Photos by Demonze Spruiel and Kyle Means
In “Love It or Hate It,” “D and Davis Show” co-host Ken Davis breaks down the most controversial topics in the sports world.
Time has come for one of the best moments on the NFL calendar …. sound the trumpets! Its Game 1 of the Chicago Bears preseason!
This time of year always brings me back to my excitement as a kid. I would get all giddy with delight waiting to see my favorite NFL team for the first time again. Most times they were probably coming off a bum-ass season but it wasn’t hard for me to lie to myself that the upcoming season would be different.
Throughout that childhood an on the favorite team unfortunately was the Chicago Bears, I say unfortunately because most years with the Bears mean that sober late summer excitement leads to mid-winter drinking to take away the pain.
Make your choice to enjoy a drink tonight as the Bears tonight open up their preseason against the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field, get your fun how you live. I have to say it was fun to roll with my crew from The D & Davis Show as we visited Bears training camp in Bourbonnais this week. Being that it was just practice — nothing revealed itself too much — I left Kankakee County that afternoon with few answers and a bunnnnch of questions.
Let’s start my post-camp breakdown on the side of the ball that generates the bulk of the ticket sales and ad revenue — the offense!
Jay’s back. Not saying it like I’m surprised or anything, it’s just one of those things you have to repeat time after time if you’re going to retain any comfort with reality.
Anytime you pay a player like a potential Hall of Famer or a franchise player and their play on the field shows they don’t deserve it, plus everyone who is involved in the team knows they don’t deserve but you’re not in a position to move said player…well that’s a position you don’t want to be in.
In other words, the Bears’ relationship with one Jay Cutler reminds me of Carmelo Anthony’s rebuttal to an angry Knicks fan via social media — ”you are stuck with me, Buddy.”
I envision the Bears’ remaining time with Cutty to mirror that of the Knicks’ remaining time with Melo.
That’s all I got for Jay, for no other reason than the belief that there still remain a few bright spots on the offensive side of the ball, in spite of the vanquishing of Brandon Marshall to that nut-house of a franchise called the Jets.
Good Problems Among RBs
All-around running back threat Matt Forte is basically playing for his next team, since this is probably his last year with Bears. F’ it, lets get all we can out of him while we can.
Forte is entering free agency after this season and will want to prove that he still has some tread on his tires. Forte has been the Bears’ most reliable offensive player the last seven seasons and the team owes him a certain amount of loyalty but he’ll likely see less of the field given the Bears off-season moves.
Drafting Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford and signing former Atlanta Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers while still keeping last year’s fourth-round pick Ka’Deem Carey gives the team an unforseen level of depth and flexibility in this part of the roster. Carey, who played college football at Arizona, is young but who knows how much of a role he may play in this current regime given that he was drafted by a different regime.
Forte won’t play that much, if at all, in tonight’s preseason game, that means this is a game that will offer a lot of looks at Langford and Carey.
The backup duo will be going up against the second and third defensive units of the Dolphins so the competition they’ll see will not be great and not be a measuring stick of their best abilities, but I’m more interested in seeing how these two follow their blocks and if they make good decisions on when to cut their runs back the opposite way. Since I haven’t seen as much of Langford as I have Carey, I’m a little more interested in checking out the former Spartan’s natural running reactions.
Air Jeffrey Flies Solo
Moving further away from the ball pre-hike, you have Alshon Jeffery continuing to blossom in a Bears uniform. The question now with no Marshall across from him is can Jeffrey crack into the top tier of receivers in the NFL.
It’s not like he didn’t see coverage shift towards his way in the past, but with Marshall as an option teams had to pick their poison in covering the Bears. Third-year receiver Marquess Wilson has the first crack at being Alshon’s new running mate, a nice break for the oft-injured Wilson due to since this year’s 1st round pick, Kevin White, likely missing the entire preseason. Wilson made strides in last year’s training camp prior to breaking his collarbone, which made him a non-factor for 2014.
My radio partner D (Demonze) asked Wilson what he expected out of tonight’s preseason game while we were in Bourbonnais. Wilson replied he just wanted to get out there and play, which makes sense since last year was a lost season. In free agent pick-up Eddie Royal the Bears probably have the best slot receiver they have had in years, he’s coming off a stint with the San Diego Chargers where he re-surged his career to a degree. Royal exploded into the NFL in 2008 playing alongside Cutler and Marshall for the Denver Broncos.
