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Friday, September 2, 2011
Five Things We Learned: Bears-Browns

By Jeff Dickerson



CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned following the Chicago Bears' 24-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns:

Caleb Hanie
Caleb Hanie completed 7-of-10 passes for 83 yards with a touchdown and a 128.3 QB rating against the Browns.
1. Caleb Hanie is a legit No. 2 QB: The Bears' backup quarterback debate was one of the silliest of the summer. Hanie is a Sunday player, or in this case a Thursday night player. He might not always look great in practice, but he almost always turns it on during games, like he did against Cleveland to the tune of a 128.3 QB rating. For whatever reason, the coaches (Mike Martz in particular) have been ultra-critical of Hanie during camp, almost to the point of being borderline over the top with their comments. Leading the Bears on two scoring drives in two possessions should prove to Martz that Hanie deserves to be the unquestioned No. 2 quarterback. Rookie Nathan Enderle has potential but isn't NFL ready. After watching the preseason finale, even Martz has to admit Hanie is the obvious choice to replace Jay Cutler in an emergency situation.

2. Calling Chester Taylor back to facility a good move: Ironic that only a few days after veteran Chester Taylor thought he was cut and left Halas Hall (only to later return), Bears running back Kahlil Bell suffered a right ankle injury in the second quarter. This comes on the heels of No. 2 rusher Marion Barber missing the contest with a bad calf which raises the question: Should the Bears consider keeping Taylor after all? It might not be a bad idea, especially if either Bell or Barber is questionable for the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Although Taylor averaged only 2.4 yards per carry last season, he's still a good blocker, an above average receiver and has plenty of experience (33 career starts). Robert Hughes opened a few eyes in the final exhibition game and deserves at least practice squad consideration. This just goes to show that anything can happen in the NFL. What a crazy league.

3. Depth at safety is a concern: The Bears were already a bit thin at safety, but injuries to Craig Steltz (hip) and Chris Conte (head) raise a big red flag heading into the regular season. Rookie Winston Venable made a strong push to make the 53-man roster, but he delivered a vicious blow and was flagged for unnecessary roughness in the second half. The play will no doubt be reviewed by the league, so let's hope Venable doesn't face any further discipline. Given how often the Bears have made changes at safety under Lovie Smith, the injuries to Steltz and Conte (both had solid training camps) comes at a terrible time for the defense, and for special teams coordinator Dave Toub. Steltz and Conte are expected to be contributors on special teams, so if they are forced to miss any time in the regular season, it would hurt the team in a variety of ways.

Dane Sanzenbacher
Dan Sanzenbacher had four catches for 50 yards against the Browns on Thursday.
4. A few rookies might have solidified roster spots: Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher probably already made the team before Thursday night, but his play on offense (four catches for 50 yards) and in the return game (65-yard punt return touchdown called back due to a holding penalty) should limit the suspense heading into the final cuts. Defensive ends Mario Addison and Nick Reed should be proud of their efforts, although Addison probably gets the nod at the third defensive end spot because of his athleticism. Keeping Venable around makes sense because of his strong preseason and the health concern at safety, and Kyle Adams looks to be in good shape at the fullback/H-back role. However, it's unclear what the Bears will do at linebacker. Dom DeCicco has a chance to earn one of the final slots, but the team could still look to go in a different direction or sign a veteran or two when players begin to get released.

5. Roy Williams needs the "fireworks" to start going off: Raise your hand if you were a little surprised Williams was given the night off. It's not a huge deal, but I felt the receiver could have benefitted by playing at least a series and perhaps catching a pass or two. Johnny Knox certainly got better Thursday night. He made a beautiful touchdown grab between two defenders on a well thrown ball by Hanie in the first quarter. The Bears decision to sit Williams is meaningless if the veteran comes out next weekend and performs well against Atlanta. However, if he is slow coming out of the gate, you could make an argument the Bears wasted an opportunity to build the veteran's confidence after a mediocre preseason.