Bears

Report card vs. Jets: Defense difficult to assess

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Report card vs. Jets: Defense difficult to assess

Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
4:57 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Quarterback A

Jay Cutler put the Bears in a hole with an interception for a TD by safety Dwight Lowery in the second quarter. But his touch pass for 24 yards to Matt Forte set up the Bears second TD and his three TD passes in less than nine minutes of the third quarter was decisive. He again controlled the offense and ran his teams record to 21-0 when he posts a passer rating of 100 or better (104.2).

Running backs A

Forte popped a 22-yard TD run in the first quarter and had 44 rushing yards in the quarter. He finished with 113 yards on 19 carries, one for a TD and ran with a burst that delivered yards after first contact. Forte also caught 4 of 7 passes thrown his way, adding 56 yards and giving him 169 all-purpose yards for the game.

Receivers A

Johnny Knox led the receivers with four catches and scored on two of them, one of 40 yards on the play after the Jets ill-conceived fake punt. Knox led all receivers with 92 yards and consistently got the better of supposedly elite Jets cornerbacks. Devin Hester caught a 25-yard TD pass among his three catches for 48 yards. Tight ends were not a factor but contributed significant blocking in pass protection.

Offensive line A

The line played perhaps its best all-around game of the season as far as proficiency in both run and pass blocking. Cutler was sacked twice but both were more coverage sacks than protection breakdowns. RT JMarcus Webb and LT Frank Omiyale were solid sealing edges of a very good Jets run defense and C Olin Kreutz had assignments in order against blitzing and a difficult 3-4 front.

Defensive line B-

The pass rush did not sack Mark Sanchez and got just one hit on him, by Anthony Adams, who was credited with five solo tackles and a forced fumble. Julius Peppers delivered a tackle for a loss and the run defense was respectable against one of the NFLs better power-running teams.

Linebackers C

Brian Urlacher was credited with eight tackles and Lance Briggs had three but had one for a loss and deflected a pass.

Secondary C

A difficult group to assess, because Chris Harris interception in the closing minute with the game on the line was decisive. Tim Jennings forced a Santonio Holmes fumble on an end around in the first quarter, recovered by Harris to set up a TD possession. But Sanchez completed all seven of his first-quarter passes, five straight on the Jets TD drive, and threw for 269 yards while completing 24 of 37 throws.

Special teams A

Rashied Davis delivered the turning-point play of the game when he reverted to his cornerback form to break up a pass on a surprise fake punt early in the third quarter. Robbie Gould became the first Bear to score 100 points in five straight seasons when he booted a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter. Brad Maynard had some help from a Jet on his final punt but got the ball 53 yards downfield and out of serious trouble. Hester brought his one punt return back 38 yards and had a kickoff return for 40 yards.
Coaching A

Special-teams coordinator Dave Toubs scouting, film work and preparation for Jets fakes on kicks had the Bears ready for their strange fake punt early in the third quarter. The offense was well prepared to exploit single-coverage situations when and where they occurred. The defense was beaten too frequently but as able to play under control throughout and not break down even after the second-quarter blitz. Lovie Smith had his team ready to play a game that mattered in the post-season scenarios.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Should Roquan Smith make his debut against the Broncos?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Should Roquan Smith make his debut against the Broncos?

Seth Gruen, Chris Emma and Matt Zahn join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester pitches like Jon Lester again and the offense does just enough to win in Pittsburgh. Jim Deshaies joins the guys to talk about the Cubs.

 

Should Roquan Smith make his preseason debut in Denver? Plus the Ohio State controversy takes a salacious turn. Will Urban Meyer keep his job when the investigation wraps up Sunday?

 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Five things to watch for the Bears in Saturday's preseason meeting with the Broncos

Five things to watch for the Bears in Saturday's preseason meeting with the Broncos

DENVER — Expect the Bears’ starters to play deeper into the first half on Saturday in Denver than they did last week in Cincinnati, but their time on the field will still be relatively brief. The real dress rehearsal for the Bears will be next weekend, when they gameplan for and host the Kansas City Chiefs on Aug. 25. 

But Saturday’s game against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium still represents sort of a checkpoint in the buildup to Sept. 9’s season-opening tilt with the Green Bay Packers. It’ll be the last game of the installation phase of the offseason, with coaches turning their focus to gameplanning for the Chiefs next week and then the Packers afterwards. 

There’s still plenty to be learned on Saturday, though. A few things to watch:

1. Will the first-team offense actually produce?

Mitch Trubisky this week bristled at the notion preseason games didn’t matter — “They don’t matter?” he said. “Then why do you guys talk about them so much?” — which fits with the attitude of a guy who was fairly frustrated with his and his teammates’ performance against the Cincinnati Bengals last week. Trubisky wasn’t happy with offense’s sloppy and ineffective play during the two drives he quarterbacked, and wasn’t willing to write it off as “just” a preseason game. 

