- Let’s start off with something that I can be positive about. If you call this positive: I don’t think the defense was as bad as everyone thinks.
Kansas City’s offense is of the death by 1000 cuts type where they dink and dunk you to distraction. The only thing that you can do is be patient and wait for them to make a mistake. If they don’t make a mistake… well, then you hope you can stop them when it becomes a short field. For the most part, that’s what the defense did until they got worn down to a nub. A difference in time of possession in the first half of 22:00 to 8:00 will do that.
The run defense was “OK” as the Bears allowed 4.4 yards per carry in the first half but, again, they were worn to a nub by the end. Linebackers were playing down hill and looked fine in coverage.
I thought the pass rush was fine and despite the fact that Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith was getting rid of the ball quickly, they managed to hit him hard on occasion.
Cornerback is a problem but we knew that. The injury to Tracy Porter won’t help. Kyle Fuller was already out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. None of the other cornerbacks the Bears used against the Chiefs has ever played in an NFL game: Jacoby Glenn, Deiondre’ Hall, Kevin Peterson and Taveze Calhoun, De’Vante Bausby and Joel Ross.
Bottom line, I agree with the coaching staff that the Bears defense needed to play a little tighter. But I thought they were playing fast to the ball and being patient and I didn’t have much problem with them.
- Unfortunately, no surprise, the “OK” label cannot be given to the offense. There were no first half turnovers and the Bears only had 3 first half penalties so I can’t say that they were shooting themselves in the foot. The best explanation I have of what happened is simply failure to execute.
The offensive line wasn’t bad and, in fact, Charles Leno and Cody Whitehair were quite solid. Young Cornelius Edison, thrown into the breach at center, held his own. His head was on a swivel and he looked like he was more than aware of what was going on. Ted Larsen had more than his share of struggles with his second position change in as many games but I expect the veteran will settle down once he settles into one position.
The running backs played to their talent level. The tight ends were a non-factor but we’re all used to that by now.
Perhaps most disappointing were the two drops by Alshon Jeffery, the drop by Kevin White to go with a couple of poor pass routes and some poor throws and inconsistency from Jay Cutler. These things didn’t seem to happen much last year. Is it a coincidence that the Bears have a new wide receivers coach, a new quarterback coach and a new offensive coordinator? On a related note, it’s a bit worrisome that the offense hasn’t been consistently ready to play that may also be a sign of some bad offensive coaching (see below).
But the good news is that this is all correctable. For instance, there won’t be many games once the season starts where Jeffery drops two passes no matter who the coach is. The players simply need to concentrate more on what they’re doing. Its the preseason and you can hope that they’ll do that once the meaningful games start.
- Fifth round running back Jordan Howard has been getting a fair bit of attention from certain segments of the media lately. Howard was drafted as a power running back and its seems that, though he’s being envisioned as a being a force near the goal line, some segments think he’s exhibiting the ability to do more than that.
“I didn’t realize he was that quick,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said earlier this month. “I’m excited about that.”
We still have a long way to go before we know whether Howard exceeds his draft status but, based upon what I’ve seen, I’m less enthusiastic about him than most seem to be. He’s exhibited none of the vaunted power that we’ve been told he has in any of the preseason games and at 6-0, 222-pounds he’s not as big as I’d like for such a role. For instance, Jerome Bettis was 255 pounds. Admittedly, Bettis is a pretty high standard to hold anyone to but you get the point.
Howard could be showing a lot more in practice and if so, we can hope that it will be showing up in games soon. But until then, he looks like just another guy to me and this all feels an awful lot like preseason fluff.
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times gave us some focal points for the game Saturday against the Chiefs and this one caught my eye.
“Unless Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White turn the offense into an NFL revelation, the Bears figure to have little margin-for-error on offense. Penalties and sacks have stunted the Bears’ offense throughout the Cutler era. In a current state of flux, the Bears need to stay clean to give themselves the best chance for growth.”
