Matt Bowen; Half-way Through Preseason Observations.........

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by soulman, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Bowen: It's halftime for observations of Bears
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    Matt Bowen
    Sat Aug 17 2013 3:30 PM


    We can't put a grade on this Bears team two games into the exhibition schedule, nor can we throw out absolutes on personnel or scheme. Plenty needs to be cleaned up on offense, and we don't want to overreact because the Bears' No. 1 defense beat up on a bad Chargers team Thursday night at Soldier Field.

    However, we can look at the development of young talent on the roster, begin to break down what the Bears are trying to establish offensively and continue to watch their progression throughout the summer.

    Here are five things I'm seeing at the midway point of the preseason:

    Long's development: First-round draft pick Kyle Long is making me eat some crow already. I questioned the pick in April, cited his lack of experience and also brought up the talent the Bears left on the draft board. But there is a reason coach Marc Trestman bumped up Long to the first unit, and that was evident Thursday.

    Long's ability to pull and work to the second level stands out, as does the power he displays finishing blocks. This youngster is nasty at the point of attack. Long has developed at a much quicker rate than I expected, and he will see more quality reps Friday versus the Raiders. Has Long arrived? Not yet … but the early return is pretty darn good.

    Offense in transition: The No. 1 offense has lacked consistency. Take the first series against the Chargers: three negative plays followed by a punt. However, the Bears did come back to execute on the toss crack to Matt Forte for an explosive gain, scored on a converted fade route from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall and ran the ball with production inside the 5-yard line. Along with the play of Long and fellow rookie Jordan Mills on the offensive line, the Bears are doing some good things they can build on.

    You can see a small sample of what Trestman wants to do with Cutler based on the quick three-step combinations on third downs (slant-flat route) and some of the boot schemes. And the Bears did make an effort to run the ball Thursday. But this offense is far from a finished product and has plenty of room to grow before it catches up to the level of the experienced Bears defense.

    Bostic's learning curve: Jon Bostic isn't game-ready, but the rookie linebacker has made the type of plays the first two weeks of the preseason that will jump off the screen when the coaches roll the tape. I call them "splash plays." Go back to the interception return for a touchdown versus Cam Newton and the Panthers or the hit Thursday that almost decapitated Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie on a screen pass.

    Bostic does need more reps versus the inside running game to drill his hands, feet and eyes. Plus, the rookie has to be much quicker in his run-pass reads. That was evident on the touchdown pass off play action Thursday against the Bears' Cover-2 shell. But that can be coached and will come for Bostic with more game action. The key here is the rookie's speed and ability to show up on tape with big plays. That's exciting.

    Bennett's, Jeffery's lack of involvement: Tight end Martellus Bennett has yet to be targeted in the preseason, and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has just one reception on a quick, "sight-adjust" slant route (check at the line of scrimmage) versus the Panthers. I understand Cutler's trust in Marshall to finish plays, but distributing the football has been a key discussion point since Trestman was hired.
    Time to panic in mid-August? Not quite, but it's too easy to say this can be solved when the regular season starts. With the key starters expected to sit (or see very limited playing time) in the final exhibition, Cutler has one final opportunity this summer to work on the passing game and move the ball around. And there have to be more options in the route tree besides No. 15. That's what we saw (again) versus the Chargers when Cutler forced the deep seam route to Marshall that resulted in an interception.

    Strong pass rush: With Julius Peppers sitting out again Thursday, Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton saw more time at defensive end. McClellin made a nice move at the point of attack and showed off his speed while turning the corner to record a sack and forced fumble. And Wootton gave rookie D.J. Fluker a "welcome to the NFL" moment by setting up the tackle and ducking inside to rack up a sack.
    If the Bears can get continued production from McClellin and Wootton, they have the ability to feature a front four in nickel situations that is very athletic when you add Peppers and Henry Melton to the mix. This would allow the defense to play more Cover-2 in passing situations and force the quarterback to come off his deep reads early in the progression. That's a beautiful thing.

    Twitter @MattBowen41
  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Kyle Long seems to be way ahead of where many thought he'd be right now, including me. I'll grant that the Chargers are far from the toughest challenge he'll face this year but he's got incredible strength and leverage and when he gets his hands on a guy he controls him and that guy is going nowhere except where Long wants him to go. The more I see of him so far I don't doubt that he may very well have been a top ten pick in 2014 if he'd have played one more year of college ball. The time he spent working with Tony Wise this spring is paying off because he "gets it".

    Bostic makes some rookie mistakes but so do they all in the beginning. Playing MLB in that defense isn't all that easy. He has to cover and lot of ground and be good at a lot of things and so far he's shown the he can cover, he can run and pursue, and that if he can square up on you he's gonna knock the snot out of you. He and Long are beginning to look like great picks and I'll give Emery credit for that since I criticized both picks when we made them. If Mills and Greene click too this will have been a very good draft.

    I suspect after watching Marshall get all of Cutler throws this game and especially after the one he forced into double coverage that Trestman and Cutler will spend some time this week taking care of that business. It's not so much just that he throws for Marshall as often as he does but he also stares him down, locks in, and loses any deception he might have gained by looking off a Safety or a LB. Marshall get to most of his throws but he can't get all of them so it's time to start using others even when Marshall is in the game. I don't think we'll see as much of that in the future as we saw the other night.

    The pass rush looked good. Three guys contributed sacks and both Paea and Whiteside got pressure with some nice bull rushes. Wootton just blew Fluker up on his sack and McClellin showed off the biggest reason why we drafted him. If he gets off the line untouched he's virtually unblockable. He got by Starks so fast Starks had no time to set at all and it was a straight shot to Rivers and a nice job of wrapping him up and causing a fumble we took away points from. If he can do that once a game maybe some people will stop calling him a bust. The thought of him, Pep, Melton and Wootton rushing on a 3rd and long play should give some QBs a case of happy feet. And I liked the fact that Collins continues to show why he's a perfect #3 DT because he can rush and he can play both inside spots.

    It's nice to read a fair analytical review by a former NFL players for change rather than an overly dramatic microscopic and myopic critique by sportswriters who may have last played the game in HS if at all. The defense looks like it's lost very little so far that some additional depth in the line and some added experience at LB won't help. The offense remains a work in progress but anyone who didn't think it would at this point was only fooling themselves to begin with.
  3. mdbearz

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    I'm very disappointed that Marshall is catching every single pass. We honestly need him to sit for the third preseason game and force Cutler to see that he can throw to his other receivers.

    We may need to ride the Forte/Marshall train for the first few weeks, but if we have any hope of going to the playoffs and performing the ball needs to go to other places.

    Collins is looking like Melton 2.0

    Ford has impressed me also, of course, he is playing against scrubs the majority of the time, but I think he is showing his value as a STer and a Back-up RB.

    Wootton and Mac have looked like a potent duo without Peppers and Melton, and that along with Collins performing well at the 3 technique is very encouraging. The NTs job is not to be flashy, but to hold the point of attack. So to say that Paea has been solid but not sure we have another guy on the roster that can rotate with him.

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