Saturday, August 24, 2013
Five Things We Learned: Bears-Raiders
By Jeff Dickerson
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Here are five things we learned in the first half of the Chicago Bears’ 34-26 win over the Oakland Raiders, when the starters carried the team to a 27-3 halftime lead:
1. Matt Forte is focal point of offense: Even before Forte’s brilliant performance (six rushes, 76 yards; two catches, 33 yards and one touchdown) versus the Raiders, the tailback had been nothing short of spectacular the entire preseason. Forte seemed to gain lower-body strength in the offseason without sacrificing an ounce of his quickness and agility. Now, it needs to be pointed out that Oakland is terrible (more on that later), but Forte glided with the football in the open field. And he also showed he can change direction on a dime and cut back when necessary. With Michael Bush expected to be used more under Marc Trestman, a fresh Forte will be a nightmare to opposing defenses throughout the season, if healthy. The Bears have made several moves to upgrade the offense the past two seasons, which is great, but the team cannot overlook one of the most tenured guys on the unit. This needs to be Forte’s offense.
2. Jay Cutler brought his A-game: Cutler had complete command of the offense in the first half, playing with confidence and poise. The quarterback finished the night 12-of-21 for 142 yards and one touchdown despite almost half a dozen drops by open receivers. Cutler moved the ball around to all of the skill-position players, targeting six different guys in the first quarter alone. In an interesting twist, Brandon Marshall didn’t catch a single pass in the first half after being Cutler’s sole target the week before. But Cutler still posted a first-half QB rating of 93.8. Again, it’s just the preseason, but that was easily the most dialed in Cutler had looked all summer.
Alshon Jeffery caught seven passes for 77 yards on Friday.
3. Alshon Jeffery deserves to be No. 2 receiver: Jeffery had technically been the No. 2 wideout on the roster for quite some time, but the former second-round pick was still in search of a breakout performance after he had to miss six games his rookie season due to a variety of injuries. Jeffery did everything in the first half against the Raiders, leading the team with seven receptions for 77 yards and throwing the key block on the Forte touchdown. Jeffery showed his athleticism when he hauled in a short pass on the Bears' opening drive, stopped dead in his tracks, turned and beat Oakland’s defense down the field for 22 yards. If Jeffery can avoid the nagging injuries, he can be a special player. He wasn’t one of the best collegiate wide receivers his sophomore season at South Carolina by accident.
4. Did Marquess Wilson already make the team?: The first half of the third preseason game is almost always reserved for the players already on the final 53-man roster. Wilson entered the game in the second quarter and created nice separation to haul in a 14-yard pass from Cutler. The Bears liked the 20-year-old Wilson from day one -- that was kind of obvious given his upside. But the question was whether or not they thought enough of him to keep him on the active roster and not subject him to waivers to try and re-sign him to the practice squad. I guess we know the answer. The Bears are clearly not trying to hide Wilson by putting him in the game with the starters, meaning the seventh-round pick is likely going to be one of the wide receivers to make the cut. Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Zach Minter also entered the game prior to halftime, a good sign for him as he pushes to earn a backup spot on the interior of the Bears’ defensive line.
5. Good luck, Oakland: No. 2 quarterback Terrelle Pryor gave Raider Nation a reason to cheer in the third quarter when he rumbled 25 yards for a touchdown against the Bears’ second-string defense, but, overall, the Raiders looked like a team with a lot of holes. Oakland middle linebacker Nick Roach, who led the team with five tackles in the first half, had to take the money the Raiders offered him in the offseason. But Roach doesn’t have much help around him on defense. And the Raiders offense, yikes. Quarterback Matt Flynn was so bad with a 17.4 passer rating he got booed off the field after tossing his second interception of the night. But to defend Flynn a little, the Raiders’ offensive line is a disaster. This is what happens after years of bad free-agent signings, bad drafts and salary cap mismanagement. Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie has a lot of work to do. And “a lot” might be the understatement of the night.