Bears’ preseason leaves more questions than answers
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter August 29, 2014 11:52AM
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Updated: September 30, 2014 6:33AM
CLEVELAND — It seems appropriate, particularly here at FirstEnergy Stadium, to say that it could be worse: a Bears player could have flipped off an opponent on national television.
Instead, the Bears’ preseason tempest was limited to the Black Unicorn’s CM Punk impression, which sent ripples through Chicago — and rookie Kyle Fuller — earlier this month but didn’t move the national needle the way Johnny Manziel’s gesture toward the Redskins bench did two weeks ago.
It Could Be Worse, Vol. 2: This preseason, the Bears lost third receiver Marquess Wilson to a broken clavicle. Try moaning about it to the Rams and Falcons, who lost quarterback Sam Bradford and left tackle Sam Baker, respectively, to season-long injuries this August.
Those two caveats out of the way, though, the Bears’ preseason — which ended with a 33-13 loss to the Browns on Thursday night — was a little underwhelming, no?
What was the most exciting preseason play: When punter Pat O’Donnell tackled Seahawks returner Earl Thomas from behind, limiting his return to a mere 59 yards?
It’s too early to panic, but late enough for concerns to be warranted.
Nothing about Thursday’s game — in which the Bears didn’t start a single projected regular-season first-stringer — changed that.
“I don’t really evaluate the preseason by the games; I evaluate our training camp, and we had an excellent training camp,” coach Marc Trestman said after finishing 2-2 in exhibitions. “Highly competitive training camp.
“When the ones were against the ones, it was extremely competitive. We see talent all around us. I think we’ve got a team that got closer together.”
The Bears, though, started the preseason with three major question marks and left with four.
There’s still no evidence the Bears have found a safety tandem they can trust. Ryan Mundy looks to have earned one spot, alongside Chris Conte, who has not been cleared from his concussion, or Danny McCray.
Trestman said “we’ve got a good idea” about the final 53-man roster, due Saturday.
“I think we’re in a pretty good place right now,” he said. “I think the guys are confident. We know we’ve got talent in our locker room.”
There’s still no proof, though, that the special teams will be respectable by Week 1. The team hasn’t replaced Devin Hester, though Micheal Spurlock sat out Thursday, a luxury reserved for players who’ve made the team. Trestman said Spurlock will be “heavily involved” in the team’s final decision.
The Bears haven’t been able to cover on special teams, either, but swear that’s a product of preseason personnel and scheme tinkering.
And no one’s quite sure if Shea McClellin can play linebacker. The former defensive end got Thursday night off, too.
Wilson’s injury created the team’s fourth major question mark — which, by the time the Bears make their final cuts, should be answered by veterans Josh Morgan and Santonio Holmes.
Jay Cutler finished the preseason with a rating of 95, with Jimmy Clausen on his heels at 94.4. The Bears would happily take either — Drew Brees, for reference, is a career 95.3 passer.
On the flip side: Do you realize that, in the first half this preseason, the Bears were outscored by 51?
Take those numbers — good and bad — with enough grains of salt to fill the Morton factory downtown. The Bears undoubtedly will.
“You get to see where you are as a team and what it is you work on before the season comes,” defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff said. “The great thing is, we have some time to still work out some kinks.”
Just because it could be worse, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be better.