Meaningful takeaways from Bears' 'meaningless' final preseason game

Meaningful takeaways from Bears' 'meaningless' final preseason game

The 2016 preseason had not been anything close to satisfactory for Brian Hoyer, signed this offseason as part of a clear win-now mindset; that is why teams sign veteran No. 2 quarterbacks with winning records as starters rather than pipeline a young prospect.

Veteran No. 2 quarterbacks routinely glisten in preseasons going against backups. But Hoyer had played himself into a spot of roster vulnerability by throwing the only two interceptions in 98 passes by Bears quarterbacks through the first three preseason games. Through those games, Hoyer had the lowest passer rating (44.5) of the four Bears quarterbacks.

Fortunately for the Bears, Hoyer played like an experienced veteran and picked on the Browns to the tune of 12-of-16 passing for 112 yards and a rating of 93.8 in the Bears’ 21-7 win to avoid a winless preseason.

Hoyer had completed less than 50 percent of his passes (46.3), surprising from a quarterback with a 58.1-percent career completion rate. Hoyer viewed the results as part of a process.

“I think you’re just going out, trying to play and get better,” Hoyer said. “There’s really no excuse; it’s just football. I remember one year in Cleveland I was 22-for-27, and other games. ... You’re always striving for perfection and sometimes things happen, you’ve got to react, whether it’s moving on to another guy who’s open or throwing a better ball.”

Hoyer got the start Thursday at Cleveland and directed the offense to a field goal on its second possession, though he appeared to miss opportunities with Cam Meredith and Kevin White for potential red-zone touchdown throws on consecutive passes in the first quarter.

But he then led a touchdown drive with 4-for-4 passing, giving him nine completions in his first 10 attempts — what the Bears needed to see from the player who will be Jay Cutler’s backup.

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Kevin White produces

Not sure how often first-round draft choices and projected starters in the regular season start the final preseason game, but wide receiver Kevin White clearly was a not-ready-for-prime-time player after his missed 2015 season and was meandering through a lackluster preseason.

White was the only player listed on the depth chart as a starter (other than fullback Paul Lasike, the only fullback on the roster) to start in an otherwise throwaway game at the end of preseason. White put the playing time to some use, catching the first two throws to him and fighting for yards after the catch for a 15-yard completion. For the game he caught all four of the passes thrown to him, for 57 total yards — both totals more than his combined production through the first three preseason games.

“Just want to go out here, focus, do my job, don’t have any mental errors, run routes I’m supposed to run and just have fun,” White said.

Leonard Floyd with a good showing

White was not the only Bears top-10 draft pick getting in work against the Browns. Leonard Floyd opened at outside right linebacker and delivered one of the best plays of his presesason by stringing out a tight-end zone sweep by standing up Cleveland No. 2 left tackle Dan France. The Browns scored on the next play when the Bears flipped Floyd over to the defensive left and Cleveland ran a draw to what had been Floyd’s side.

Floyd was able to generate some pressure to the blind side of Cleveland quarterback Robert Griffin III, and coaches used him rushing from both outside and left and as an end in nickel packages when the Bears favor a 4-3 base.

Floyd took a finger to his left eye late in the half but finished with three tackles and a hit on Griffin.

Trouble on special teams

Special teams were a general disaster in an otherwise encouraging outing. Kicker Robbie Gould missed one extra point and had a second one blocked, rookie Daniel Braverman allowed a Cleveland punt to hit and roll some 30 yards for a 75-yard kick, and returner B.J. Daniels allowed a punt to hit his foot, a fumble that the Browns turned into their one touchdown.

Under Center Podcast: Saying bye to Elliott Fry


Under Center Podcast: Saying bye to Elliott Fry

On this episode of the Under Center Podcast, J.J. Stankevitz is joined by John "Moon" Mullin. To start, Moon takes a moment to remember Cedric Benson, who died in a motorcycle accident on Saturday night (00:30). Then, the guys discuss the Bears' surprise announcement that they released Elliott Fry, leaving Eddy Pineiro as the only kicker on the roster (05:40).

The guys toss to highlights from Matt Nagy's press conference on Sunday morning where he explains why the Bears decided to cut Fry now, how they think the move will help Pineiro and whether the competition is officially closed (07:55).

