Chicago vs. Jacksonville: Report Card Grades for Each Bears Unit

Matt Eurich@@MattEurichAnalyst IAugust 15, 2014

Chicago vs. Jacksonville: Report Card Grades for Each Bears Unit

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    After a 20-19 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night, the Chicago Bears have improved to 2-0 in the preseason.

    The Bears struggled to maintain possession in the first quarter, running just five plays on offense in the first 15 minutes.

    Head coach Marc Trestman decided to leave Jay Cutler in the game, and he promptly led the team down the field on a 10-play, 85-yard scoring drive, finding Brandon Marshall in the end zone on a four-yard pass.

    The team opted to go with Jimmy Clausen off of the bench for the remainder of the second quarter and all of the third quarter before going with Jordan Palmer in the fourth quarter.

    Clausen looked poised and under control in the pocket, while Palmer helped lead the team down the field for the game-winning touchdown. 

    The offense finished with 312 yards of total offense, including 233 yards through the air.

    On the other side of the football, the Bears defense allowed 393 total yards, including 301 yards passing.

    The defense struggle at times to slow down the Jaguars passing attack but limited their offense to just four field goals and allowed only one touchdown.

    There are still some areas that the team needs to improve on before the season starts, but they appear to be heading in the right direction.

    While it is never easy to grade out a preseason performance because of the expanse of players who make it onto the field, we have assigned grades to each positional group based on the play of their key contributors, as well as their backups.

    Here are our report card grades for each Bears unit following their preseason Week 2 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Quarterback

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    It took a while for him to get going, but Jay Cutler and Chicago's offense finally clicked in the early part of the second quarter.

    Cutler finished the game going 7-of-9 for 75 yards with one touchdown and a quarterback rating of 138.4. After taking just five snaps in the first quarter, Cutler helped lead the team on a 10-play, 85-yard drive that resulted in a four-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall in the end zone.

    He continues to look calm and comfortable in head coach Marc Trestman's system and was aided by solid offensive line play.

    Backup Jimmy Clausen entered the game in the second quarter and played all the way through the third quarter. He finished the game going 11-of-15 for 94 yards with one interception and a 61.5 quarterback rating.

    Despite finishing with an interception, which was off a tipped ball, Clausen appeared poised in the pocket all night, often stepping up when pressured. 

    He didn't completely solidify himself as the team's No. 2 quarterback, but he was able to prove in back-to-back games that he is comfortable in this offense and can make plays when needed.

    Lastly, after entering last week's preseason opener as the No. 2 quarterback, Jordan Palmer was relegated to the third-string Thursday night.

    Palmer finished the game going 6-of-9 for 73 yards and a 91.4 quarterback rating. He did help lead the offense down the field on the game-winning drive that was capped off by a Senorise Perry touchdown with 50 seconds to go.

    Despite solid numbers, Palmer still looked skittish early in the fourth quarter before settling into the game.

    While none of the quarterbacks put up particularly flashy numbers, all three bounced back from early adversity to have strong finishes.

     

    Grade: A

Running Back

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    When a team has a running back the caliber of Matt Forte, there is little reason to put him out on the field for more than a handful of plays in the preseason.

    Forte finished the game with negative-two yards on four carries and caught three passes for 22 yards. Like most of the other starters on offense, Forte played just the team's first two possessions before being replaced by Shaun Draughn.

    Draughn ran the ball three times for 33 yards, displaying great burst and vision through the hole. He also finished the night with two catches for 12 yards.

    Draughn played just two series before getting replaced in the second half by fourth-round pick Ka'Deem Carey.

    Carey received the most carries of the night for the Bears, finishing the game with 36 yards on 13 carries, including a goal-line touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

    He displayed great vision and burst on his carries all night long, and it will be interesting to see how he can perform behind the team's starting offensive line in the future. 

    Despite carrying the ball just four times for 13 yards, Senorise Perry had a strong showing Thursday night that led ChicagoFootball.com's Kevin Fishbain to crown him the team's fourth quarter MVP:

    Senorise Perry, preseason game 2 fourth quarter MVP.

    — Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) August 15, 2014

    Fishbain may have been partially joking with his tweet, but Perry was impressive and may have earned himself at least practice squad consideration, via Fishbain:

    In all seriousness, Senorise Perry looked good on that drive. If the Bears want to keep an RB on their P-squad, would it be him or Lynch?

    — Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) August 15, 2014

    Along with his two receptions for 30 yards, Perry also capped the game off with a game-winning touchdown with 50 seconds remaining.

    Despite Forte's so-so outing, Draughn, Carey and Perry all put forth strong efforts in their attempt to claim the team's No. 2 running back spot.

     

    Grade: B

Wide Receiver and Tight End

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    Stacy Thacker/Associated Press

    When a team has both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on their team, there is little need for either of them to prove themselves during the preseason.

    Jeffery finished the game with two catches for 24 yards, while Marshall finished with just one catch that resulted in the team's first touchdown of the night.

    With Marshall and Jeffery already solidified as the team's top receivers, Thursday night was all about seeing progress from the receivers fighting for the third receiver spot. 

    Veteran Josh Morgan led the team in receiving with 41 yards on three catches. He is likely the front-runner to replace the injured Marquess Wilson.

    Josh Bellamy was the only other wide receiver with multiple catches, finishing with two catches for 21 yards. 

    Armanti Edwards and Micheal Spurlock both finished the just one catch each.

    Outside of the first-team offense and Morgan and Bellamy in the second and third quarters, the wide receiver position was virtually nonexistent in the later stages of the game, leaving more opportunities for the tight ends.

