Bears

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.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.