It has been two weeks in the preseason, and the Chicago Bears are 2-0. Also, a most notorious phrase backed by cautionary tales from around the NFL, “it’s only preseason.” We’re still nowhere near the final product of what’s to come during the regular season.
Yet, right now, we can toss all caution out the window. The Bears looked good. From the first team units to the bottom of the depth charts, this was a one-sided affair through all four quarters.
Of course, just like last week, I’ve got some beef to grill before we start with my notes from the smackdown in the Pacific Northwest.
ESPN, for God’s Sake, Be Better Than This
Earlier our teammate Greg Gabriel voiced his opinions on what was a travesty to the national audience on Thursday Night.
I’m going to be blunt - the amount of spite, bias, misinformed statements, and the toxicity of venom hurled up by the “B” team on ESPN was a pathetic scene to behold. It pissed me off more than any of the stupidity Mark Schlereth mumbled about Jay Cutler for years after the trade was finalized in 2009. If you’re not going to provide a balanced and well-informed product to the audience, then shut up.
Louis Riddick and Dan Orlovsky are gentlemen I have been a fan of for years. Thursday night was appalling. Lately, Louis Riddick has gone from being a hard-charging supporter of the Bears to making bombastic statement after bombastic statement. As if he’s holding a petty grudge against the Bears for firing his longtime friend, Matt Nagy. And Dan Orlovsky... well, he was a Detroit Lion once. He wouldn’t know what a successful franchise looks like anyway.
To both of them - Seattle wasn’t the only team to play on Thursday night despite playing on the previous Saturday for a short week. Chicago did too. And the latter had to travel west for the game. Which required the Bears to sacrifice a day for travel as a result. That excuse made for Seattle’s performance was completely asinine.
But wait, there’s more!
The national media will report the national story during any live broadcast. Every single time. And, what is the biggest story nationally about the Chicago Bears? The Roquan Smith hold-in.
I get it. On one hand, Roquan Smith is an invaluable piece to the Bears’ defense. On the other hand, the franchise needs a much-belated shift of philosophies and the access to more premium assets to re-invest in premium positions. I’ll die on another hill that states blue chip off-ball linebackers are premium assets. Many, many others in the business disagree. It’s all dependent on the person presenting their stance.
What I don’t get is the idea it’s alright to skew the information into something it’s not. “A tense situation,” you say? Dude - Roquan literally traveled with the team and was seen coking and joking on the sideline with his teammates. This whole “he doesn’t want to be a Bear” spiel is only based on his trade request. A request seems to have been formally denied, at least for now. It’s not like both sides have ended communications with each other.
He was seen hanging out and speaking with GM Ryan Poles before the game. Speaking of Ryan Poles... why did ESPN decide to dedicate half the screen time to stalking Poles around the stadium? Did you at least offer to pay him for featuring his mug while such an ugly tone was taken for the coverage of the situation?
Frankly, I do wonder if Saint Omni — Roquan’s phony and uncredentialed “agent” who truly looks like a fraud — asked ESPN to read a poorly written script to a national audience. That’s my one tinfoil hat conspiracy to attempt a rationalization of such a poor performance by the self-appointed flagship of the sports journalism profession.
I do sincerely hope for a resolution of this situation to be made soon.
Back on Topic... Bears starters came out swinging on offense in abbreviated action
Last week we saw OC Luke Getsy and his starting offense take a rather conservative approach for their debut. This week was anything but conservative. We saw Getsy dial up some shots for Justin Fields, which featured a heavy dose of Cole Kmet as a big target over the middle.
This play is an excellent example of what has turned into a strong bond between a QB and his TE, with both players beginning to blossom at the same time.
Cole Kmet seems different this year. He is more fluid in his routes, selling the fakes better, and much angrier with the ball in his hands. He’s always been a tough bull to bring down. His 12-yard reception off a well-designed screen featured the former Fightin’ Irish plowing through several defenders.
Justin Fields, for the second week in a row, showed out in a positive way. In his one series, he completed 5 of 7 passes for 39 yards and led the Bears to scoring a FG on their opening drive. A touchdown would have been preferred. But he’s been sharp despite being under pressure early and often.
Somebody get Teven Jenkins a beer - he’s earned that and a job.
As of the moment this article was typed, no official decisions have been made by O-line Coach Chris Morgan or anyone on the Bears’ offensive staff. That being said, after watching Teven Jenkins’s performance on Thursday night at RG, I’m convinced he’ll win the job. It wasn’t perfect - one bad rep against DT Poona Ford stood out as his learning moment. He also didn’t have another moment like that the rest of the night.
All his strengths — power, athleticism, nastiness, intelligence, pulling — are magnified when kicked inside. He’ll still have issues against a well-timed speed rush, which are few and far between when lined up as a Guard. Teven’s ability as a dominant bouncer in the run game stood out the most. And, when he was tasked with pass pro, he did a solid job. He even stonewalled a few players while giving up minimal pressure.
The rest of the O-line was so-so. Braxton Jones and Cody Whitehair got stunted to oblivion on the left side while the starters were together for their solo series as a unit. The Seahawks threw several blitzes in the first series to rattle Justin Fields. And the backs struggled mightily in pass pro (ahem, Khalil Herbert).
