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Bears Fri Aug 10 2012
Last night's 31-3 loss to the Denver Broncos was the epitome of a preseason opener. Some players looked utterly lost, the (replacement) referees marked off 10 yards for a defensive holding penalty instead of five (this is pro football fellas), and Fox Chicago decided to go to commercial out of nowhere -- until we later found out it was the two-minute warning.
But most everyone deserves a pass on the first night of true football, especially when accounting for the fact that Lovie Smith sat Jay Cutler (baby daddy), Julius Peppers (field conditions), Matt Forte (that paper he signed was expensive), and Brian Urlacher (personal reasons, which means knee injury -- or he and Jenny McCarthy are fighting). Despite the lack of impact talent, plenty of players were being looked at closely, with special attention being paid to top draft picks.
Shea McClellin was a surprising first-round pick for the Bears back in April. Most scouts saw him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but general manager Phil Emery thought he could grow and excel as a defensive end and weak-side linebacker in the Bears 4-3 scheme (or it's a precursor to a new coach next year, but that's for another day). Early camp reports, however, weren't so kind to the rookie from Boise State, as he was reportedly spending much of his time lying on his back.
Last night was a different story. Despite lacking bulk, McClellin got an early sack on Broncos backup quarterback Caleb Hanie (BOOOOOOO!!!!!), and also registered a pair of quarterback hits (one being a roughing penalty that was unavoidable) in an impressive performance at getting to the QB. He did get stood up on a few run plays (including a touchdown run where he looked like what reporters saw at camp), but the team doesn't expect him to be All-Pro in his first season. Right now, they're looking for someone that can attack the QB and take pressure off of Julius Peppers on passing downs, and that's exactly what McClellin did last night.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, the Bears second round pick, was just as impressive on the offensive end. He caught nearly everything thrown in his general direction (four catches for 35 yards), and did most of his work in heavy traffic. He still needs to clean up his route running (it was choppy at times, and he presented giveaways to the defenders in some of his breaks), but some of that can be chalked up to the wet conditions on an already sub-par surface.
With the addition of Brandon Marshall and Jeffery, the Bears have done an incredible job at shoring up the receiving core, and giving Cutler weaponry aplenty. The offensive line is still a major issue though. The first team linemen played much of the first half (with LT J'Marcus Webb playing most of the game), and Chris Spencer along Gabe Carimi got driven back on multiple plays while giving up a sack each.
The secondary also continues to be a major question mark, and the situation isn't helped by Major Wright leaving the game with a hamstring pull that is said to be mild. Thankfully, he was the only Bears player that seemingly left early due to injury, and that alone is the most important fact to take out of the first preseason game. Unfortunately, injuries aren't anything new to Wright, and with the Bears being thin at the position already, rookie third rounder Brandon Hardin will need to step up his play in practice to try and fill the void.