While he was in Chicago, Cutler used Marshall as his primary release valve, followed by tight end Martellus Bennett. With Royal in the fold it will be interesting to see how Cutler works the slot and the middle of the field. Bennett is a beast and probably a top five player at his position…but he is unhappy with his current contract. I’ll tell you this, though, every time I’ve seen him in Bourbonnais Bennett wrecks shop (maybe he’s constructively taking out aggression when the pads come on).
Expect Bennett to have at least one key play in tonight’s game and another real good season ahead of him if he stays healthy.
The D And Don’t Show
Flipping to the other side of the ball, the defense — the most unreliable element of the Bears currently — will stand to learn much more about themselves in the preseason opener.
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill can crack into the second tier of NFL quarterback talent with a good season in 2015 — he’s big and tall plus, being a former receiver, the man has some wheels for his position. As far as tonight’s game goes, I doubt the Bears get a good rush on him or keep Tannehill contained should he decide to leave the pocket.
Sticking with pressuring the QB as an issue, the Bears’ down lineman situation may not be as dire as it seems. Its likely the long lost Ray “Criminal” McDonald would have held down the run, but good riddance to that man and his issues.
Jeremiah Ratliff is the only confirmed starter on the defensive line according to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Rookie Eddie Goldman should see sometime at defensive tackle when Ratliff is at end or taking a breather. Best case scenario — Goldman owns the job at the nose tackle while also seeing sometime playing end. Ego Ferguson is another young player that needs to step up starting tonight, he should get a lot of playing time. I’m not sure how well Will Sutton fits into this new scheme.
Play at linebacker will continue be an issue. Shea McClellin is one of your starters right now at inside linebacker, need I say more?
Christian Jones is definitely more of a natural fit than Shea. Will the much-maligned former first-round pick even still on the team at the beginning of the regular season is a question I fear won’t be asked enough. On top of holding off Jones and Mason Foster through effort, Shea needs to show he can’t be fooled as easy while covering the pass as he has in the past.
The outside linebacker/edge rush has to be my biggest concern on this defense currently. Pernell McPhee comes from a good defense in Baltimore and he played well as their third rush end, now he’ll have to step up as a full-time starter. If McPhee can set the tone at his position and beat his man at tackle constantly he can help this defense gel quickly.
At the other side you have former 4-3 end-turned-linebacker Jared Allen. I wish all this was happening four years ago, back then Allen really could have made a bigger impact switching schemes with the motor that he plays with. Former Bear Julius Peppers had flashes of the kind of impact the Bears are hoping for with Allen while playing last year for the Green Bay Packers in his switch to linebacker, but he also had players around him who have played in a 3-4 scheme for years.
If the Bears can’t get pressure from the outside this will be a long year for the defense, especially for the defensive backs. Speaking of which, second-year corner Kyle Fuller has to step up and become an above-average coverage man with Charles “Peanut” Tillman now in Carolina. Fuller was hurt through much of his rookie year, but sometimes he was just beat. Hopefully much of Fuller’s struggles could be tied in to him being a rookie and his natural his lack of experience at the pro level. Tim Jennings naturally seems like a better fit at nickel back.
Tracy Porter will play opposite of Fuller at CB, unless one of them falters and Jennings is inserted in their spot, meanwhile Antrel Rolle will play well in the box at safety. Rolle’s presence could be a problem for one of last year’s starters at safety, Ryan Mundy, who also plays better close to the line. If Brock Vereen can hold down the back end in space, the defensive back platoon may be okay though they’ll only go as far as the team’s pass rush lets them. No pass rush and even the best defensive backs will get beat over time.
I’d give a score for tonight’s game, but who the hell cares, it’s the first damn preseason game. The starters will be out of the game before I finish writing this sentence.
I just need to see a few things — I need to see a pass rush, I need to see high motors firing on the defensive side. Offensively, I’d like to see vertical connections and running backs breaking into the second level. My score: Dolphins 21, Bears 4,236… yeah, I know, I know… but they’re still my favorite team.
This is no time to get a grasp on things, we’ll only start to figure out this year’s Bears by Week 4 or 5 of the regular season. So while the weather’s still hot, just get your drinks, sit back and enjoy some JV pro football tonight.
Follow Ken on Twitter @ThatsDavis, “The D and Davis Show” on Twitter @DAndDavisShow and Regal Radio @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio