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Bears vs Bengals: Notes from the starters’ preseason debut

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Couldn’t catch last night’s Bears game? Have no fear, Kyle Fuller and James Daniels are great. The rest, well ...

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals
Starting quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Andy Dalton talk after a game that comes down to the wire
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears were back for the second week in a row with a 30-27 preseason loss against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Unlike last week’s Hall of Fame Game against against the Baltimore Ravens, the team’s starters actually saw some time, even for as minimal as it was.

For the second straight week, there were plenty of standouts and of course a few duds. Let’s take a deeper look at what happened in last night’s preseason loss.

Players who did not play

  • Receiver Josh Bellamy, edge rusher Isaiah Irving, tight end Dion Sims (concussion) and cornerback Rashard Fant didn’t make the flight on Wednesday due to injury.
  • Other players who sat out: Roquan Smith (contract stalemate), Danny Trevathan, Jordan Howard, Aaron Lynch, Joel Iyiebuniwe, Hroniss Grasu, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Benny Cunningham, Deon Bush, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Prince Amukamara.

Injuries

  • Linebacker Josh Woods left in the second quarter with a hand injury.

Offense

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

First half:

  • It was an uninspiring start for the Bears’ first team offense. With both Robinson and Gabriel out, Anthony Miller, Kevin White and Javon Wims started the game at receiver. Taquan Mizzell came in at running back after one play from Cohen.
  • Head coach Matt Nagy started the game on a deep ball from Mitchell Trubisky to White that wasn’t caught. William Jackson III had great coverage on the play.
  • White later had a drop that was wiped out by a roughing the passer penalty, but it would have been a first down.
  • Newly signed tight end Trey Burton had a nice six-yard catch over the middle of the field.
  • The Bears’ first drive stalled after a Geno Atkins sack. Eric Kush slipped and was beat badly by the perennial Pro Bowler.
  • Bears go three and out on their second drive after a bad run, followed by a holding penalty and then a high snap from Cody Whitehair. A hit on Trubisky followed here as he left a weak pass that dropped short. This was it from the first team offense. Not a good start but remember, it’s only the first game without a few starters.
  • Chase Daniel took over at quarterback at the end of the first quarter with James Daniels at center. The second team offensive line came in but White, Miller and Wims were still in at receiver for the third offensive drive.
  • Shaheen had a monster third drive with three catches for 53 yards, including two nice catch and runs.
  • The Bears offense moved the ball down the field but were stopped inside the 10, forcing them to convert a fourth and inches situation, which Daniel successfully converted.
  • Mizzell capped the drive off with a one-yard touchdown run.
  • On the team’s fourth drive, it was a short one highlighted by a Wims drop over the middle of the field that would have turned into a first down.
  • On the final drive of the half, the Bears went into a no-huddle offense. They dink and dunked their way to midfield before a Mizzell drop led to an interception. Wims had two catches on the drive.

Second Half:

  • Quarterback Tyler Bray entered the game to start the second half. After a nice start to the series, Bray was picked off near the end zone as he under threw Tanner Gentry.
  • The offensive tempo picked up in the second half and remained that way for the majority of the final 30 minutes.
  • Ryan Nall entered the game in the second half and did not disappoint. He broke off a 10-yard run and then an impressive 69-yard run later in the quarter that landed them in the red zone.
  • After Nall’s big run, Bray had two poor throws into the end zone that missed a wide open Ben Braunecker and another one that was low to Gentry. They ended up settling for a field goal after an offensive pass interference on Braunecker.
  • Worth noting on this drive: Nagy showed a pair of five-wide sets, which resulted in two separate receivers being wide open in the end zone. Preseason doesn’t show much, but this was an interesting development and worth monitoring moving forward.
  • Speaking of tight ends, Daniel Brown had a great game including a catch and run from Bray over the middle that ended up going for 56 yards.
  • Receiver Bennie Fowler had another up and down game. It started with a nice diving catch, then followed with a pair of passes that could have been caught, followed by a blatant drop in the two-minute drill. Wims wasn’t overly impressive tonight, but it appears Fowler is currently losing the battle to the seventh rounder.

