The third preseason game is a critical one, as much as any preseason game can be critical. It's called a dress rehearsal for the season and really is a chance to take a hard look at the starters and what they might be able to do come the regular season.
It's also a time to look at where the teams remain weak and how they might alter that status.
The Bears have a lot to be happy about going into this week, but are by no means perfect.
Let's take a look at the good, the bad and in one case, the potentially ugly for the Chicago Bears.
Cutler—Marshall, the Sequel is a Hit
OK, so we've only seen glimpses, but I'd say so far that reuniting Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall is going to be a really successful move. They are on the same page, trust each other and are definitely already synced up.
This week, we might get to see more of them, but equally important is the impact they have on the guys around them. Marshall is a legitimate threat and opposing defenses have to focus on him more, leaving the other guys with more room to work.
Speaking of one of the other guys...
Matt Miller's ears just perked up. If Spiderman has "spider-sense," Miller has "Alshon-sense."
You have to give Miller this—Jeffery looks every bit the receiver Miller was standing on the table for pre-draft. He's been fantastic in practice, looks good in games and in general has carried himself very well.
I've said it for a while now, but Jeffery should be starting no later than mid-season and it would behoove the team to get him on the field early and often this season.
He could very well have a huge rookie year given Brandon Marshall's presence on the team. Certainly, this is an offense poised for some great numbers if things fall right.
Backfield Drama: Zero
Matt Forte is in the house and Michael Bush is running red-zone touchdowns.
All is right with the world.
They could have gotten by with just Bush, but Forte is just a much, much better back and together this backfield is scary.
Of course, with Bush stealing touchdowns, fantasy football owners will hate it, but in real life, Bears fans have a ton to be happy about. In terms of weapons, this offense has it all.
McClellin isn't finished or perfect, but he has played well enough that Israel Idonije has already moved to defensive tackle to make room for the talented rookie.
Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije, Shea McClellin. I can't think of too many better defensive lines right now, and the Bears will need these guys to perform at a high level with Brian Urlacher out for who knows how long (more on him in a minute).
McClellin had a rough start to camp, but righted himself as he adjusted to playing with his hand on the ground. There is still work to be done, but he's making great progress.
Ok, so with that down, let's move to the 'not so good'.
I don't know if he's had surgery and is lying (or why the team would lie with him), went for alternative treatment or had it healed and re-injured it while running around as his alter ego Batman.
What I do know is Urlacher not being in the defense is trouble. I was more cavalier about it earlier this summer, but the more I think about it, the worse it is.
It's not because the Bears don't have other good middle linebackers. They do.
However, the things Urlacher does are far more vital than just tackling.
Urlacher helps diagnose the offenses as well as disguise the Bears' defensive intentions. It may seem like an easy thing, but it's not and he's developed it in this defense over the course of an entire career.
That's experience his replacement won't have and isn't easily replaced.
I'm still not sold on the secondary for the Bears. I know the philosophy is bend and don't break but it's breaking far too frequently.
Sure, it's the preseason and half the culprits aren't even close to starting, but it's a concern. Even from the standpoint of "the backups are struggling." We already have Urlacher hurt—if more players go down, how sold are we on the depth?
Again, too early to panic, but it's a concern, as I have depth on the brain from watching the Packers last week.
Ultimately, they should pull out of it, but I'd like to see a stiffer effort from the bench.
Luckily, there isn't much bad and the ugly could just be rated as bad but...well it's ugly.
I thought J'Marcus Webb was the man here, but it turns out, no, not yet. I can't imagine Chris Williams is the answer, but Webb played bad enough to where he's in the mix again.
Could this all be a ploy to buy time for Gabe Carimi to get up to speed?
I don't know, and at this point, I can't imagine it is. Here's the thing about the left tackle being an issue on this particular offensive line.
Much of the rest of the line is average at best. That's fine on its own—you don't need all Pro Bowlers to keep a quarterback upright.
However, what having some elite tackles or centers or guards allows you to do is raise a player up and support him. Maybe Webb or Williams can be at least average—I wouldn't dismiss that out of hand at all.
However, even then, the line isn't going to help cover their mistakes or support them when they are getting overpowered.
That's the difference between a player like Marshall Newhouse on the Packers' line (the most common example for people to use) versus Webb or Williams. I can't help but wonder if either guy would function better with better talent across the line or how bad Newhouse might look without the talent around him.
If there is one single thing which can keep this offense from being as productive as it should be, it's the offensive line play—most notably the left tackle.
Cutler doesn't even need to be hurt for that flaw to stop them. It's just another thing for Bears fans to worry about.
Like Mike Tice, I hope someone will step up. I'm just not sure who it will be anymore.
However, if anyone can step up against the Giants, they'll have gone a long way towards allaying fears from my end.
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