Get Used to Seeing Blitzing in the Preseason. And Other Points of View.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times has been around long enough to know better than to make this statement:

“Bears coach John Fox, who already has had to trot out a ‘Wally Pipp’ reference a week into camp, will downplay the injury situation and lean on the “next-man-up” philosophy — a flawed rationalization that implies that replacing any player is like changing a light bulb. In reality, the next-man-up often isn’t as good as the man he replaced — that’s why he was the “next man” in the first place.”

The next man up philosophy is not one in which you imply that the next guy can replace the starter with no loss in talent.  It means that the next guy (and the team) has to be ready to step up because injuries won’t be accepted as an excuse for losing, something every team in the NFL has to know and accept because injuries are a part of the game.

Injuries are not an excuse.  If you, as a coach, allow them to become one, your team is never going to win anything.

  • Bears offensive line coach Dave Magazu had some interesting comments about left tackle Charles Leno when he was made available to the media.

“I think he’s so underrated it’s scary..”

I tend to agree.

People I talk to nationally don’t have many good things to say about Leno.  This is probably due to a combination of factors.

First, Pro Football Focus doesn’t rate Leno very highly.  They have him as the 55th best tackle in the league with an overall grade of 39.7  (top rated Joe Thomas has a grade of 94.3).  This probably has something to do with the fact that he was miserable as a right tackle before taking over on the left side in place of Jermon Bushrod, where he did much better.

Second, and related, there’s no name recognition there.  No one’s ever heard of Leno and they can’t believe that the Bears are justified in having such faith in a virtually unknown player.  That’s why people are going to PFF in the first place.

Lastly, and most damningly, national members of the media (and fans) often pop off about players without ever having concentrated on their play.  Sometimes without even having seen them play at all.  When you’ve got 32 teams to follow you can’t take time out to take a hard look at every offensive lineman.  So when one respected member of the media says something, most just pile on and repeat it without questioning it.  That’s probably a good part of what happened here.

The guess here is that there are going to be a lot of people around the country who are going to be surprised at how well Leno plays in 2016.

A.  I noticed that thought Kyle Long apologized for his role in the rumble on the night of the Bears Family Fest, Ted Larsen nor Lamin Barrow, the two primary combatants, didn’t.  In fact, Larsen was down right unrepentant.  “I’m not a guy who’s going to take crap from anybody or stand down,” said Larsen, who will replace the injured Hroniss Grasu at center. “So that’s probably the (gist) of it.”

B.  Though I can see why there’s a lot of hand wringing going on over this (guys could get hurt after all), there still aren’t any signs of trouble chemistry-wise within the team.   Comments by cornerback Tracy Porter are to the point.

“No one holds any grudges — no one’s fighting in the locker room,” he said. “It happens on the field. It’s done after that. And those same two guys that end up in the scuffle, they’re talking to each other in the locker room, laughing and talking.”

If the fights spill over into the locker room, then we’ll all know that this is a really big issue that needs to be addressed directly and firmly.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune had this to say about the competition at wide receiver beyond Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White:

“This is probably the most competitive position on the roster. I could see the Bears easily carrying six receivers on the 53-man roster. If [Eddie] Royal is on the bubble, it will cost a pretty penny to let him go. He is guaranteed $4.5 million this season, so chances are the Bears see if they can get some of that value.”

I can’t imagine that the Bears are thinking about letting Royal go.  It doesn’t show up on the stat sheet but he was by far their best slot receiver last year and unless Daniel Braverman lives up to his fan favorite status, I don’t think that’s likely to change.

Royal is a veteran with under-rated speed and who has a talent for getting open.  I think Bears fans have a habit of under-estimating him because the Bears tried hard to put him n the outside after signing him as a free agent, a position he wasn’t suited for.

“The idea that free agent right tackle Bobby Massie will stabilize the O-line is silly. Massie, like most right tackles, is a big-bodied guy who really struggles against top-shelf edge rushers. That’s why the open market left him with a contract worth only $6.5 million in guarantees. The main benefit of Massie’s arrival is it moves fourth-year stud Kyle Long back to guard, where he’s more comfortable and where the Bears badly needed more athleticism.”

Truth.

Massie will be an interesting guy to keep an eye on this season.  He’s a definite upgrade only in that he’s probably an upgrade over Long at tackle and that Long is definitely a huge upgrade at right guard over Vlad Ducasse.  But that doesn’t make Massie good.

Its possible that Dave Magazu will solidify himself as a very good offensive line coach by making Massie into a very good right tackle this year where the Cardinals couldn’t do it.  But its more likely that offensive line is an area where the Bears still have some building to do before we’ll be able to call them a truly competitive team.

Benoit also makes a good point about the possibility of seeing Pernell McPhee at inside linebacker on occasion.  It’s a good read.

For the defense, this game was valuable.  They didn’t perform well but they were at least credible throughout the game.  There will be plenty to evaluate and plenty of teaching points to make.

But its hard to call the game anything less than a disaster for the offense.  The offensive line from the second quarter on was beyond bad.  How can you evaluate a quarterback like Connor Shaw?  What corrections can you tell him to make?  Run for your life faster?  How can you help wide receivers who aren’t getting reasonable chances to get open and catch the ball?  Or running backs who are stuffed in the backfield?

What are you supposed to teach these guys that is going to make them better next week?

The Bears offense was terrible but it was an exhibition and no one care about that.  What they do care about was the opportunity for the team to get better.  I don’t see that they have much chance to do that looking at Thursday’s tape.

  • Its not a point of emphasis in 2016-2017 but I was struck by the fact that a rules violation that I’d rarely seen called in the past got called not once, but twice in the Bears preseason game Thursday.

Each team got called when their gunner on a punt went out of bounds without being forced out.  It will be interesting to see if that non-point of emphasis point of emphasis gets carried over into the other preseason games and into the season.

“We’re not game-planning for a preseason game, so it was a couple of things we weren’t expecting,” Massie said. “If we had game-planned, it would have been a totally different story.”

Fair enough.  But In watching some other preseason games, I’m starting to think that this was one less excuse that should be used to explain the Bears terrible play.

In particular, the Steelers were at the Lions on the NFL Network Friday night and even though I only watched about half an hour before switching to another game, I can tell you that both teams blitzed aggressively and frequently on third down.  And more to the point, both teams offenses were prepared and handled those blitzes extremely well.  And the Lions are not a particularly good offensive line.

If I wasn’t used to seeing this, I think I’d better get used to it.  And so had the Bears.

  • Given that it was a preseason game, and the first one at that, it was everything I could do to keep from bashing offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone. To see that safety blitz continue to work…

I’m really trying to give these guys a chance. But its my preseason too and, fair warning, I’m loading up.

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