First-and-10: Glenn, Hall could push Kyle Fuller at cornerback
Kyle Fuller’s absence in the Bears’ season opener against the Texans was largely overlooked — maybe because it was hard to tell the third-year cornerback wasn’t there.
Jacoby Glenn and rookie Deiondre Hall were able replacements Sunday — far from perfect, but intriguing enough to warrant another look, whether Fuller is healthy or not next week. Neither player did anything to refute the notion that despite their modest background — Glenn was undrafted in 2015 and Hall a fourth-round pick this year — both might be better fits at cornerback for Vic Fangio’s defense than Fuller, a former first-round draft pick.
Glenn had two pass breakups against Texans rookie Will Fuller — one in the end zone on a deep ball — but missed a tackle on a short pass to Fuller that turned into a 27-yard gain. He also was called for holding.
Hall replaced Glenn after Glenn suffered an injury defending a pass to Fuller in the fourth quarter and had three tackles and a pass break-up in 18 snaps. He never had a chance when Fuller turned a screen pass into an 18-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. He lamented one play in particular — a 35-yard pass from Brock Osweiler to Fuller on third-and-two down the left sideline on a perfectly thrown ball versus good coverage.
“Third-down conversion — I’ve got to make that play nine times out of 10,” Hall said. “I played good technique and everything. Got to give credit to the quarterback because that was a great ball. I was in position. I’ve just got to make that play.”
He recovered well. Two plays later, Hall broke up a pass for Fuller in the end zone.
“As a rookie, I’ve got to learn it’s a long season,” Hall said. “You can’t dwell on small things. Got to keep moving. A touchdown’s a touchdown. When we get back out there, just get the offense the ball.”
Overall, Hall said he felt good about the experience.
“First real NFL game — I tried to have as much fun as possible,” Hall said. “I came in when it was crunch time, so I just tried to bring energy to that field.”
Fuller figures to keep his starting job when he returns. But, with a lot to prove, his leash might be that much shorter.
2. It’s too early to panic about wide receiver Kevin White, but it’s becoming more and more clear why the Raiders took Alabama’s Amari Cooper over White with the fourth overall choice last year.
White looks like the raw receiver he was purported to be coming out of West Virginia. Besides the route error that led to the interception he also had a false start Sunday. White also came up short of a first down on a five-yard gain that preceded the ill-fated fourth-and-one fumbled snap. He’s had drop issues in camp and the preseason that look like they could linger.
And whatever happened to the idea that being a big part of the team as he rehabbed his leg last year would help him get acclimated to the offense? He looks like he just got here.
2a. Wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson was a media star in training camp for his effusive, demanding often amusing manner of drilling his players — notably treating Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and White the same as Deonte Thompson, Kieren Duncan and B.J. Daniels.
With Kevin White, Johnson has a chance to show he’s as effective as he entertaining. Learning the playbook, avoiding penalties, getting that extra yard for the first down and eliminating drops all seem like coachable traits. How quickly can Johnson get through to White?
Johnson came to the Bears with an impressive resume — Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and Santana Moss at the University of Miami; Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and Lance Moore with the Saints. So it’s not like he’s never done this before. But White — like Leonard Floyd — is a clear example of a talented player who needs good coaching to succeed in the NFL.
3. For what it’s worth, neither Cooper nor the top-10 wide receivers from the 2014 draft — Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans — had sterling NFL debuts.
Cooper had five catches for 47 yards against the Bengals last year. He finished with 72 catches for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns for the Raiders.
Evans had five catches for 37 yards against the Panthers. He finished with 68 receptions for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Buccaneers.
Watkins had three receptions for 31 yards against the Bears in 2014. He finished with 65 receptions for 982 yards and six touchdowns for the Bills
4. Long-time Bears fans probably couldn’t believe their eyes when the Bears drove 75 yards on three plays for a touchdown in the final 38 seconds of the first half against the Texans. The Bears have had some mad-dash finishes, but usually in the fourth quarter when desperation forces them to let it all hang out.
The first half is a different story. Prior to Sunday, the Bears had scored just once in 26 drives that started in their territory with less than a minute left in the first half in the Jay Cutler era — and never with Cutler. In fact, only five times did the Bears even cross mid-field.
