Even the film won’t tell much about the Bears’ 31-3 loss to the Denver Broncos in their preseason opener at Soldier Field on Thursday night.
With key starters out, neither team showing anything more than vanilla looks on offensive and defense; reserves playing against reserves, replacement officials and inclement weather, the game was a colossal waste of time. It was the best argument for a two-game preseason I’ve seen yet.
The Bears and Broncos would have gotten more out of a live scrimmage in Bourbonnais than the shadow boxing they did Thursday night. I’d pay more to watch China vs. South Korea in Olympic badminton. Charles Tillman had a better workout in the Pro Bowl.
The NFL insists on calling these “preseason” games rather than “exhibition” games, but neither would be an accurate description of Thursday night’s Bears-Broncos games. It was a “practice game” at best. “Glorified scrimmage” was more like it.
Be that as it may, here are 10 observations from the Bears’ “exhibition” opener:
1. Jay Cutler didn’t get hurt.
2. Why are NFL teams so afraid to show ”too much too soon? How good is a game plan, a scheme or a play if the element of surprise is so critical to its success? Is it that hard to devise enough plays and wrinkles that opponents won’t know what to expect?
3. The Bears have struggled for sustained success in just about every facet of their football team. But judging by their Halas Hall complex and the look of the Soldier Field turf since they apparently took control of it from the Chicago Park District after last year’s ”Family Night” debacle, the McCaskeys know their landscaping.
4. Didn’t seem like a good sign that LT J’Marcus Webb played into the fourth quarter of the first preseason game. Unless you really can improve by playing against second- and third-team defensive lineman, it seemed like a punishment more than anything else.
5. The Bears’ offensive line didn’t distinguish itself against the Broncos, but the line was even worse in last year’s opener against the Bills (two net yards on nine plays, with three sacks allowed in the first quarter) and improved enough to be competent when intact by the third preseason game.
6. One aspect of Shea McClellin’s development at DE could be problematic for the Bears. They know he needs “reps” but aren’t willing to take reps from Corey Wootton or Chauncey Davis to allow McClellin to play against first-team offensive linemen. By the time McClellin got in the game late in the first quarter Thursday night, he was facing the Broncos’ second-team offense.
7. McClellin showed off his closing speed while sacking Caleb Hanie on his third play of the game, but it’s worth noting the play was made “in space” and out of the pocket — with McClellin looking more like a outside linebacker than a defensive end. In fact, McClellin never made contact with an offensive lineman on that play.
8. If Brian Urlacher misses any games, it’s hard to believe the Bears wouldn’t be better off with Lance Briggs in the middle and Geno Hayes or J.T. Thomas on the weakside. Other than his ability to “quarterback” the defense, Nick Roach doesn’t seem like the best option as Urlacher’s replacement. He’s much better on the strong side.
9. I don’t know what it is about rookie safety Brandon Hardin, but he looks like he can make an impact sooner than even the Bears might think. If he learns quickly, he’ll be more than a special-teamer this season.
10. The NFL should give their regular officials the raises they deserve, but as luck would have it — at least in the Bears-Broncos game –the difference with the replacement officials was pretty much imperceptible if you were watching from the stands or on television.