The preseason is finally over and if you enjoyed watching third and fourth string future CFL and UFL players Thursday night, then you are seriously in need of some football. Don't fear kids, this is the last weekend without the NFL until the Pro Bowl Weekend (because let's face it, that ish doesn't count). So, with the regular season opener just seven days away, what did we learn this preseason?According to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times, not much. I tend to agree, the Bears and their coaches held the cards extremely close to their vest, which is super.
Lovie made sure he kept all his guys healthy, holding out the franchise guys in the first game when it rained a bit and then came right back Thursday night and held out anyone of more or less any significance (apologies to Sanzenbacher fans, but he's not going to win us a Super Bowl).
Mike Tice kept the offense really quite vanilla and the offensive line played badly, then better and then pretty decent and then not at all (Game by game I mean). So what did we learn about them? Nothing much more than J'Marcus Webb didn't lose his starting job but didn't really earn it either.
Much has been made about the lack of running room by the starting unit. Matt Forte averaged 3.9 YPC but take away his one big run (24 yards against the Giants) and he only gained 2.3 YPC.
However, that doesn't concern me too much because I feel like this is how every preseason goes, the running game doesn't look great and people are afraid we won't be able to run the ball effectively. I am not worried. The offensive line might get off to a slow start and the Bears might not come out with three straight 150-yard rushing games but I have no worries that they won't run it well. Tice wants to run and he will do it until it works, if only to keep defenses honest.
Furthermore, if the Bears were worried about their run game, I think they would've held onto Tyler Clutts.
After final cuts, the Bears will kept Dane Sanzenbacher giving them a very deep receiving corps. In the span of one offseason, wide receiver has gone from glaring need to one of the best position groups on the roster. Give a lot of credit to Phil Emery for that one.
Another word on Emery, one thing we have learned this preseason is that the guy appears to be able to draft. It's still super early, but he wanted to target players who could make an immediate impact and if the preseason is any indication, then mission accomplished. Alshon Jeffery has made more of an impact than most expected and I think he'll be pushing for playing time a lot sooner than we thought and Shea McClellin overcame a slow start to look like he'll add value to the d-line rotation all season.
Those first two picks are the ones you want to see make an impact right away. Brandon Hardin's trip to IR is unfortunate, but before that he looked like he might have been a special teamer who would at some point see the field (it's a Bears safety after all) and Evan Rodriguez didn't show much in the games but supposedly played well in practice. Since Tice kept the offense so vanilla, is it possible we see him on the field in some special package we haven't seen yet?
Overall, this roster that Emery has built, I believe, has more talent than a JA roster. It will be especially telling by watching how many guys the Bears dropped land somewhere else.
One thing, though, moving forward, is that the Bears will need to increase their defensive youth. That is one thing we have seen this preseason, the defense will no doubt play well when it counts, but linebacking depth is a huge question mark and the secondary is full of questions as well. If all works out well on offense this year I see a lot of early '13 draft picks being dedicated to the defensive side of the ball. And maybe offensive line....hopefully.
In conclusion, the Bears may not have shown too much, X's and O's-wise this preseason, but I think that we know, as a fanbase, that the hype is still deserved and if the health stays with the Bears, this team is posed for a playoff run.
What did you learn this preseason?