cases with Jimmy Clausen coming out with a slight edge. After Cutler performed sharply in two possessions (9 of 13 for 85 yards and a TD for a passer rating of 112.7), Jordan Palmer entered the game with 58 seconds left in the first quarter. Palmer started 3 for 3 for 39 yards before throwing an interception to Nate Allen on his fourth attempt. Palmer completed 8 of 11 for 104 yards and a touchdown to go with a passer rating of 94.9.

    Clausen, meanwhile, passed for 150 yards and two TDs for a passer rating of 134.6. Clausen's first scoring strike came on a 73-yard bomb to Chris Williams. He later hit Micheal Spurlock for a 22-yard touchdown, before finding Rosario for the conversion.

    Clausen may lead the No. 2 QB derby right now, but don't expect coach Marc Trestman to make a decision about the backup until later in the preseason.
  • Chicago's revamped defense put together a strong showing in the three possessions the starters played. Ryan Mundy and Sherrick McManis contributed interceptions as the defense held Philadelphia's first-team offense to 55 yards and 0-for-2 on third-down conversions. Remember, the Bears ranked last against the rush last season. But their starters limited Philadelphia's starting offense to 11 yards on four attempts. The front four generated plenty of pressure in the passing game, too. Mundy's interceptoin with 13:26 left in the first quarter came from a rushed Foles throw due to heavy pressure from Lamarr Houston.
  • Mundy and Danny McCray came out with the starters at safety, while Adrian Wilson and rookie Brock Vereen worked with the second team.
  • Rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller received an extended look in his NFL debut. Although the starting defense played just three possessions, Fuller stayed in the entire first half and contributed three tackles.
  • Center Brian De La Puente suffered a knee injury late in the second quarter. The severity wasn't immediately known. De La Puente left the field under his own power, but shortly after the team announced he'd be out for the game. Williams suffered a hamstring injury on his touchdown reception and was unable to finish the game.
  • Non-participants Friday included Chris Conte and Craig Steltz, who remain on the physically unable to perform list. Tim Jennings (quadriceps) and Isaiah Frey (hamstring) were also held out along with Eben Britton (hamstring), Kyle Long (ankle), Jordan Mills (foot) and Bennett (suspension).

Five things learned vs. Eagles

August, 8, 2014
CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned in the first half of the Chicago Bears preseason opener versus the Philadelphia Eagles:

1. Tight ends rose to the occasion: Martellus Bennett's still on-going suspension for conduct detrimental to the team paved the way for reserves Zach Miller and Dante Rosario to see extended action in the first half. Neither disappointed. One of the under radar stories of camp, Miller continued to make a strong push to earn a 53-man roster spot by catching six balls for 68 yards and two touchdowns. Jacksonville used to have high hopes for Miller, but he kept getting hurt. If Miller can stay healthy, he gives the Bears another pass-catching option at tight end after Bennett, who is expected to eventually rejoin the team. Rosario managed to hang on to a 23 yard reception despite absorbing a crushing blow from behind on the play. To sum it up: Bennett wasn't missed, at least on this night.

2. Surplus of talent exists at CB: Questions still linger at safety, but the Bears have protected themselves at cornerback. Tim Jennings' quad injury opened the door for rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller to receive ample reps with the starters throughout camp in the base defense and nickel package, where ideally Fuller and Charles Tillman patrol the outside with Jennings in the slot. But the depth at cornerback goes beyond Fuller. Veterans Kelvin Hayden and Sherrick McManis have been solid ever since the club reported to Bourbonnais, Illinois and McManis showed up with a first quarter interception against the Eagles. The Bears look to be a legit five deep at cornerback. How many teams can say that?

3. Reserve DL make it interesting: Watching second-string defensive end Trevor Scott tie for the team lead with three first-half tackles hammered home the notion that the Bears will probably have to cut a pretty good defensive line when the organization sits down to shape the final roster. Imagine that. Last year the Bears couldn't find three good defensive linemen, much less 10. But after the projected starting five of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea, the Bears find themselves with at least seven players worthy of playing in the NFL: Scott, Willie Young (roster lock), Ego Ferguson (second round pick), Will Sutton (third round pick), Nate Collins, Austen Lane and David Bass. They all can't stay. From the Bears' perspective; this is a nice problem to have.

4. Bumpy debut for McClellin: Maybe the coaches' film will reveal something to the contrary, but from the press box, it looked as if Shea McClellin struggled on multiple occasions Friday night in his first taste of live NFL action from the linebacker spot. McClellin appeared to lose sight of Eagles tight end Zach Ertz on an 18 yard completion inside the red zone, falling down before Brock Vereen made the stop just short of the goal line. That play occurred immediately following another breakdown in coverage when Ertz seemed to run right past middle linebacker Jon Bostic for a 34-yard catch. On Philadelphia's next drive, McClellin was a complete non-factor trying to pursue Eagles running back Matthew Tucker on a 24-yard gain around left end. McClellin never even touched Tucker on his way down the field. Meantime, Khaseem Greene just keeps making plays when given the opportunity. We haven't seen that skill yet from McClellin.

5. Special teams stinker: Joe DeCamillis is charged with the difficult task of teaching his special teams scheme to a back-half of the roster that has endured substantial offseason turnover. Think about it. DeCamillis has a finite period of time to teach all these new guys his sometimes complicated system. And these aren't the star players, mind you, like Marc Trestman had the good fortune to work with last year when he installed his offense. But such is life in the NFL. The Bears committed multiple penalties on special teams, surrendered a 102 yard kickoff return and endured a poor night from their punters. To say the unit needs to tighten up is an understatement.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett remains on the club's suspended list and is not expected to be present at Soldier Field for Friday's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, the club announced 90 minutes prior to kickoff.

Bears general manager Phil Emery told the media Tuesday that Bennett had been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team and fined an undisclosed amount for starting an altercation in Monday's practice with rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller.

The Bears have offered no timetable on Bennett's potential return, calling it a day-to-day situation. The Bears' next scheduled practice is at 3 p.m. Sunday at Olivet Nazarene University.

The following Bears' players have also been ruled out against the Eagles: safety Craig Steltz (PUP), cornerback Tim Jennings (quad), cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring), safety Chris Conte (PUP), offensive guard Eben Britton (hamstring), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot), right guard Kyle Long (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman excused Allen from practice all week for family reasons, but the pass-rusher is present at Soldier Field. Allen is expected to return to the practice field after the Bears' off-day Saturday.