Overall impressions:

  • White looks no different than he has the prior two years. Yes, he’ll likely make the final 53-man roster. But his issues (while he’s playing) continue to be mental.
  • Nall capped off the night with 95 rushing yards and a catch for nine yards. A strong performance as the final running back position is wide open. He also lined up as an outside receiver multiple times tonight. This was Nagy showing confidence in the rookie running back as a receiving threat.
  • Brown followed up Shaheen’s strong first half with a great second half. He finished the game with five catches for 90 yards. I would have to guess he’s the clubhouse leader for the fourth tight end job.
  • The second team offensive line was incredibly good tonight, but there were two players that stuck out to me: center James Daniels and tackle Rashard Coward. Daniels looked outstanding appeared in control as the center. He had one somewhat high snap but was dominant on multiple occasions. Coward continues a strong preseason, as he played almost the entire game again. The converted defensive lineman may end up pushing for a spot on the 53-man roster.
  • The first team offense didn’t look good tonight but you have to respect the aggression on the opening play. My thought: give it some time. Plenty of teams struggle in the first drive or two. Hard to truly judge an entire unit that was missing a pair of starting receivers and only played two possessions.
  • Shaheen owned the first half. He looked like a completely different player tonight with vastly improved athleticism. If he gets going this season, watch out.
  • Finally, the backup quarterbacks looked much better tonight. Daniel looked much more in command and Bray had some nice plays. A welcomed sight after last week’s performances.

Defense

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

First Half:

  • The Bears starting defense was missing Trevathan and Amukamara but other than that, this was their starting group tonight.
  • Marcus Cooper started at corner and was toasted early and often. He up a big 22-yard catch to A.J. Green on the opening Bengals drive.
  • Missed tackles were huge here, including a big miss from both John Timu and Adrian Amos that led to a Joe Mixon 24-yard touchdown.
  • On the second series, the Bears made short work with a Kyle Fuller pick-six. Very good pressure from Leonard Floyd around the edge helped create the play as he blew past the tackle like he was standing still.
  • After a rough opening drive from Timu, Jonathan Anderson stepped in alongside Nick Kwiatkoski.
  • Green once again abused Cooper on a 26-yard reception, which was quickly followed up with another catch from John Ross.
  • For the second time in three drives, tackling was an issue. The Bengals had a big possession capped off by a Tyler Boyd touchdown against Fuller. There wasn’t much he could do on the inside cut at the goal line.
  • After three series, the second team defense came in. The second team defense looked like this.
  • The fourth defensive drive was highlighted by a Doran Grant pass breakup and a Kasim Edebali quarterback hit. They did give up a field goal, though

Second Half:

  • Both Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris stayed in the game for the majority of the third quarter. The second team defense forced two straight three and outs and three punts overall.
  • Robertson-Harris had the lone sack on the night, with great pressure from Bullard and Ebebali on the edges.
  • Also worth noting, Jonathan Franklin III (the former Last Chance U star) was in the game at cornerback before camp standout Kevin Toliver III.
  • Edebali had a tackle-for-loss and a pressure in an overall shutdown third quarter that resulted in no points given up.
  • Robertson-Harris’ night continued into the fourth quarter where he drew a roughing the passer call.
  • Kylie Fitts’ lone “big play” came as a tackle-for-loss early in the fourth quarter.
  • Later in the quarter, Franklin III had a nice pass breakup in the endzone.
  • Late in the fourth, the Bears’ third team defense came up short with a big possession that resulted in the Bengals taking the lead. Franklin III was called for a pass interference and was flat out manhandled by fellow rookie Auden Tate: who eventually caught a long touchdown pass over Franklin III. He appears to be a practice squad candidate at best.

Overall impressions:

  • After having eight sacks last Thursday, the Bears’ defensive front struggled to create consistent pressure tonight and that resulted in a single sack. No Isaiah Irving didn’t help.
  • Speaking of edge rushers, Kasim Edebali had a solid game. Nothing too spectacular but someone who may throw himself in the final edge rusher competition.
  • Floyd looked pretty good in limited action. He played a major role in Fuller’s pick-six. That’s good to see.
  • Akiem Hicks is an animal, as usual. I don’t need to say anything else.
  • Amos struggled with his tackling tonight. Something that wasn’t an issue for him at all last year.
  • The fact that Bullard and Robertson-Harris played into the fourth quarter, tells me that this job is wide open. After an impressive opening game, neither player stood out. Rookie Bilal Nichols was much more quiet as well.
  • Two players that stood out tonight in the secondary: DeAndre Houston-Carson and Deiondre Hall. Both safeties, both showed range and both are from the 2016 Draft class. Ironically enough, both could be competing for the final safety spot, too.
  • Timu had a rough game. Not as bad as Cooper, but the fact that he was soon replaced with Anderson isn’t a good sign (in case they keep five inside linebackers).

Find Aaron on Twitter @AaronLemingNFL.