Saturday, August 25, 2012
5 Things We Learned: Still work to do
By Jeff Dickerson
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ. – Here are five things we learned following Bears' 20-17 preseason victory over the New York Giants:
Whether it's the preseason or postseason, the Bears can't afford mistakes like blocked punts.
1. Bears need to clean up the fundamentals: Even though the third preseason game is the main tune-up for the regular season, it's still the preseason. Keep that in mind when you evaluate the Bears' performance on Friday night. We simply don't know what plays or coverages are being called on a given play, so it's difficult to get too upset when the Bears play poorly in an exhibition contest. But there is never an excuse for poor fundamentals and the Bears had too many missed tackles, dropped passes, bad penalties and blown assignments. Those are the types of mistakes that cost teams games in the regular season against inferior opponents. The Bears will have a difficult time beating elite NFC teams such as Green Bay or San Francisco if they commit costly mental mistakes like allowing a punt to get blocked.
2. J'Marcus Webb and Chris Spencer appear to be the left side of the offensive line: Unless the tape shows something we didn't see, the Bears look as if they are going to go with Webb at left tackle and Spencer at left guard, the same combination that started every preseason game up to this point. Chris Williams and Chilo Rachal did get some time with the rest of the starting offensive linemen, but Webb and Spencer saw the bulk of the action. Since the regulars barely play in the preseason finale, is switching up the line even an option at this point? Only Mike Tice knows if Webb and Spencer showed him enough the last few weeks, but time is of the essence. If the preseason were a week longer, maybe the Bears could drag out the “competition." Thankfully, the preseason ends next week and a decision on the line is due, if it wasn't already made leading up to the Giants game.
3. For some reason the Bears can't run the ball: It is only the preseason, but even with the powerful backfield combination of Matt Forte and Michael Bush, the Bears haven't been able to run the ball this summer. Why? Forte had eight carries for four yards in the first half when he faced the Giants' No. 1 defense. Only when New York put in its reserves to start the second half were the Bears able to move the ball on the ground. All the upgrades at wide receiver are nice but the Bears still want to be a team that runs the football. The club pumped a lot of money into Forte and Bush with the idea of being a balanced offense that can beat you through the air and on the ground.
4. Julius Peppers can still turn it on: Peppers has been quiet so far this year. The Bears have done a good job preserving the defensive end by allowing him to occasionally sit out certain contact portions of practice. A lightened practice load, coupled with the fact Peppers never showed up to lunch for media availability during the Bourbonnais portion of camp, kind of made the veteran an anonymous figure. But Peppers jumped off the screen Saturday night when he blew up an end around play and tossed a Giants wide receiver down for a 13-yard loss on a play that nearly resulted in a safety. Those are the kinds of plays Bears' fans expect to see Peppers make on a weekly basis.
5. Ryan Quigley stepped up in a tough spot: Lovie Smith went out of his way to mention Quigley's performance in his postgame press conference which should give you an idea how impressed the head coach was with the undrafted rookie punter's performance. Quigley punted the ball seven times for an average of 43.6 with a long of 50 yards. Not bad for a rookie thrust into the starting role when Adam Podlesh injured his hip flexor last week. A strong argument can be made that Quigley deserves to again handle all the punting next week in Cleveland, and then, who knows. Podlesh's injury isn't believed to be ultra-serious, but there is always a chance he could miss a little time in the regular season. Did Quigley show enough for the Bears to consider letting him open the season as the No. 1 guy, if necessary? One thing is for sure, Quigley didn't hurt his chances with that effort against New York.