On the NFL
8:18 PM CDT, August 25, 2012
We should not get too excited or upset about anything we see on a football field before the start of the regular season, with the possible exception of the Democratic National Convention at the Panthers' stadium.
But it is a tad concerning that the Bears' first-team offense didn't have its act together in the third exhibition.
In explaining lost opportunities against the Giants on Friday, Jay Cutler repeatedly referred to "communication" issues.
Yet this is supposed to be a simpler offense. And we have been told that the offensive players have picked up things quickly.
Here is the thing. Of Cutler's 21 throws Friday, 62 percent of them were to either Brandon Marshall or Earl Bennett.
Cutler is supposed to have a cosmic connection with Marshall. He has completed more throws to Marshall than any other receiver in his career. Cutler's relationship with Bennett goes back seven years to Vanderbilt.
Cutler threw 12 incompletions, and seven of them were intended for Marshall or Bennett.
If Cutler doesn't know where those two guys are going to be on the field, how can he know where anyone else will be?
Jason Campbell's numbers were considerably better than Cutler's but the numbers were deceiving. While he worked the short game fairly well, his accuracy was inconsistent with at least five passes that were well off the mark.
Campbell is the second-highest paid backup quarterback in the NFL, so it would be nice to see him dominate against players who have spent training camp singing fight songs, getting bad haircuts and being taped to goal posts.
He has not hurt his team, but he has not been dominating.
Here is what else that stood out after a review of the tape.
• It looks like the Bears have their starting offensive line.
Neither left tackle J'Marcus Webb nor left guard Chris Spencer played themselves out of the starting lineup, and neither Chris Williams nor Chilo Rachal did anything exceptional to beat them out.
Webb had a couple of run blocking breakdowns but was solid in pass protection, whereas Williams gave up a couple of pressures from left tackle.
• General manager Phil Emery has a tough decision to make on the third running back.
Lorenzo Booker had another outstanding kick return, showing vision, burst and shiftiness, but Armando Allen was a weapon on offense with four catches for 31 yards, and can be an interesting complement to the bigger halfbacks on the roster.
If the roster spot is based on special teams, Booker might get the call. But if the roster spot is based on offense, Allen is the man.
Allen, at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, will have to be able to pass block to help the offense, and he missed a blitzing Greg Jones in the third quarter when he went low. Jones hit Campbell, contributing to an incompletion.
But Allen came back strong. On Campbell's touchdown pass to Joe Anderson, he took on two pass rushers at once, keeping both defensive end Adewale Ojomo and safety Tyler Sash at bay so Campbell could get the pass off.
Without Allen's block, there is no touchdown and the Bears might have lost the game.
• Despite the breakdowns, Marshall had another impressive performance. Beyond the 21-yard touchdown catch and 51 receiving yards in a little more than one half, Marshall did the little things well.
He threw a nice block on Prince Amukamara on Devin Hester's 19-yard end around. He batted down a tipped pass that might have ended up in enemy hands.
And he fought for a pass and muscled a catch in a manner rarely seen by Bears receivers in recent years. It was only a 5-yard completion, but it was the kind of play that sets a tone.
• The linebacking crew did some nice things in the absence of leader Brian Urlacher. Nick Roach was aggressive and looked comfortable in the middle, and Geno Hayes was sharp on the blitz. Current second string middle linebacker Blake Costanzo also continued to play well.
• Former first-round pick John McCargo finally joined the party at defensive tackle. It might be too late for him to beat out Nate Collins or Brian Price, but McCargo flashed on a tackle for a loss and on an inside rush that resulted in pressure.
• Defensive end Cheta Ozougwu was Mr. Irrelevant one year ago when the Texans made him the last pick in the draft, but he is becoming more relevant with each game. He showed a nice spin move to get through two blockers for a quarterback hit, and also put a shake and bake on tackle James Brewer before bursting around him for a sack.
He would be an ideal practice squad candidate, assuming he does not land on a 53-man roster.
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