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ARKUSH: Bears’ offense, defense don’t look sharp in Marc Trestman’s first game

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler completed six eight passes for 56 yards but he also threw an interception. | Mike McCarn/AP

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler completed six of eight passes for 56 yards, but he also threw an interception. | Mike McCarn/AP

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Updated: September 11, 2013 6:15AM



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — First the good news. Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler and Josh McCown all agreed leading up to the first preseason game that the most important thing was to get the correct calls in from the sideline to the huddle, get everybody lined up in the right spot and get the ball snapped in rhythm.

Mission accomplished. The Bears had no problems running Trestman’s offense in the 24-17 loss to the Panthers, and that is significant for a first preseason game with a new coaching staff. Trestman’s opening comments after the game included, “I was really happy with the tempo, getting the calls in and no pre-snap mistakes.”

Unfortunately, that’s where the good news stopped. The offense failed to take care of the ball, turning it over three times in the first three quarters, and the defense was mediocre at best.

You will be tempted to overreact to Cutler getting intercepted on the Bears’ first offensive play, but you shouldn’t. It wasn’t clear if the ball was poorly thrown or if Alshon Jeffery broke his route off too short, and fixing those issues are exactly what the preseason is for.

“My fault, wrong shoulder, bad ball,” Cutler said. “I thought Alshon ran his route well.”

Cutler came on for two more possessions and completed six of seven passes after the interception for 56 yards. His lone incompletion was on third down in his second possession, and on his only other third-down attempt, he hooked up with Eric Weems for 11 yards on third-and-14 before retiring for the evening. I’d give him a C and move on; no cause for concern yet.

But seeing J’Marcus Webb beaten badly on an outside speed rush by Charles Johnson, then seeing him get beaten even worse on the same play when he tried to push Johnson past Cutler is disconcerting. He allowed Johnson to make an inside move under his outstretched arms to sack Cutler for a six-yard loss.

The play came after Cutler had completed successive first-down throws for 13 and 11 yards and set up the failed third-down attempt to Weems, killing any momentum the offense might have gained.

When asked if he was surprised that he played the whole first quarter, Cutler said, “Well, one-and-done in the first series and the second series was short, so I threw more to get quite a bit more feel.”

“I’ll have to look at the tape, but I told you last week that Webb has had some good practices and some not-so-good, so we have to keep practicing him and look for improvement,” Trestman said.

Throughout training camp, Shea McClellin has looked quicker and more comfortable at defensive end while running everything without contact and mostly at three-quarter speed. In fairness to McClellin, with Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton in street clothes, he was asked to do a lot, playing right and left defensive end well into the second quarter. He did very little and wasn’t a factor.

Rookie linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene had their moments, especially Bostic, who intercepted a Cam Newton pass and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown, flashing speed and athleticism. But for the most part, Bostic was a step behind and a bit lost running against the Panthers’ first-team offense, especially on a three-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell coming out of the backfield. Greene had the same issues with the second defense. Both showed real promise, but Bostic is not ready to start yet.

Trestman was excited about Bostic’s touchdown and the stamina he showed with the reps he got, saying, “We know he’s real football smart, and he’s going to play a lot of football for us, but we have to keep working and get him ready.”

One bright spot was seventh-round draft pick Marquess Wilson, who helped his case for a spot on the team with a 58-yard catch and run on a toss from Matt Blanchard.

Above all, what we learned is these Bears have a lot more work to do before they’re ready to try the real thing.

Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.



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