Josh McCown engineered the only previous score in that span — against the Cowboys in 2013 when he drove the Bears 60 yards on five plays in 37 seconds against the Cowboys in 2013, capped by McCown’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery.
5. All you have to do is watch Josh Sitton against J.J. Watt on Sunday to know that Sitton is a big upgrade for the Bears’ offensive line — one that figures to pay off bigger down the road than it did Sunday.
Watt likely was not at his peak after missing training camp and the preseason while recovering from back surgery. But the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is a handful any time he’s on the field and failed to make a dent whenever he lined up against Sitton — considered one of the best pass blocking guards in the NFL.
6. Rookie Leonard Floyd wasn’t a difference-maker against the Texans, though he did share a sack with Eddie Goldman and had six tackles. But just the fact that he started was a positive sign. Fox and Fangio aren’t the type of coaches who play a guy who hasn’t earned it — regardless of when he was drafted or how much he’s being paid.
So starting Floyd ahead of Lamarr Houston after Floyd’s “choppy and inconsistent” training camp and preseason because of illness and injury says a lot about Fangio’s belief in Floyd’s preparedness. Fangio isn’t flawless, but his record of getting the most out of players of various talent levels is worthy of respect. Floyd played 60 of 75 snaps (80 percent) — most among the outside linebackers.
6a. Sometimes, even first-round draft picks often need time and good coaching to develop and find their athletic rhythm — or just be in the right spot at the right time. With two sacks against the Bears on Sunday, Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus has 17 sacks in his last 13 games. The former Illinois star — picked 26th overall in 2012 — had 18 sacks in his first 52 games in the NFL.
7. Arguably the toughest break the Bears got Sunday was Sherrick McManis’ deflection of Nick Novak’s 28-yard field goal attempt that fluttered barely over the crossbar to cut the Bears’ lead to 14-13 with 12:17 left in the third quarter. If that attempt fails, the Bears likely would have had two possessions to take the lead in the final 6:10 of the fourth quarter — trailing 20-14 instead of 23-14 — instead of the much more daunting task of two scores.
8. Ex-Bears Player of the Week: What a stunner that Matt Forte is still Matt Forte. The former Bears running back had 155 total yards — 22 carries for 96 yards rushing; five receptions for 59 yards — in the Jets’ 23-22 loss to the Bengals.
Forte accounted for 45.6 percent of the Jets’ 340 total yards. His highest percentage with the Bears last year was 41.8 when gained 155 of the Bears’ 371 total yards in a victory over the Raiders (25-91 rushing, 4-64 passing).
It was the 67th time Forte has had 100-plus yards from scrimmage in his nine-year NFL career — the most of any player in that span.
8a. With Rob Gronkowski out with a hamstring injury, former Bears tight end Martellus Bennett played 69 of 71 offensive snaps for the Patriots and had three receptions for 14 yards in a 23-21 victory over the Cardinals.
8b. Matt Slauson played all 73 offensive snaps for the Chargers against the Chiefs on Sunday. The Chargers had 388 net yards, including 155 yards rushing on 32 attempts (4.8 avg.).
9. Bear-ometer: 8-8. vs. Eagles; at Cowboys (L); vs. Lions; at Colts (L); vs. Jaguars; at Packers (L); vs. Vikings; at Bucs (L); at Giants (L); vs. Titans; vs. 49ers; at Lions; vs. Packers (L); vs. Redskins; at Vikings (L).
10. Bits and pieces: Upon further review it would be disappointing if John Fox doesn’t regret his decision to not challenge the spot on Brock Osweiler’s quarterback sneak. It was a pretty favorable spot. … The Bears had the third-lowest time-of-possession in the NFL in Week 1 (23:41). Their next opponent, the Eagles, had a league-best 39:20 time-of-possession in beating the Browns on Sunday. … Bears cornerbacks needed just three pass attempts to get their first interception of the season. Last year it took 196 pass attempts for a Bears cornerback to get one — Kyle Fuller against the Vikings in Week 8. … The Bears’ offensive line did not have a holding penalty or false start against the Texans. The Bears led the NFL in holding penalties last year with 42 (seven were declined), including 23 on offensive linemen. … The Bears led after three quarters three times last season — against the Vikings (a 23-20 loss), the Packers (17-13 win) and the Rams (37-13 win).