Friday, August 8, 2014
Five things learned vs. Eagles
By Jeff Dickerson
CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned in the first half of the Chicago Bears preseason opener versus the Philadelphia Eagles:
1. Tight ends rose to the occasion: Martellus Bennett's still on-going suspension for conduct detrimental to the team paved the way for reserves Zach Miller and Dante Rosario to see extended action in the first half. Neither disappointed. One of the under radar stories of camp, Miller continued to make a strong push to earn a 53-man roster spot by catching six balls for 68 yards and two touchdowns. Jacksonville used to have high hopes for Miller, but he kept getting hurt. If Miller can stay healthy, he gives the Bears another pass-catching option at tight end after Bennett, who is expected to eventually rejoin the team. Rosario managed to hang on to a 23 yard reception despite absorbing a crushing blow from behind on the play. To sum it up: Bennett wasn't missed, at least on this night.
2. Surplus of talent exists at CB: Questions still linger at safety, but the Bears have protected themselves at cornerback. Tim Jennings' quad injury opened the door for rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller to receive ample reps with the starters throughout camp in the base defense and nickel package, where ideally Fuller and Charles Tillman patrol the outside with Jennings in the slot. But the depth at cornerback goes beyond Fuller. Veterans Kelvin Hayden and Sherrick McManis have been solid ever since the club reported to Bourbonnais, Illinois and McManis showed up with a first quarter interception against the Eagles. The Bears look to be a legit five deep at cornerback. How many teams can say that?
3. Reserve DL make it interesting: Watching second-string defensive end Trevor Scott tie for the team lead with three first-half tackles hammered home the notion that the Bears will probably have to cut a pretty good defensive line when the organization sits down to shape the final roster. Imagine that. Last year the Bears couldn't find three good defensive linemen, much less 10. But after the projected starting five of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea, the Bears find themselves with at least seven players worthy of playing in the NFL: Scott, Willie Young (roster lock), Ego Ferguson (second round pick), Will Sutton (third round pick), Nate Collins, Austen Lane and David Bass. They all can't stay. From the Bears' perspective; this is a nice problem to have.
4. Bumpy debut for McClellin: Maybe the coaches' film will reveal something to the contrary, but from the press box, it looked as if Shea McClellin struggled on multiple occasions Friday night in his first taste of live NFL action from the linebacker spot. McClellin appeared to lose sight of Eagles tight end Zach Ertz on an 18 yard completion inside the red zone, falling down before Brock Vereen made the stop just short of the goal line. That play occurred immediately following another breakdown in coverage when Ertz seemed to run right past middle linebacker Jon Bostic for a 34-yard catch. On Philadelphia's next drive, McClellin was a complete non-factor trying to pursue Eagles running back Matthew Tucker on a 24-yard gain around left end. McClellin never even touched Tucker on his way down the field. Meantime, Khaseem Greene just keeps making plays when given the opportunity. We haven't seen that skill yet from McClellin.
5. Special teams stinker: Joe DeCamillis is charged with the difficult task of teaching his special teams scheme to a back-half of the roster that has endured substantial offseason turnover. Think about it. DeCamillis has a finite period of time to teach all these new guys his sometimes complicated system. And these aren't the star players, mind you, like Marc Trestman had the good fortune to work with last year when he installed his offense. But such is life in the NFL. The Bears committed multiple penalties on special teams, surrendered a 102 yard kickoff return and endured a poor night from their punters. To say the unit needs to tighten up is an understatement.