The Chicago Bears traded for Jay Cutler four months and two weeks ago. For the last 18 weeks, fans have held their breath in anticipation of getting to see him officially take the field, and expectations have been seemingly building and building with the passing of each day.
The game against the Bills was, if anything, a reality check for us fans. While we have allowed for ideas to grow wildly in our heads and imaginations, we got to witness things for exactly what they are- new.
Take a moment to think about the number of players on our starting (or contributing) offense that have never played before as Bears teammates. You'll come up with quite a lot of names. That means that a large majority of our offensive players have never played together, and are learning a new scheme, getting their timing down, learning what works and what doesn't work... in other words, jelling.
Regardless of what our expectations were of Jay Cutler in preseason game #1, we have to take into consideration all of the newness that he (and the rest of the offense) just experienced together. But, no worries. We've got plenty of time to knock off the rust and get everyone on the same page.
And honestly, the same can be said of our defensive secondary. We have had injuries, as well as people swapping positions, and tonight we saw what seemed like 10 different looks at those positions. Again, no worries. This game was as much about evaluating our personnel as it was anything.
Now, on to the purpose of this post. Here are some random things I saw during the Bills game:
- Kevin Jones runs hard. He keep his legs churning, and looked very aggressive when he had the ball in his hands. He will be a huge asset this season.
- Orlando Pace was only on the field for (I think) the first 2 offensive series. He had very nice footwork, but did get thrown off balance on a couple of pass plays.
- Kevin Shaffer replaced Pace on the 3rd series, and did not look very polished. He seemed to lumber around quite a bit, and seemed a bit wild. Got pushed around some, and got beat by speed rush.
- Chris Williams looked solid. He showed great technique... I was very excited to see such good production from him.
- Devin Hester ran several really good routes. Looked very crisp several times.
- Garrett Wolfe ran hard. He was definitely showing some heart out there. Ran hard between the tackles, and shook off a couple of big hits from linebackers.
- Jason Davis made some very good lead blocks from the fullback position. He exploded once the ball was snapped, quickly picking up momentum.
- Kellen Davis looked strong after the catch.
- Trumaine McBride was aggressive. Made some big hits, missed a tackle early due to not wrapping up, but seemed to bounce back from that. Played at a fast pace.
- Brian Urlacher looked fast. Had great movement.
- Our right defensive ends consistently fired off the ball with enormous speed. For most of the night, seemed to over-pursue. In the backfield a lot, but seemed to be too fast at times, taking themselves out of the play.
- Al Afalava plays hard. Missed a couple of tackles due to aggressiveness, but made several plays as well. Good special teams play.
- Johnny Knox and Juaquin Iglesias both looked unpolished.
- Cutler looked to Brandon Rideau in the endzone, but the play was called off due to a time out.
- Alex Brown showed a good bull rush.
- Woodny Turenne looked good. Fumble recovery in the first half, and was a good tackler (kept the ball carrier in front of him).
A lot of us had big expectations from our pass rush. The best way for an offense to counter a pass rushing scheme is to keep them on their toes. The Bills no-huddle offense did just that. They wore down our defensive front, nullifying any sort of schematics that we might have had. Rod Marinelli should not have that issue too much in the regular season.
For those who didn't see the Bills first preseason game, they definitely had the luxury of having a game under their belts heading into the Bears game. Their two rookie offensive linemen, Andy Levitre and Eric Wood, looked exponentially better this week. This shows the importance of getting the repetitions in the preseason.
Not to look too far into the future (as we have plenty more analysis from this week's game coming), but this first preseason game was a great opportunity to get our snaps in, learn how to apply all of the offseason schemes that we implemented, and get better. I don't think the game against the Bills should change too much of our outlooks on the 2009 season.