Five Things We Learned: Preseason finale
August, 31, 2012
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
Eric P. Mull/US PresswireLovie Smith made a smart move by resting all of his starters in Thursday's preseason finale.CLEVELAND -- Here are Five Things We Learned in the Chicago Bears' 28-20 win over the Cleveland Browns in the preseason finale.
1. Lovie Smith treats preseason in proper fashion: It's a shame that NFL fans have to purchase two preseason games in their season ticket package, but head coaches simply cannot afford to lose a starter or even a quality reserve in the final preseason game to an injury. Imagine the backlash if Jay Cutler or Julius Peppers got hurt in a meaningless game 10 days before the regular season opener. Heck, imagine the concern if the Bears lost a well-paid back up such as Jason Campbell or Michael Bush. That is why Smith took absolutely no chances on Thursday night when he started, in some cases, third-stringers with no shot of cracking the 53-man roster. Smith's job is to put the Bears in the best position to win games in the regular season, not the preseason season. They don't hand out championships in the summer.
2. The Bears can trust Josh McCown: If the absolute worst case scenario happens and the Bears are down to their No. 3 quarterback, at least the club can take comfort in knowing McCown can still perform at a reasonable level. The veteran had an excellent first half -- albeit vs. Cleveland's second- and third-stringers -- in the preseason finale, completing 16 of 20 passes for 137 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 128.5. Although it isn't cheap to carry a third quarterback with 10 years of NFL experience, McCown gives the Bears an extra layer of protection in the event injuries strike again at the most important position on the field. It's never a bad thing to have a quarterback with 33 career starts at the bottom of your depth chart if you can afford to carry three at the position.
3. Dane Sanzenbacher sticks if Bears keep six: We simply don't know if the Bears want six receivers, so if they go with five, then Sanzenbacher is in trouble. But the Toledo, Ohio native put on a show Thursday night when he made a difficult 30-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter. All preseason, Sanzenbacher has made the most of his opportunities in the passing game, while at the same time quietly improving on special teams. Of course, it's also nice when the quarterback likes you. Cutler has gone on record several times saying Sanzenbacher does enough to be on the team. The second-year wideout has made his case, now let's see how the numbers shake out.
AP Photo/Ron SchwaneDane Sanzenbacher should be in good shape if the Bears keep six receivers.
4. No. 3 running back went down to wire: Too bad Booker left the game with a head injury because his battle with Armando Allen had been one the best in camp. Depending on the severity of Booker's injury, this could be a difficult call for the Bears to make. Booker has shined on special teams the entire preseason, not just in the return game, but also as the all-important personal protector on the punt team. He flashed some slick moves on the ground Thursday, rushing for 81 yards on 15 attempts. Allen led the Bears with 83 rushing yards and 51 receiving yards and forced a fumble on a punt. Allen fought through some late game fatigue to rip off a 49-yard run that sealed the victory for the Bears. It would be cheaper to keep Allen over Booker from a financial standpoint, but remember the Bears were willing to pay Kahlil Bell $700,000 to be their No. 3 running back, which is the same amount Booker would earn in 2012. That's why this is a great competition because there is no clear-cut winner.
5. Ryan Quigley continues to rise to occasion: Make it two straight impressive performances for the undrafted rookie punter out of Boston College who is fighting to convince Dave Toub he should be the one who fills in for Adam Podlesh the first couple of weeks of the regular season -- if necessary. Quigley might not have struck the ball as well as he did last week against the New York Giants, but he still managed to drop three of his four punts inside the 20-yard line and have a long boot of 45 yards. The Bears had done plenty of homework on the available free agent punters, but after watching Quigley in the final two preseason games, do they really need to sign a guy off the street? They could always waive Quigley on Friday and re-sign him to the practice squad on Saturday with the idea of activating him later next week to face the Indianapolis Colts. That is an option. Regardless of what the Bears decide to do, Quigley has proven that he is a legitimate NFL punter.