This is one of the potential feel-good stories we’ll see at Bears training camp. Teven Jenkins fought through hell for his second chance with this new regime. He’s made the most of this opportunity so far, and I’d like to see him lock up the RG job for years to come. He’s just too talented and determined to fail outright.
Receivers... where art thou?
This was my one Bears-related disappointment of the night. Darnell Mooney is a sure thing for 2022. Cole Kmet will be a major target as well. Ditto for David Montgomery out from the backfield. But... what about everyone else?
Velus Jones Jr. made his debut. An electrifying one at times. He also wasn’t given too many looks at receiver right away - I’m sure Luke Getsy is keeping his actual intentions and play designs classified until September. The rest of the position group didn’t do much at all. And that is where the primary issue lies within.
Last week I felt a good battle was cooking between Tajae Sharpe and Dante Pettis. Well, neither guy really got featured during the game. Dazz Newsome had his opportunities and blew them more often than not. For the most part, the backs and tight ends picked up the slack in the receiving game. I will say Nsimba Webster had himself a good game.
It appears to have reached the point where even GM Ryan Poles mentioned to the crew on ESPN his intent on making the receiving corps a top priority to address with cutdowns looming ahead. Could a last minute trade happen? I do doubt that, but I will gladly welcome such a move. Expect something to happen at receiver in the coming weeks.
Kyler Gordon and Velus Jones Jr. did not disappoint during their debuts
The final two jewels in Ryan Poles’ first draft class have made their debuts. Where neither of them blew the NFL world away like Jaquan Brisker did, Velus Jones Jr. had a ridiculous moment of his own. And, I mean, ridiculous.
Velus was both the top kick returner — who returned the opening kickoff 31 yards before fumbling the ball — and top punt returner. That indicates his primary usage will be on special teams, with his talents to be sprinkled in on offense gradually over time. I can’t wait for the day when he’s given a beefy role as a receiver in Luke Getsy’s offense. Our need for speed is for real. Velus has more than enough to quench that thirst.
On the other side of the ball is rookie DB Kyler Gordon. Not only did he make his debut in front of his family and home, but he also wasn’t too shabby when lined up with the starters. Unlike his comrade in Jaquan Brisker, Kyler Gordon is being used at two different positions. He started off at nickel before flexing outside to corner.
The initial results were encouraging. As a nickel he made some good plays, one bad play (missed tackle on the 3rd series), and looked comfortable. He plays much faster than his 40-time (4.52) indicated at his performance during the scouting combine in Indy. This blitz called by DC Alan Williams serves as proof.
People took notice of his coverage skills immediately. His aggressiveness showed up in run support as well. Before his night ended, he landed a successful Peanut Punch that ultimately was recovered by the Seahawks.
#Bears CB Kyler Gordon got above a 90.0 PFF grade in coverage on first review.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) August 19, 2022
He obviously had a limited sample size, but that’s super encouraging to see. Looking forward to going back and watching him later this week.
If you’re a receiver-needy team like the Bears and opt to take a pair of DBs first during the draft instead, they better be some damn good football players. In brief action, both Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker appear to be just that - damn good football players. Especially when mixed in with veterans like Jaylon Johnson and Eddie Jackson in the secondary.
Look Familiar? Bears Defense shuts down Seahawks' Offense completely
That heading might be an understatement. For most of the first three quarters, the Bears did not allow the Seahawks entry onto their own field. It wasn’t until the end of the 3rd, and the shifting gears into the 3rd team defense, did the Seahawks score their first points of the game. Otherwise, the Bears’ starting defense turned Geno Smith’s bid for the starting QB job into an abysmal showing.
Robert Quinn made his dynamic entry into the 2022 preseason in style. He didn’t pick up the sack, but lord, did he abuse rookie first-rounder Charles Cross. Through their first two series together, the Bears’ starting defense registered two consecutive 3-and-outs against an anemic offense dealing with life after Russell Wilson. And this was all without Jaquan Brisker or Roquan Smith in the lineup.
Dominique Robinson caught my eye the most outside of the starters. He kept penetrating into Seattle’s backfield throughout the game. He even saw time with the first team defense on a few snaps. His ascent on the depth chart is most impressive. I had him pegged for a Mark Anderson-type role during his rookie season. Robinson is gradually making a case for a bigger plate at the buffet.
Talk about discipline
Through the first two preseason games the Bears have seen a total of eight penalties assessed. That number surely figures to be towards the top of the league once this week concludes. In comparison, the Seahawks were flagged a whopping thirteen times on Thursday night alone. In front of their home crowd, no less.
The only thing I’ll bust Matt Eberflus and his staff for was the missed opportunity to challenge what would have been an insane catch on 3rd down by Isaiah Coulter. When asked, Matt Eberflus offered up his explanation of not getting enough time to take a closer look. Even though they also got flagged for delay of game, more or less a tactic to back the punter up for a better shot at landing a coffin corner kick.
Heck, everything can’t be perfect. At least there were fewer issues presented by a team in year one of their new regime, versus a team entering their twelfth season under the same management and coaching staff, which is pretty staggering to consider.