Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Bears-Giants: Five things we learned
By Jeff Dickerson
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Here are five things we learned watching the Bears' 41-13 loss to the Giants on Monday night at New Meadowlands:
The best news for Jay Cutler on Monday was that he (mostly) stayed on his feet.
1. Jay Cutler remained upright: The game itself for the Bears was poor, really poor, but isn't the goal of every preseason contest to make sure the starters stay healthy? Considering what happened the last time Cutler played in this stadium (9 sacks, 1 concussion), Monday night proved to be a major upgrade. Plus, Cutler had time to throw and he connected on a few big plays with Devin Hester and Earl Bennett. What the Giants matchup showed is that if given even average pass protection, Cutler can hit on those 30-yard-plus completions down the field. Still not convinced? Ask yourself this; how much worse would you feel if, besides playing a clunker of a game, the Bears would've lost a key starter to a season-ending injury like the Giants did with cornerback Terrell Thomas? Exactly.
2. Offensive line appeared to improve: Granted, we won't know for sure how the offensive line fared until after Mike Tice watches the tape, but it's safe to say the early reviews in the Bears postgame locker room were more positive than negative. Other than a few penalties, the line didn't seem to have any glaring breakdowns that would necessitate Tice to make the much talked about changes. After all, Cutler was only sacked one time, Caleb Hanie none. Again, we aren't expected to get a definitive answer until Wednesday when the Bears return to Halas Hall, but the offensive line held up better than most anticipated versus a talented Giants defense.
3. Roy Williams is on cruise control: Williams is a veteran who’s been in the league for eight years. He seems content to just get through the preseason healthy and knows exactly how to do it. That's fine, as long as he turns it on when the Bears face Atlanta on Sept. 11. I'm not saying he will be that elite receiver Mike Martz envisions, but I'm going to hold off making any real judgments because Williams is clearly just going through the motions. That was painfully obvious after a lackluster performance against New York. Who knows, Williams could turn out to be great. Or he could be the guy we all saw in Dallas the last few years. Only time will tell, but right now, I'm not panicking over Williams’ mediocre preseason. Not yet.
4. The defense has a few things to clean up: Let's not make too much of Major Wright's missed tackle on Brandon Jacobs. This is the same safety who made several impressive open-field tackles last weekend versus Buffalo. But that forgettable second-quarter sequence did remind us that Wright occasionally plays a little too aggressively and can sometimes over-pursue on a play. The fear is teams will begin to play action right at him -- draw Wright in, then beat him over the top. However, that's why it's called the preseason, and there's time to improve. But I didn't like the lack of turnovers for a second straight week, and where were the sacks? Between the poor tackling, lack of turnovers/sacks and the breakdowns on special teams, the Bears have plenty of material to review in preparation for their third preseason affair Saturday in Nashville.
5. There is no punter controversy: It's been impossible to overlook how effectively rookie punter Spencer Lanning has kicked the ball in camp. Without a doubt, he is an NFL punter worthy of a starting job somewhere in the league (Cleveland, perhaps), but Lovie Smith ended any speculation that free-agent acquisition Adam Podlesh was in danger of losing his spot. He's not, according to Smith. Podlesh, who signed a nice deal with the Bears, had a better night against the Giants (43.0 avg) than he did versus the Bills, and is expected to keep improving. He was, after all, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2010 for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Lanning deserves all the praise he is receiving, but barring an injury to Podlesh, the South Carolina product probably is punting elsewhere in Week 1. At least, that's the hope if your Lanning.