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Bears’ special teams get off to bad start vs. Eagles

Danny McCray tackles Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff kickoff return first half Bears’ preseasopener Friday night Soldier Field. | Charles

Danny McCray tackles Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff on a kickoff return in the first half of the Bears’ preseason opener Friday night at Soldier Field. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

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Mark Potash’s three and out from Bears-Eagles

1. Tight ends deliver

Whether or not the Bears were intentionally sending a message to suspended tight end Martellus Bennett, it should have come across loudly and clearly. Led by Zach Miller (six catches, 68 yards, two touchdowns), tight ends caught 10 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles. In the preseason opener last year, tight ends caught three passes for 17 yards.

2. Injury bug

Arguably the most significant development Friday was a knee injury to offensive lineman Brian de la Puente, the former starting center for the New Orleans Saints. He was the most accomplished backup on an offense that is obviously potent but already has a glaring lack of depth. Wide receiver Chris Williams’ hamstring injury didn’t help matters, either.

3. Wait till Seattle

With all due respect to the analysis of the exhibition opener, not much will matter in the preseason until the Bears face the Seahawks in Seattle on Aug. 22. A “dress rehearsal” against Pete Carroll’s defending Super Bowl champions will be as close to a defining game as the Bears can get in the preseason.

Updated: September 11, 2014 6:51AM

Special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis set the bar low in the Bears’ preseason opener, and his units still tripped over it.

“We went into the game knowing that mistakes were going to be made. Coach said that,” Kelvin Hayden said. “Just being the first game and guys trying to get the continuity. He said mistakes will be made — as long as you play fast. Guys played fast [against the Eagles]. We’ll get back [Sunday] and work it out and go from there.”

A 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by the Eagles’ Josh Huff was the most glaring of a number of gaffes that left a lot of room for improvement. To wit:

◆ Robbie Gould had a 41-yard field-goal attempt blocked in the first quarter.

◆ Micheal Spurlock got crossed up with teammate Michael Ford and muffed a punt, which the Eagles recovered.

◆ Tress Way, whose first punt was a 38-yarder, had a 63-yard punt that was downed by Josh Bellamy at the Eagles’ 8 nullified when Bellamy was called for an illegal touch. Way’s re-kick went 37 yards to the Eagles’ 39.

◆ All of that was on top of normal first-game issues: Rookie Pat O’Donnell’s first punt was a 40-yarder. Chad Rempel had a high snap on O’Donnell’s second punt. O’Donnell’s kick went 47 yards into the end zone for a 27-yard net, which became 22 yards because the Bears were penalized for an illegal formation for not having enough players on the line of scrimmage. Trevor Scott was penalized for an illegal block on a punt return.

“I’m sure [DeCamillis] is not happy right now,” said safety Danny McCray, who played for him in Dallas. “But it’s our first preseason game. The lights came on. You’ve got guys who never played in big places like this before. And the nerves kind of get the best of guys sometimes. I think we’ll come out next game and be a lot better.”

Huff had a gaping hole on his kickoff-return touchdown with 54 seconds left in the first half. Hayden was the only player close enough to attempt a tackle and missed.

The Bears did show improvement in some aspects. DeCamillis sent out an almost entirely new coverage unit on the next Bears kickoff, and Jerry Franklin stopped Huff at the Eagles’ 6-yard line. On the next kickoff, Senorise Perry tackled Damaris Johnson at the Eagles’ 14.

The Bears are replacing several key special-teams players — returner Devin Hester, leading tackler Blake Costanzo, long snapper Pat Mannelly and holder Adam Podlesh among them. After the game Friday, there’s a lot of work to do. But that’s not unusual.

“Most of the time in the first preseason game, you have problems like that,” McCray said. “You watch the games from Thursday and the Hall of Fame Game, special teams [have problems]. It’s more guys doing different things on special teams than any other part of the game. It’ll get better.”


Twitter: @MarkPotash

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