“No matter what it is, if it’s on the practice field, if I’m in the backyard by myself, if it’s a preseason game, we’re trying to get better and we’re trying to move the football,” Trubisky said. “That’s what great players do. That’s what great teams do. We’re trying to get some momentum and everybody do our job and execute the offense.”

Still, because the Bears aren’t doing much in the way of gameplanning for the Broncos, any production or lack thereof won’t tell us much about the direction in which this offense is headed. More important will be how successful this group is next week against the Chiefs. 

But Trubisky’s competitiveness means he’s not going to let a poor performance slide, even if it’s only for a few series in a game that doesn’t count. He and the Bears hope that translates into some first downs and points on Saturday. 

2. Some notable debuts

Helping Trubisky’s cause will be the 2018 preseason debuts of running back Jordan Howard and wide receiver Allen Robinson, as well as running back Tarik Cohen — who only played one snap against Cincinnati — perhaps being used more. 

The Bears’ offense will not be at full strength, with wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (foot) and tight end Dion Sims (concussion) still out. But for Trubisky, it’ll be a good opportunity for him to see how all the work he and Robinson put in to develop a chemistry in the last few weeks translates to the field.

“We continue to create that chemistry in practice and my job is just to get the ball to the playmakers,” Trubisky said. “The more playmakers we have on the field, just continue to get them the ball and let them do what they do and we just need to roll as an offense, be on the same page, everyone continue to do their job, lock in and go out there and have fun an execute. It’ll be nice to see those guys with the ball in their hands this weekend.”

3. What about Roquan?

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Smith in full uniform going through pregame warmups, but it would qualify as a minor surprise if he actually played on Saturday. 

The benefit to Smith playing would be working to accelerate his development with an eye on Week 1, even if it’s only for a few snaps. But does the risk of him getting injured outweigh whatever benefit playing him would provide?

It’s a question the Bears surely are debating. But coaches and trainers made sure to not push Smith too hard in this week’s joint practices against the Broncos, and it would be risky to put him in Saturday but tell him to not play at full speed. 

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Smith to play on Saturday, but more likely would be No. 58 making his preseason debut against the Chiefs with another week of practice under his belt. 

4. Snap decisions

James Daniels felt like he was a little sloppy last week against the Bengals, specifically with his hand placement but more broadly because the intensity of things was increased. 

“I think that’s when my technique gets sloppy is when you’re out there and playing against somebody else, you’re really playing,” Daniels said. 

This week’s joint practices, then, were beneficial for Daniels to focus on keeping his technique sound in a more intense setting. And he had the opportunity to do that all while still playing center, not left guard, where he had been working up until last week. How Bears coaches evaluate Daniels' week of practice — which certainly wasn't perfect — will be important, especially in the context of...

... Cody Whitehair going through a snapping “slump” over the last week or so, starting with that preseason game in Cincinnati. If those low/high snaps crop up again Saturday, and Daniels is able to put in a solid day of work with the second-team offensive line, it may nudge the Bears toward moving Whitehair to guard and inserting the second-round Iowa product into the starting lineup. 

The Bears haven’t considered that move yet, though, and the plan all along has been to keep Whitehair at center. A lot has to happen for that plan to change: If Whitehair can’t consistently get snaps to Trubisky, if Daniels proves he’s one of the team’s best five offensive linemen, and then if Daniels proves he’s a better option at center than Whitehair. So far, the Bears haven’t arrived at any of those conclusions, but Saturday’s game could have a significant impact on what those conclusions wind up being. 

5. Down-the-depth-chart position battles

Plenty of players fighting for a spot on the Week 1 53-man roster will get an extended opportunity to put more good — or bad — things on film on Saturday. 

Near the top of the depth chart, Adam Shaheen will have another opportunity to keep his arrow pointing up at the “Y” tight end spot with Sims still out. Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris will continue their competition for the final starting spot on the defensive line, with Bullard still likely the slight favorite. Nick Kwiatkoski can help his case to hold off Smith with another solid showing in what’s been a solid preseason. 

An all-hands-on-deck competition to be the Bears’ reserve outside corner is developing, and with Prince Amukamara (groin) not practicing this week, everyone from that group will get a chance to help their case of making the Week 1 roster. Marcus Cooper needs to have a better game than he did against Cincinnati, while 2017 practice squad’er Doran Grant should get plenty of opportunities, too. For undrafted rookies Kevin Toliver, Michael Joseph and John Franklin III, it’s a big opportunity, too, to turn a longshot bid for a roster spot into something more realistic.