This is all true. However, last year one thing the Bears offense did an uncommonly good job of, for them, is digging themselves out of such holes on third down. It’s early but Adam Gase, now the head coach of the Dolphins, seems to be continuing to get themes out of his team on third down. The Dolphins converted 5 of 9 in the first half on Thursday.
In addition to avoiding negative plays, the ability to continue to overcome them when they happen might be at least as important under new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
- Speaking of Loggains, John Mullin at CSN Chicago did a marvelous job of describing the potential for rocky relations between him and Jay Cutler in this article.
Cutler has a history of losing faith in his coordinators and when that happens, his performance usually starts to collapse the minute anything goes wrong in a game.
As Mullin points out, Loggains is far less accomplished than some of the other coordinators that have gone down in flames with the Bears with Cutler at quarterback. Meanwhile Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune wasn’t out right critical after Saturday’s poor offensive showing. But it’s telling that he did pull out a quote from running back Chris Johnson in 2009 as he discussed the Bears offensive struggles:
“A lot of the plays when the offensive coordinator [Loggains] was calling them, they were predictable,” Johnson told ESPN. “Everybody could tell what was coming.”
If it was just predictable play calling, I’d have to give Loggains a break in the preseason as everything stays vanilla. But the bigger fear that he’s simply a poor coordinator is much more deep and disturbing.
For instance, it was only one play but it is very bothersome that the delayed blitz continues to work against the Bears quarterbacks, who seem to be helpless when its thrown their way. Having it happen repeatedly the first preseason game, that’s annoying. Having it still happen in the third game? Is it because they don’t know what to do or there’s nothing built into the play to allow the quarterbacks to handle it? Either way there’s no excuse for it.
The deep fear is that the Loggains offense will remain “uncoordinated” where players continue to make mistake after mistake and never seem to quite be on the same page ala former coordinator John Shoop.
Regardless, Adam Gase is the only offensive coordinator that Cutler ever seemed to click with and he only did that for one season. Gase didn’t have to deal with that second season when things often got rougher between Cutler and his coaches.
The adjustments made between preseason game 1 and game 2 were a good start. The offense looked better in the Patriots game than it did against Denver in the first game in a disastrous 22-0 loss. There was a lot involved in that (the Patriots chose to play the game extremely vanilla) but some adjustment by the coaching staff was certainly a part of it. Unfortunately the game against the Chiefs was a huge step back.
But this is just the preseason. Will Loggains be able to make the proper adjustments during the season? Gase had a reputation amongst the players for calling the right plays at the right time that was laudable.
“When I’m in the huddle…and we get a play call,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said of Gase, “there’s never a time where we look at each other and think, ‘Oh [darn].’”
Will Loggains be able to keep his head in the eye of the storm and continue that?
This is a relationship that we can keep an eye on throughout the entire season but its unlikely that the relationship between Cutler and Loggains would really deteriorate until late in the year. Cutler probably wouldn’t lose respect for Loggains immediately. It will take time and a series of trials in meaningful games where the help that he thinks is needed doesn’t come. And with a young team that promises to lose as much as it wins, those trials should be plentiful. If that loss of faith happens, Loggains’ vocal personality and bluster would only make the poor relationship worse.
Bottom line, we’d better all hope that Loggains is more Adam Gase than Mike Tice. Long time Cutler observers could not have failed to notice that there was a lot of “Jay face” out there on Saturday. If that continues and he loses confidence in Loggains, we could be looking at another tire fire as the season winds down.
- Next up is the Cleveland Browns who got spanked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-13 Friday night.
The Browns defense has been awful this preseason and this third game was no better as they gave up 20 points in Tampa Bay’s first four possessions. Bear in mind that Tamp Bay isn’t bad but they aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, either. The Browns ranked No. 27 in yards allowed, No. 29 in points permitted a year ago.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes to blitz and use tricky formations. He may well continue to do that even with the back ups playing on Thursday. The Bears offense has not handled such things well and it will be interesting to see if the players are prepared for it.