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Bears vs. Giants: Notes from a difficult loss

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Our day-after notes segment returns to cover a Bears preseason loss.

NFL: Preseason-Chicago Bears at New York Giants
Tyler Bray’s play left a lot to be desired, but such play is to be expected in the preseason.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A preseason football game was played between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants on Friday.

The Bears rested all of their starters on offense and defense, leaving their second- and third-team units to try and lead their team to victory at MetLife Stadium.

New York—who only willingly benched two of their starters: Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram—predictably had their way with Chicago’s backups early on. Even when the Giants led their backups onto the field, the Bears had still trouble stopping them, falling short in a 32-13 defeat.

Though the Bears struggled on both sides of the ball, there were still some positive anecdotes to take away from this week’s preseason game. Here are some notes on how their backups fared last night.

Offense

As one would expect, the Bears had issues marching the ball down the field against the Giants’ starting defense.

The likes of Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence made the jobs of Chicago’s second-team offensive line difficult early in the game. The Bears were unable to ignite a spark in the running game from the get-go, but they even struggled against New York’s backups. Chicago ran for just 34 yards on 20 attempts, with 23 of them coming from Ryan Nall on seven carries. Kerrith Whyte Jr. was able to pick up the team’s only touchdown on a one-yard touchdown to

The poor offensive line play hindered both quarterbacks, too. Chase Daniel was sacked three times, though he was mostly at fault for the bobbled snap that ended up in a safety. He completed 12 of his 18 passes for a 66.7 completion percentage, but he ended up with just 103 yards, he struggled mightily in terms of pocket presence, and he failed to extend plays after his offensive line collapsed.

Tyler Bray didn’t do much better, if he even did better at all. He overthrew a handful of passes, including a would-be touchdown to Marvin Hall. He finished the night 6-for-13 with 53 yards.

Even though the quarterbacks struggled, the Bears’ wide receivers put together decent nights. Javon Wims led the team in both receptions and receiving yards with five and 64, respectively. Building upon his stellar training camp, the 2018 seventh-round pick looked the part of a player more than able to step up in Allen Robinson’s ‘X’ receiver role and succeed in the offense. Riley Ridley only had three catches for 19 yards, but he looked fluid as a route runner and showcased the natural athleticism that was apparent in camp and college. He and Wims will be competing for snaps in the regular season, but both could be in store for bigger roles down the line.

Tanner Gentry also showed up, securing three catches for 31 yards, including one 18-yard play. Taquan Mizzell, on the other hand, had an underwhelming night, finishing with four carries totaling in a loss of a yard. He also fumbled the ball twice and failed to catch a pass. With he and Gentry being two players realistically trying to catch onto the practice squad, one of them was able to put together a better outing than the other.

Defense

The Bears were plagued with tackling issues through last night’s game, but not all was terrible with their defensive performance.

Clifton Duck made the play of the night, intercepting an Alex Tanney pass in the end zone for a 62-yard return. The undrafted rookie cornerback read the flat perfectly and jumped the route to make a big play: the sign of a legitimate NFL defensive back. Even if Duck doesn’t make the 53-man roster, plays like those—along with the numerous plays he made in training camp—will presumably open up a slot for him on the practice squad.

James Vaughters made the other notable defensive play: a strip sack on the Giants’ first-round quarterback, Daniel Jones. Though New York’s tight end pulled off an effective chip block, the right tackle moved outside and behind the right end instead of inside, where the opening was. This allowed Vaughters to zero in on Jones, and he swatted the ball out of the rookie’s hands before he could get the ball away, showing off good bend off the edge while doing so. With the nonexistence of a pass-rushing attack off the edge that the Bears have had in the preseason—save for Isaiah Irving’s sack last night—more plays like that could help Vaughters stand out in an otherwise lackluster group of backup edge rushers.

Though Duke Shelley failed to tackle Bennie Fowler on New York’s opening touchdown, he had a solid day in coverage. He showed good athleticism coming out of his breaks, as well as fluid hips and good general situational awareness. The Kansas State product’s performance last night mirrored both the strengths and weaknesses that he had coming out of college.

Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, and Josh Woods combined for 23 tackles, but all three inside linebackers had somewhat disappointing games. Iyiegbuniwe didn’t look as strong as one would expect a player of his frame to be, Kwiatkoski looked slow in space, and Woods’ play was generally uninspiring. With the amount of running lanes that the Bears’ defensive line failed to plug up, their linebackers also tended to struggle with stopping a Giants rushing attack that picked up 161 yards.

Special teams

Kickers!

Eddy Pineiro and Elliott Fry both had a few opportunities to stake their claim to the 53-man roster, each kicking twice—Pineiro had two field goals and Fry a field goal and an extra point.

Fry was given the first kickoff attempt of the night, placing it near the front of the end zone. He hit his lone extra point attempt for the game, but he missed wide left on a 47-yard field goal. Though the kick had enough distance, his delivery sent it outside of the goal posts.

Pineiro, on the other hand, hit both of his field goal attempts: a 41-yarder and a 27-yarder, respectively. After Fry hit both a field goal and an extra point last week against the Panthers—in which game Pineiro missed a 48-yard field goal—the former Florida kicker needed a chance to rebound, and he did so this week.

The kicking competition remains wide open, though Pineiro’s leg strength may give him the advantage in terms of upside. With neither kicker running away with the competition, the next two games will be crucial for either of them to prove themselves worthy of a roster spot.