The Bears dropped their preseason opener to the Panthers 24-17 in Carolina Friday night, but there were several key takeaways from the team's first game action.
The offense has work to do...Marc Trestman says so.
CHARLOTTE -- Jay Cutler’s preseason began the same way his training camp did: with an interception. Whether it was his fault or Alshon Jeffery’s or a combination of a missed read against a particular defense really wasn’t the point, however, coming out of Friday night’s 24-17 loss for the Bears in the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers.
It was simply the kind of mistake that cannot happen if the Bears intend on playing more than 16 games this year. They start their regular season against two playoff teams: the Cincinnati Bengals and division-rival Minnesota.
“It was an unfortunate start,” Cutler said, taking some ownership for the problem. “I have to put the ball on Alshon’s other shoulder. We had some good stuff after that; we had some bad stuff. Typical preseason game. We just have to take a look at it and get better next week.”
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Marc Trestman was hired in large part to fix the offense. It wasn’t fixed enough on Friday but such is the nature of works in progress.
“Certainly didn’t do what we wanted or up to our expectations,” Trestman said. He sounded like he was thinking positives, then caught himself. “But other than the first play and the one sack…We’ve got work to do.”
The offense under Cutler did not put the ball into the end zone. But Cutler completed six of his seven passes after that initial miss, and that was without Brandon Marshall (coaches’ decision) and Earl Bennett (concussion) to work with.
The No. 1 offense netted 49 yards on 10 snaps in the first quarter, with Matt Forte carrying once for minus-yards and catching one pass for five yards.
“Other than the pick we had, we moved the ball a little bit,” Trestman said at halftime. “We got a few throws in. Jay made some great throws. We caught some slants in contested throwing areas. We got a few runs in. Matt got a couple of catches, moved the ball around.”
Ball distribution is indeed a foundation pillar of Trestman’s offense. Cutler targeted five different players on his eight attempts, and that was with none going to tight end Martellus Bennett.
“I think there is going to be more game planning going into [game two, vs. San Diego next Thursday],” Cutler said. “We’ll have a little bit more elaborate plan. We’ll just have to play a little bit longer and execute. I don’t really like to get into it before we see the tape, so once we see the tape, we’ll have a better idea of certain things we need to work on.”
OL still needs to get it “right”
J’Marcus Webb has not had a dominant training camp and did himself (and Jay Cutler) no favors by failing to stop Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson for a first-quarter sack. Webb was beaten to the outside, over-corrected and was beaten by Johnson countering back underneath.
Jonathan Scott had been Webb’s chief possible competition for the No. 1 job at right tackle. But Scott has missed the past week with a knee strain and has some catching up to do as well.
The darkhorse for the No. 1 job at right tackle is Eben Britton, a former starter at RT as a rookie with Jacksonville and who has taken up the slack at left tackle this past week with Jermon Bushrod recovering from a calf strain.
Britton began camp as a backup to left guard Matt Slauson and started five games at left guard last season for the Jaguars.
But Britton was embarrassed for a sack on a bull rush by 260-pound Bears castoff Mario Addison.
Guard Kyle Long is still catching up from an offseason not able to practice with the team because of NFL rules. He has work to do and got some extended action against the Panthers, and it is always difficult to critique offensive linemen without knowing specific assignments on specific plays. But Long did not turn anyone loose in pass protection, which is a start.
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James Brown started at right guard and stayed there with the No. 1 offense. He played more snaps at left guard, however, moving over there with the No. 2 offense while Long stayed in at right guard.
Bears LB pipeline stocked
GM Phil Emery and his scouts appear to have struck a bit of gold in this year’s draft.
Rookie linebackers Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene delivered repeated impact plays on both defense and special teams. Greene was unofficially credited with four tackles in the first half alone.
Bostic added an exclamation point to his pending claim on the starting middle linebacker position when he picked off a Cam Newton pass intended for ex-Bear Greg Olsen and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown that tied the Bears with the Panthers at 7-7 in Friday’s first quarter.
It was nice payback for Bostic, who missed on tackle and was victimized by excellent Carolina play design earlier. The Panthers isolated Bostic on wide receiver Brandon LaFell for a three-yard TD pass following Carolina’s interception of Jay Cutler’s first pass.
“He was in position,” said veteran Lance Briggs. The quarterback threw it to him and he caught it. He got himself into the end zone and that’s special for a guy in his first-ever pro game, that’s rare.”
Bostic also took over calling the defensive signals on the second possession after Briggs was removed.
Greene replaced Briggs as the weakside linebacker on Carolina’s second series and delivered a tackle for loss on running back Jonathan Stewart just before the LaFell score. Greene collected an impressive special-teams tackle to go with generally solid work in his first NFL game.
And then there’s the smaller stuff
-- Cornerback Sherrick McManus, playing with the No. 2 defense, forced and recovered a fumble to go with a pass deflection.
-- Isaiah Frey did not flash in his debut as the No. 1 nickel back. Frey was credited with one tackle but also missed on another that allowed a first-down pickup for the Panthers.
-- Running back Michael Ford missed a block to allow a sack but he also scored on a four-yard run early in the fourth quarter. On the other side of one roster competition, Armando Allen hurt his chances by losing the football on a third-down completion inside the Carolina 10, costing the Bears a chance at a third score of takeaways. Allen has been plagued by a number of drops during camp, the surest way to undermine one’s stock.
-- Formal captaincies have not been declared but the Bears’ representation at the coin toss Friday night had a mild surprise. Jay Cutler, one of the co-captains in 2012, did not make the trek to midfield with fellow co-captain Roberto Garza representing the offense. Running back Matt Forte was there with Garza.