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Here are five things we learned in the Bears' preseason-opening win over the Bills.
|Jay Cutler was under too much pressure on Saturday, but the Bears' O-line should improve under Mike Tice's tutelage.|
1. Offensive line needs more time: The season isn't over because the first-team offensive line surrendered four sacks in the opening half. Obviously, the unit needs to improve, but it takes time for an offensive line to come together. Think about it, four of the five lineman are playing in brand new spots, and the only carryover (Chris Williams at left guard) might be the weakest member of the group. Luckily, the Bears have perhaps the best offensive line coach in the NFL in Mike Tice, who is certainly going to earn his money this year. Let Tice look at the tape, make the necessary adjustments, and possibly work Chris Spencer into the mix in the near future. But it takes time to make it work up front. I remember the opening 2008 preseason game in Seattle when the Seahawks blitzed non-stop and killed the Bears offensive line. There was panic in the streets. You know what turned out to be one of the Bears biggest strengths in 2008: the offensive line. I'm not saying this group will be as good, but give them a chance to correct its mistakes before coming to any final conclusions.
2. Johnny Knox's head is in the right place: It was a rough week for Knox after losing his starting job and being rumored to want a trade, but the receiver stepped up against Buffalo to the tune of 97 all-purpose yards. It was encouraging to see Knox keep such a positive attitude during the all the drama, because it very easily could've gone the other way. Saturday night should prove to every Bears fan how important Knox is to the team, regardless if he's listed as a No. 1 wideout. With Knox and Devin Hester in the return game, the options are limitless for Bears special teams coach Dave Toub. Knox was, after all, a Pro Bowl return man in 2009, the year before he had almost 1,000 receiving yards for the Bears. Amazing how quickly people sometimes forget.
3. No. 91 flashed some moves: The running joke in the press box was the Bears fans hadn't seen a player wearing No. 91 move that well in years. It was a solid debut for defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who finished with a pair of sacks, tackles for a loss and quarterback hits. The addition of Okoye really highlights how much work the Bears did at the defensive tackle position in the offseason. Jerry Angelo signed Okoye, re-signed Anthony Adams and drafted Stephen Paea in the second year. The Bears also extended Matt Toeaina's contract before the end of last season and moved Henry Melton inside on a more permanent basis. Okoye could be major find for Angelo.
4. Backup QB play was encouraging: Jay Cutler barely played, so it was basically the Caleb Hanie and Nate Enderle show for much of the evening. Hanie, who was sacked three times, continues to display an ability to make plays with his feet as evidence by his four-yard touchdown run. Hanie made a few nice throws but also had a pass dropped by Matt Spaeth and barely missed connecting with Earl Bennett on a deep ball down the field. Enderle gets better every day. He did toss a pick, but threw for a game-high 110 yards, including a beautiful ball to Kris Adams that was good for 31-yards. The Bears are light years ahead of where they were at the backup quarterback spot last year when Hanie got hurt in the first preseason game at San Diego. Todd Collins is a thing of the past.
5. Kahlil Bell probably makes the team: You can never accuse Kahlil Bell of failing to run hard. Whether it's in a game or practice, Bell goes full-go almost 100 percent of the time. While that approach can sometimes irritate teammates, Bell is clearly a motivated player who makes the most of his opportunities. He led the team with 73 rushing yards on only 13 carries against Buffalo, flashing a physical style that's become his trademark. Further enhancing Bell's chances of making the 53-man roster is the fact he can play special teams. The Bears kept four running backs last year, and while it's unclear if Chester Taylor and Marion Barber will both make the cut, Bell has a really good chance to stick if he keeps running like this for the rest of the preseason.