Five Things We Learned: Stay calm
CHICAGO -- Here are Five Things We Learned following the Chicago Bears’ 24-3 preseason loss to the Denver Broncos on Thursday:
1. It's only the preseason: There is no need to throw a fit over how bad the Bears looked on offense Thursday night. It's the preseason. If this game was of any real consequence, Jay Cutler and Matt Forte would have been on the field and Mike Tice would have called some real plays, not the vanilla stuff we saw against the Broncos. That's not meant to excuse Michael Bush's fumble, or the false starts by J'Marcus Webb and Lance Louis, or the complete lack of a rushing attack. But keep it in perspective. How many times have we seen the Bears look awful in the preseason then be really good in the regular season, or vice versa? Thursday night is just a start, but it is fair to expect to see improvement next week against the Washington Redskins when Cutler is back at the helm.
2. Webb is going to have to fight to keep his job: As Tice said earlier in the week, Webb is basically the starting left tackle right now by default because nobody else (Chris Williams) stepped up and outplayed him in camp. Most starters see limited time in the first preseason game, but not Webb, who was still on the field in the fourth quarter. Tice needs to keep applying pressure to Webb. Last year the former seventh-round draft pick went through the motions in the opening preseason game and got smoked by Buffalo's Shawne Merriman. Being forced to play deep into the second half of a meaningless exhibition game is a good way to remind Webb that nothing is promised to him.
3. Shea McClellin's speed is legit: McClellin is far from a finished product. He is clearly still learning to defend the run, but you can see his potential as a situational pass rusher. His best of play of the night was when he chased down and sacked Broncos quarterback Caleb Hanie outside the pocket. Hanie happens to be a quick and mobile quarterback, but he had no shot to escape McClellin, who strongly finished the play. McClellin showed up a couple of other times throughout the game and even though he faced mostly backups, he had to come away encouraged about the way he performed in his first NFL game. Like the old saying goes: You can't coach speed.
4. Peyton Manning needed this preseason game: Why else would the Broncos allow Manning to start and drop back to attempt seven passes? After sitting out last season, Manning appeared eager to test out his neck, stand in the pocket, and possibly absorb a few hits from a Bears' defense playing without Julius Peppers. Manning's numbers weren't pretty (4 of 7 for 44 yards and one interception) but the confidence he gained at Soldier Field should benefit him moving forward. And Hanie played a decent game as he fights to secure a spot on Denver's depth chart behind Manning. Hanie had a bad first series but bounced back to lead the Broncos on a scoring drive at the end of the first half.
5. Bears are sticking to their story: Both general manager Phil Emery and coach Lovie Smith said before the game that Brian Urlacher is simply resting his knee and is due to rejoin the team soon. The Bears are off on Friday and return to camp on Saturday, so if Emery and Smith are telling the truth, there should be a No. 54 sighting in Bourbonnais sometime over the weekend. Hopefully that is the case. If Urlacher is away because of “personal reasons” then his privacy needs to be respected. But waiting all this time to give an official update did little to clear up the confusion or calm the masses. Why not say on Monday that Urlacher was going to be given time off to rest his knee, while at the same time explain he was also excused for personal reasons?