Payton Presser: Bears have work to do
Well ladies and gentleman the 1st NFL Sunday is in the books and the Bears have officially begun their 2016 campaign. I didn’t know what to expect in Houston after watching this Bears team throughout training camp and preseason. I think that was the case for most Bears fans out there. We have all seen and heard how John Fox turns things around in year 2 of his coaching career, but the question was, would we be able to see the improvement from last season with young players playing significant volume of plays? What we saw yesterday was a Bears team that is not afraid to fight, but also a team that is very young at key positions. Could it be worse? It can always be worse, but the Bears are in a position where they have nowhere to go but up. Let’s jump into some of my takeaways from the season opener in Houston.
The O-Line needs more work…together.
Coming into this game the Bears offensive line was something that I was going to watching very closely with all of the moving parts over the preseason. This past week adding Josh Sitton and moving rookie guard Cody Whitehair to center, you knew this unit was going to have some struggles out the gate. The O-Line was pretty good in the 1st half, but the 2nd half we saw miscommunications and some poor play. Run blocking wasn’t the issue, but pass protection was very spotty. Jay Cutler took to many hits yesterday, and that can’t be a reoccurring theme this season if this team wants to improve. The two biggest concerns in yesterday’s game were at the tackle position. Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. both seemed to be out of sync and slow off the ball. Looking back at the film, they both had spotty footwork throughout the game. Both of these guys have to step up their games or Cutler might not make it 16 games. No matter if you love Cutler or not, he is the number one guy that this team can’t be without. He’s going to throw a pick here or there like he did yesterday but that’s the Cutler that we have grown to love here in Chicago, isn’t it Bears fans?
2. The offensive can be good.
The Bears skilled position players look great on paper, but with the eye test in the 1st game of the season all they have is a potential to have a solid 2016. Alshon Jeffery made a few highlight catches that he makes look routine. He is a match up problem against any defensive back that’s trying to stick him because of his size and strength. His knack to win 50/50 balls makes him a threat on all part of the field. Jeffery finished the day with 4 catches for 105 yards on 6 targets. The one knock on his game yesterday was the key drop that would have kept the drive going in the second half. This offense has to be very happy that they have a healthy Eddie Royal back in the lineup. Royal showed what this offense has been missing. His ability to find open space on the field and to make explosive plays like his 20-yard catch over the middle to put Chicago ahead 14-10 at the half. The next phase is getting Kevin White more comfortable with in-game situations because once that happens the receiving core should be solid. For those that are concerned about not seeing the production out of White, please relax. Can we let the kid develop and get a year under his belt before we start throwing him to the wolves? Jeremy Langford is needs a minimum of 20 carries a game. His understanding of the game is showing every time he steps on the field, but almost as important his pass protection is improving. Last season this offense did something that if you don’t know it will probably surprise you. The Bears offense was pretty good on 3rd downs. The offense started out the year going 4 for 13 against a pretty stout Texans defense. They have to be more efficient so they can keep drives going. Look this offense has potential to be better than average, but they have to show up for 4 quarters of football. Yesterday they were nowhere to be found in the second half.
3. New additions making an early impact
Bears GM Ryan Pace said he was looking for play makers through FA and the draft when I spoke with him at the combine. When he added Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan the interior of the Bears defense got so much better. Yesterday Trevathan recorded 11 tackles and one sack. Freeman had a record 17 tackles (one for a loss) in his debut with Bears. Freeman is a freak on the field and so much fun to watch. His ability to get sideline to sideline and make plays is amazing. He has a nose for the football and where he needs to be to make a play. Both guys are sure tacklers and have really shown me something that I haven’t seen in the long time here in Chicago, speed in the middle of the field. I also saw rookie Leonard Floyd makes an impact in his NFL debut. Yesterday the young man would record his 1st sack as a NFL player. He would not do it alone, Floyd shared the sack with nose tackle Eddie Goldman. The more that Floyd plays, the more he will find what works and what doesn’t. The Bears defense was the talk around Halas Hall all camp, but Sunday they were very inconstant. They are going to have to be the catalyst of this Bears team this season. One of the biggest things missing was getting to the QB more often. That has to be a point of emphasis heading into the Eagles in week 2. The defense will have to keep this team in-game this year but if they can’t, well you know what happens then.
I think I’ve told you this before Bears fans, buckle your seat belts with this team, but don’t give up on them. As frustrated as I normally get when the Bears lose, I actually saw that there a foundation forming with this team. It’s going to take time for the young talent on team to really blossom. I’ve heard some people upset that the youth moment is in affect with this team. If you haven’t been watching what Ryan Pace has been doing that’s your own fault. I’ve seen this coming from a mile away and I’ve been fine with it. If you have young players, they can only get better when they play! In most sports you there is never a “for sure” player right? The Bears want to build this team through the draft and add pieces through free agency. This team will be competitive, they will win some games and they will lose some games, but as long as they don’t quit I’ll be ok. I would have liked a win Sunday, but I also want to give this team a chance to grow. I hate giving my predictions of a team before the season because normally a team can change for better or for worse by game 5 of the season. This Bears team has a lot of growing to do, the fun part for me is watching the process happen in front of my eyes every single week. Let’s give thing team so time. They might start to grow on you. #BearDown