Bears Vs. Panthers: Which Defensive Players Helped Themselves Most?

Grant Halverson

The Bears may have lost a preseason game, but how did the individual young players look? We're looking at the defensive players from Friday's game.

Last time we focused on the offensive players and the offensive notes from the game. This time, we'll look at the defensive players and how they fared, particularly three linebackers, the nickel back competition and the defensive tackle rotation after Henry Melton departed...

  • The defensive end rotation looks odd with no Julius Peppers playing and no Corey Wootton. I know Peppers will be back, but Kyle Moore starting just looks weird, even in preseason.
  • Jonathan Bostic left the field on 3rd to make way for Isaiah Frey - putting the two veteran linebackers in Lance Briggs and James Anderson on the field together. Have to admit, I found that fairly interesting, though Anderson's playing really well in camp. He's got some pretty useful tenacity.
  • Henry Melton's concussion hurts the Bears' defensive line badly, but Nate Collins might be able to add enough pass-rush if Melton's out long-term. He did some nice things this game.
  • Khaseem Greene still has some pretty good safety instincts that'll serve him well at the linebacker position. Looks like he'll be pretty serviceable as a fourth linebacker for now, as he came up in the hole to stop DeAngelo Williams at the goal line.
  • On the Brandon LaFell touchdown, LaFell runs a short drag just across the line of scrimmage and just outspeeds everyone into the open. Now, think of how many times Devin Hester ran that route. ... Right.
  • Jon Bostic made a Brian Urlacher-type interception for his touchdown. There, I said it. I can see why they picked him as a second-rounder, good anticipation and intelligence and a fair amount of athletic ability.
  • Nickel package with 4:10 left in the first, Greene came off for Frey leaving Bostic and Anderson (with Briggs off for the day). So, more or less, the nickel backs appear more fungible. Or, preseason. Probably the latter.
  • First and 10 from their own 8, Shea McClellin got absolutely sealed out of a big first-down run to his side. Next play, the Panthers run to the other side and Bostic punches him and chases him for a loss of 3. Kyle Moore had better contain (read: didn't get sealed out), but Bostic kept that play a loss.
  • Well, we know where Tim Jennings left his 2011 hands - Isaiah Frey's locker.
  • I think Sherrick McManis took the "playing off the receiver" too literally, as he's a good five yards away from LaFell before he makes the catch.
  • And I'm still not sure how McManis got away with forcing the fumble on Kenyon Barner. He just reached out, and it didn't even look like he got much on the punch. It was enough, though. McManis should have also had an interception later, got both hands right on the ball.
  • Am I the only one that noticed they wanted to showcase Frey and Bowman's nickel back competition, then their highlight clip is of Jon Bostic's INT TD.
  • Sometimes you can do nearly everything right except finish, and the other team will still get the first down. Case, 2:40 left in the 2nd quarter. Gotta finish plays.
  • In the first-half two-minute drill, the Bears looked like they were in pure off-coverage, letting the Panthers rack up yardage moving downfield. To get to the 5, Derek Anderson went over Blake Costanzo, who probably isn't going to be on the field on defense in real games. Even allowing for that, the way the Panthers stormed downfield is something that can't happen once games matter.
  • Raise your hand if you forgot J.T. Thomas was a Bear.
  • Demontre Hurst had a pretty nice pass breakup near the end of the third quarter, and a nice edge dive to take out Barner on 3rd and 1 to start the fourth. More, please?
  • Cornelius Washington shares a number with James Brown. I'm not sure if that bodes well for him having an already shared number. Jim Miller likes him eventually as a "monster." Not sure about a monster, but he got some pretty nice penetration against 4th-stringers, as soon as he remembers to play a 4-3 DE instead of a 3-4 DE and get after people. Pursued Clausen out of bounds, and got a nice inside run-stop.
  • The Bears lined up a blitz on third and 6. Five went. It pretty clearly didn't work, plenty of time for Clausen to toss a strike to his tight end.
  • Okay, I think I heard Jim Miller call "all these guys are legit." Maybe I heard that wrong, but, um, no.

So, as well, the defense looked like you might expected it to look without its top two defensive ends and losing the top defensive tackle on the third play.

Nate Collins: He's not a special player, but if Melton's only out short-term, Collins will perform well enough. I'm not sure I trust him long-term, though. Still gets good penetration and still makes good pursuits.

Isaiah Frey & Zackary Bowman: The two went more or less back and forth all night. I still like Frey in the short-term on the nickel and still think he might be able to develop outside; Bowman is probably what he is right now, a fringy outside player, but still has a fair amount of ball skills. There's a place for Bowman on the bottom of an NFL roster, an experienced veteran with the ability to occasionally make plays on the ball. Just missed one play in off-coverage, missing a batted ball by a fingertip.

Also, if Frey makes the 2013 team, the 2012 draft class looks so much deeper.

Stephen Paea: His biggest contribution was arguably escorting Bostic down the field on his touchdown - he didn't really stand out in a good or bad way. Just played a solid game of football, in my opinion.

Maybe Melton's injury opens a door for Corey Irvin or Zach Minter to take a spot (if the concussion's bad enough) - both showed flashes, Minter more so in my opinion, but that's where the Bears' defensive tackle depth is without Melton. Minter showed some decent quickness, especially to pounce on a dropped handoff, and made a nasty hit on Jimmy Clausen at 10:46 in the 4th.

So, good to see the Bears can still pick up turnovers.

I want to see Brandon Hardin perform well enough to earn a roster spot, but if he doesn't, with the collection of safeties the Bears currently have, I think they'll be okay. The biggest defensive question remains that defensive line and the continued growth of the linebackers. I didn't have any objections with his play Friday, except for the dropped pick. At least he didn't hit anyone with his head.

Not sure how much of a future as a Bear Demontre Hurst has, but he may be earning a couple looks around the league if he keeps this up for another week.

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