- Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bears beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- Because Lovie Smith will rest the starters for much of next week's contest in Cleveland, the third preseason game is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Here are five things we learned after watching the Bears face Arizona Saturday night at Soldier Field.
1. The offense raised more red flags: The Bears killed themselves in the redzone last year, so it was discouraging to watch the drives inside the 20 fail to produce points. Jay Cutler looked to have an off night after throwing two interceptions, while also being sacked four times. At least Chris Williams was only responsible for one of those sacks, but the entire offensive line had their share of problems. The receivers made a few plays but also looked to be out of sync with Cutler on a few pass attempts. Granted, it's still only the preseason, but Bears fans will be expecting a ton more when the regular season gets here.
2. Danieal Manning outplayed Chris Harris: Harris is an excellent leader, a great guy in the locker room, and usually a sound tackler in the run game. But he had a rough night against Arizona. Harris got turned around in coverage on the Cardinals' first touchdown pass, then missed two consecutive tackles on Arizona's second scoring drive. On the other hand, even though Danieal Manning had problems last week, he made several nice plays Saturday night, including a nifty strip near the goal line. Is it totally crazy to wonder if Manning and rookie Major Wright may be the best safety combination? The odds of that happening are probably remote, but does anybody feel good about safety after three preseason games?
3. Chester Taylor has some moves: The team's best run of the preseason -- even better than Matt Forte's 89-yard touchdown against Oakland -- occurred in the second quarter when Taylor scampered for 34 yards. Not only did Taylor escape Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell -- who beat left tackle Chris Williams on the play -- he then changed direction, made another defender miss, cutting back up again, before finally getting tackled. The Bears paid Taylor good money to sign here in the offseason. On that one play, Taylor showed he was worth every penny.
4. Devin Hester can't handle the wildcat: Forget for a moment Hester botched a first-quarter direct snap that hit him directly in the hands. He's had problems running the wildcat in training camp, when there was no pressure or threat of a game changing turnover hanging in the balance. Enough. If the Bears want to run the wildcat when it counts, let Matt Forte or maybe Johnny Knox handle the snap. Let Hester focus on route running and punt returns because few good things tend to happen when Hester gets the ball behind center.
5. The Bears still need to clean up special teams: Dave Toub is the best in the business, so there's a good chance all these special teams gaffes are going to be corrected. But you can't ignore the mistakes we've seen in the preseason. Kellen Davis gave an outside rusher a free pass to block a Robbie Gould field goal, while the almost automatic Gould had a rare miss in the second quarter. Devin Aromashodu was also offsides on a punt return, although the penalty was declined. With an offense in flux, and the defense trying to recapture their old glory, the Bears need their special teams to remain at a high level.
Chester Taylor was one of the few bright spots on the Bears' loss.