Finally, J.J. explains why the end of the kicking competition was just like the end of the Bachelorette (12:10), and which kickers on other teams the Bears may still have their eyes on in the upcoming preseason games (16:40).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Under Center Podcast


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Death of former Bears RB Cedric Benson a blow – and a reminder

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Death of former Bears RB Cedric Benson a blow – and a reminder

Getting the news that Cedric Benson had died last night in a motorcycle accident was a blow on Sunday. The former Bears running back and a passenger were killed when the bike they were riding collided with a minivan in Austin, Tex. As former Bears defensive end and Benson teammate Adewale Ogunleye tweeted Sunday, “What the hell is going on? The Bad news wont stop.”

Personally, this sort of thing hits hard. The passing of receivers coach Darryl Drake last week, former 1994 first-rounder John Thierry dying last November – of a heart attack at age 46 – Rashaan Salaam committing suicide in December 2016, and now Ced. That’s too many good dying young.

And yet even as the Benson news was sinking in, Bears beat colleague Rich Campbell over at the Tribune was celebrating the birth of his daughter. Not sure why that seems so striking, maybe just something about the circle of life, or just how there’s a spot of sunshine somewhere. 

As in so many of these things, the Ced death sparks memories, and in this case, good ones. Which may seem a bit unlikely, since Ced was one of the least popular Bears during his three (2005-2007) years after the organization made him the fourth-overall pick of that 2005 draft.

But things are not always as they seem.

Benson went through a 36-day holdout before reporting to the team, missing just about all of the 2005 training camp and preseason. When he arrived, the locker room seemed pretty set against him, for various reasons:

He was drafted as the replacement for Thomas Jones, the very popular tailback who’d been signed in the 2004 offseason but who failed to impress in the first year of a four-year, $10 million contract. He and Jones did not get along, coming to blows in one practice, and teammates were clearly Jones supporters.

But Jones had zero 1,000-yard years over his first five seasons; beginning with ’05 and the arrival of Benson, he went on a run of five straight seasons of no fewer than 1,100 yards, two with the Bears followed by three with the New York Jets after he engineered a trade to get out of Chicago.

And Ced was just…different. But to this reporter, different in good ways. He was very thoughtful; more than a few times, he’d have a question posed to him, then take an unusually long time before answering. But he was simply a thoughtful guy.

Case in point: I did a lunchtime sit-down with Ced outside the Olivet Nazarene mess hall during the 2006 training camp in Bourbonnais. To one of my questions, Ced said, “Hmm, that’s an interesting question. Let me get back to you about that one.”

Much later that afternoon, after a brutal, full-pad practice, I was walking away from the fields. Ced came running over, still in pads. “Hey,” he said. “I was thinking about what what we were talking about… .” And he had. And he also was honest about getting back to me. Yeah, I liked the guy.

The Bears let him go after a disappointing 2007 season and he caught on with the Cincinnati Bengals the next year. In 2009 the Bears went to Cincinnati and were annihilated 45-10, putting 215 rushing yards on a very good Bears defense and Benson accounting for 189 of those yards.

Afterwards I was able catch Ced before he left, and I was stunned to see how good he looked physically. He laughed at my surprise, then talked a long time about how he’d discovered a severe gluten intolerance. With that fixed, his complexion cleared up and he wasn’t dealing with the intestinal issues that any gluten-challenged fan out there knows too well. Anyhow, it was great to see a young man moving on to some sort of career, which included that year and the next two with more than 1,000 yards.

That it didn’t happen for him in Chicago was always a little puzzling. He was a phenomenal athlete, good enough to be drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an outfielder and play in their summer league.

He was a very, very emotional guy; at Halas Hall Sunday it was recalled how he’d cried during his conference call with the media following his drafting by the Bears. And he had his problem situations off the field, and he was waived in the 2008 offseason after a couple of arrests involving suspected alcohol abuse.

Those are probably the things too many people will remember about Ced. Too bad. There was much more to the young man. And as was said before, things — and people — are not always everything they seem to be. Under that heading I’d include Thomas Jones’ tweet on Sunday. From a supposed “enemy:”

“Woke up to the horrible news of Cedric Benson's passing,” Jones said. “My heart aches for him and his family. Sending love, peace and blessings their way. Gone way too soon my brother. Rest well young King. You will truly be missed…. “