Watching the Bears third preseason game against the Bengals left me thinking one thing: This could be a long year for Bears fans. Saturday night gave us a chance to watch the Bears starters on both sides of the ball play extended time. What I saw on Saturday night was some real sloppy football. Twelve penalties for 117 yards is a sign that this Bears team needs to be more disciplined. This team cannot afford to make senseless mistakes and will need to clean it up before week one starts.
Five of their six drives they punted. The one time they were able to score, it was a Robbie Gould 34-yard field goal. For all the Jay Cutler haters out there, I can’t put all the blame on number 6. The offense as a whole is out of sorts. A big part of that is the absence of top receivers Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson.
Cutler took care of the football on Saturday night, completing 13 of 17 passes and NO interceptions. It was good to see that the on field relationship between Cutler and Martellus Bennett is as strong as ever. Bennett seems to be the safety blanket for Cutler. His ability to get open in the middle of the field and versus man-on-man coverage will be much-needed with all of the receivers out.
The other thing that is much-needed for this Bears offense is the running game. The running game that has been one of the only bright spots this preseason was below average on Saturday night. Some of the trouble came from the Bears offensive line. They were lackluster in the running game, and in the passing game they showed that they could be a liability as the season kicks off September 13th. The two tackle positions bother me the most. How long will Jermon Bushrod stay healthy with his back issues? The other question is will anyone step up and take the right tackle position? Charles Leno has shown me that he is not the guy and Jordan Mills was given his chance, but he can’t be a reliable option at the position for the Bears. I just remember when we all talked about the Bears offense being the strongest unit on this team. With so many key guys out with injuries the Bears will have to find a way to consistently run the football if they want a chance to win games this season. The fact that the Bears first offense has not scored a touchdown this preseason just baffles me.
Now on to the other side of the ball. The defense didn’t show me much more in their third outing of the preseason. It didn’t matter what QB was in the game. The Bengals marched up and down the field at will on the Bears. I didn’t see the fight and pressure that I’ve seen the past few games. I did see a spark out of defensive lineman Will Sutton Saturday night. The second-year man out of Arizona State University has been very active anytime he has been out on the field. His role will probably increase now with the injuries to Jeremiah Ratliff and Eddie Goldman. With all the hype this preseason with the early play of Shea McClellin, he showed Saturday night that he is still a work in progress. The Bengals ate him up in the passing game, but the only way he will continue to improve is more playing time. There are still some questions I have about guys on this roster that might not be here when the Bears kickoff against the Packers. The secondary has some big question marks that need to be answered. The Bears announced Sunday that they cut cornerback Tim Jennings. So now what? Kyle Fuller has struggled this preseason and is still trying to find his groove. Alan Ball started alongside Fuller Saturday night while Sherrick McManis played the nickel position. Terrance Mitchell has played well during camp and Tracy Porter can play but staying healthy is the key.
I know I have been telling you all to be patient with the Bears this season and I’m sticking with that. I have to be honest with you guys. Saturday’s game felt like reality and it’s going to be tough to be steadfast that there is light somewhere in sight for this team. I was trying to stay strong until the regular season started, but sometimes the truth hurts. The Bears are not that good and with that comes hard times. I’m not abandoning the Bears, I’m just abandoning my prediction that they could go 8 and 8 this season. With all the injuries that keep on piling up, it’s hard for a team to overcome the rash of bad football in the near future. The only prediction I’m making is this year is going to be a long one for Bears fans. #BearDown