The Bears had exactly one turnover through four preseason games, a total of 220 plays. That was an interception of a Jimmy Clausen pass late in the second quarter of the win over the Indianapolis Colts. After averaging a turnover every 35 or so plays in 2014, reducing turnovers was the most stressed point by Bears new offensive coaches this entire offseason, and with issues on both offense and defense coming into the regular season, calling Jay Cutler a “game manager” looks to be high praise, and important.
It’s been only practice and preseason, and Cutler played just 80 total snaps through preseason. Meaning: Cutler played about 1.25 games (NFL teams averaged 64 plays in 2014), so it doesn’t qualify as a statistically significant sample size. But if Cutler and quarterbacks and offensive players were turning the ball over repeatedly, it would be cause for concern. The fact that they’re not rates as some sort of improvement.
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The other shoe, however, is doing something with the football while you’re not giving it away, and that hasn't dropped for the 2015 Bears. The No. 1 offense didn’t score a touchdown on any of those 80 Cutler snaps.
The points in the Bears’ 24-0 win over the Cleveland Browns in preseason game four weren’t scored by the No. 1 offense on Thursday, and the shutout wasn’t posted by the No. 1 defense. But coach John Fox in fact made winning in preseason a step in the process of changing the culture of negativity that descended over the Bears through the two years of coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery.
The result was a 3-1 preseason record, the first time since 2012 that the Bears have won three practice games. They didn’t make the playoffs that year, or the two previous times (2009, 2007) but you when rebuilding a culture as well as refitting all three phases of the game, no step is really insignificant.
“I think with a new staff, it’s probably a little more critical because you are teaching new schemes,” Fox said. “So you do try to take advantage of everything, because they are learning something new. They’re going to be competing against guys who have been doing it for a minute in their respective schemes.
“This game is only fun when you win. When you’re competitive, you compete with everything, including preseason.”
Easily overlooked late in a meaningless game was a play made by “Swamp Monster” Terry Williams, the 6-foot, 322-pound undrafted rookie nose tackle (and is that a perfect name for a nose tackle or what?).
Williams started and played the entire game against the Browns and had enough left in his fuel cell to record a tackle-for-loss late in the fourth quarter. Conditioning issues can undo players but Williams, obviously playing for a job somewhere in the NFL, was still bringing it late in a statement that helped his roster chances somewhere.
And that could be unfortunately very relevant for the Bears. Eddie Goldman is returning from a concussion (and that return isn’t official or assured until he lines up against the Green Bay Packers). Jeremiah Ratliff is out for three games with a suspension and has missed 54 percent of all games over the past three years with a variety of injuries.
The Bears slid Will Sutton in at the nose and Sutton continued a very solid preseason, playing his way from bubble to lock. But neither Sutton nor Ego Ferguson top 295 pounds, meaning the Bears could be in the market for a stout widebody, even as insurance.