Across The Middle: Preseason Week Two

| August 17th, 2016

When the Bears were fighting with themselves, I thought it was annoying. Now that we’re seeing them get one of the most disciplined teams in the NFL to lose its cool, I think the Bears just might be developing an identity.

The Bears are going to be scrappy, just like the defenses Fox built in Carolina and Denver. They’re going to push the envelope and they’re going to frustrate their opponents.

And it just might be great.

There is a thin line to walk. The Bears certainly don’t want to be known as a “dirty” team like Jim Schwartz’s Lions were. There certainly is a point where the personal foul penalties get to be too much, but if they can continue to be aggressive and scrappy, they’re going to be the team nobody wants to play. If they keep adding talent, they’re going to be the team hardly anyone can beat.

Is this Amateur Hour?

I could not believe the reaction of so many of the Chicago media members to the first preseason game. Is this the first time they’ve covered the league? Preseason success is not an indicator of regular season success.

I like Biggs as much as the next guy, but saying their offense has “a long way to go to be NFL average” based the first preseason game is just silly. What is that really based on? Three possessions? On the third possession, Marc Mariani caught a pass for a first down on third-and-four, but it was called incomplete. In the regular season, Fox probably challenges that and the drive continues. Maybe they score a touchdown there. Who knows? They could’ve scored touchdowns on the next three possessions for all we know.

Practice Can Be More Valuable Than Games

Usually I don’t put a lot of stock in preseason practices. When they’re just going against each other, how do we know who is good? I remember in 2014, the Bears defense was doing well against the offense. We thought that was a sign they’d have a good defense simply because we KNEW their offense was good.

Well, they both stunk.

But scrimmages against other teams is interesting. The Bears coaches and players found out more about their team during their practices against the Patriots the last two days than they will in any preseason game. These practices are not televised and they are not scouted, the teams are able to open up their playbooks. And the reports about the Bears from the New England side of things have been pretty good.

Again, if they suck in the preseason game, don’t worry about it.

The Bears Are Going to Bring the Heat

At least they brought the heat against Denver and they have the talent to do so throughout the regular season.

Willie Young had three hurries and two hits on Mark Sanchez on their first drive alone. That led to Denver throwing nothing but quick passes and rollouts the rest of the time the starters were in the game.

We also saw Leonard Floyd get pressure, Lamarr Houston draw a holding call, and, of course, my guy Cornelius Washington be pretty dominant. This came without Pernell McPhee and without any scheming.

The Bears are going to be able to do a lot of fun things with their front seven. We saw a little glimpse against Denver. At times they played Jonathan Bullard and Washington together, rotating with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks. My guess is the Bears are going to have Bullard and Washington on the field at the same time a lot on passing downs with any combination of Young, Houston, McPhee and Floyd.

Screen shot 2016-08-16 at 3.15.23 PM

In the above photo is an interesting alignment in which the Bears have Hicks lined up like a Wide-9 defensive end and Floyd in the middle of the field. They didn’t get to run this play because the Broncos were called for a false start. But the possibilities are endless.

From the Chart

I’m trying something new this year, charting certain statistics that don’t appear in the box score. I only did the first quarter because it’s the preseason, but here are a few things I came up with:

• Young had three pressures — one QB hit — in nine plays, two of which were rollouts.

• Cody Whitehair won his match-ups at left guard on all but one play, a screen to Langford when Shane Ray bested him.

• Tony Moeaki was responsible for more “bad runs” than anyone else. He was beaten twice, one was a tackle for a loss and the other would’ve been, but Langford broke a tackle. On the second, Paul Lasike also whiffed on the same player.

• Freeman missed two tackles, but also had a tackle for loss. I’m not so sure one of his missed tackles was actually a miss. On the replay, it looked like Virgil Green’s knee touched down, but the officials missed it and Green got six more yards.

• Three of the pressures Denver got on Cutler came from unblocked defenders. That’s something that can be mostly cleaned up with game planning.

• Bryce Callahan was in coverage on two completions, including a busted coverage on the touchdown, but also caused an interception. Kyle Fuller was in coverage on three completions.

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