    After missing last week's game against the Philadelphia Eagles because of a suspension, Martellus Bennett stepped onto the field for the first time this preseason on Thursday night.

    He finished the game with one catch for 25 yards and gave Jay Cutler another weapon out on the field.

    The star of last week's game against the Eagles, tight end Zach Miller, unfortunately left the game with an ankle injury and was seen after the game in a walking boot, via Peggy Kusinski of NBCChicago.com:

    Just saw #Bears TE Zach Miller w/a walking boot on left foot outside locker room

    — Peggy Kusinski (@peggykusinski) August 15, 2014

    Not long after that tweet, Kusinski spoke with backup quarterback Jordan Palmer, and he didn't sound too optimistic about Miller returning soon:

    #Bears @JwPalms said TE Zach Miller injury "just devastating... He'll rehab & comeback... Was having the kind of camp you dream of"

    — Peggy Kusinski (@peggykusinski) August 15, 2014

    With Miller out, Jeron Mastrud and Matthew Mulligan received all the reps in the second half.

    Both are more well-known for their blocking abilities, but they finished with multiple catches on the night.

    Mastrud finished with two catches for 10 yards, while Mulligan ended the night with four catches for 39 yards, including a 23-yard reception from Jordan Palmer in the fourth quarter.

    The loss of Miller is disappointing for a guy who has had a strong camp, but Mastrud and Mulligan both proved they can catch the football when needed, and both are better all-around blockers in comparison to Miller. 

    Only because of the strong play of the tight ends does this group get this high of a grade.

     

    Grade: C+

Offensive Line

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    Prior to last season in Chicago, the offensive line was one of the team's biggest problems since Jay Cutler's arrival in 2009. After adding guys like Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson in free agency and Kyle Long and Jordan Mills in the draft last offseason, the Bears offensive line quickly improved.

    Mills did not play against the Jaguars, leaving rookie lineman Michael Ola to replace him Thursday night in the starting lineup, via the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs:

    Michael Ola filling spot at RT replacing Jordan Mills

    — Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) August 15, 2014

    The line struggled at times to open up holes in the running game but offered stellar protection of quarterback Jay Cutler, evident by these tweets from NBCChicago.com's James Neveau and ThriveSports.com's Sean Jensen:

    That was some great protection by the Bears' offensive line. Cutler could have penned his autobiography on that play.

    — James Neveau (@JamesNeveau) August 15, 2014

    Is the #Jaguars pass rush THIS BAD, or is the #Bears offensive line THIS GOOD?

    — Sean Jensen (@seankjensen) August 15, 2014

    The starters remained in the game for a couple of series with Jimmy Clausen under center in the second quarter.

    The second- and third-string offensive lines played well enough throughout the game, but they also struggled at times to open up lanes for the running backs.

     

    Grade: B-

Defensive Line

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    After missing the team's first preseason game last week because of the birth of his child, Jared Allen finally got onto the field Thursday night as a member of the Chicago Bears.

    Allen finished the game with one tackle for loss. He admitted he whiffed on a sack, but still felt good about his performance, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

    Jared Allen whiffed on a sack in first game with #Bears, but "other than that it felt good."

    — Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) August 15, 2014

    One surprise prior to the game was the announcement that defensive end Willie Young would not play against the Jaguars, via the Chicago Tribune's Dan Wiederer:

    Willie Young not playing tonight is currently a head-scratcher. No intel on what injury or circumstance is.

    — Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) August 14, 2014

    Wiederer later tweeted that Young sat out because of a bone bruise on his knee:

    Willie Young did not play tonight to rest a minor knee bruise. No alarms there.

    — Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) August 15, 2014

    With Young out of the lineup, veteran Trevor Scott saw plenty of action with both the first and second team.

    Scott was impressive during training camp and last week's preseason opener against the Eagles, and it wouldn't come as a surprise if he makes the team's final 53-man roster, via TheGameChicago.com's Adam Hoge:

    Trevor Scott having a great night. At this point, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t make the team..

    — Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) August 15, 2014

    The Bears did a nice job of applying pressure to quarterback Chad Henne but struggled to get much pressure on first-round pick Blake Bortles.

    Defensive tackles Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea were credited with the team's only half-sacks of the game, but both were able to apply good pressure during the early stages of the game.

    Rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton both had their share of ups and downs Thursday night, but overall they played a solid game.

    It is no secret the Bears struggled mightily on defense last season. If the defensive line can continue to jell  together, they have the potential to be a disruptive force this season.

     

    Grade: B-

Linebacker

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    After a poor showing against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, all eyes were on linebackers Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin Thursday night.

    Despite playing all of the first half, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker decided to keep both players on the field to start the second half, via ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson:

    Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin remain in the game.

    — Jeff Dickerson (@ESPNChiBears) August 15, 2014

    While McClellin struggled virtually the whole game last week, he did have some ups to go along with his downs this week, evident by these tweets from 670TheScore.com's Dan Durkin and Jeff Dickerson:

    nice play by mcclellin to shoot the b-gap then chase the play down from the backside. first step quickness on display. #bears

    — dan durkin (@djdurkin) August 15, 2014

    Shea McClellin beat in pass coverage. Long gain for the #Jags.

    — Jeff Dickerson (@ESPNChiBears) August 15, 2014

    Just as McClellin was struggling on Thursday night, Bostic appeared to have turned the corner, via 670TheScore.com's Matt Spiegel:

    Bostic has been fun to watch. In the right place a lot. Some plays made, others nearly so. A step forward for him would be big.

    — Matt Spiegel (@MattSpiegel670) August 15, 2014

    After struggling with his anticipation last week, the game appeared to slow down at times for Bostic, allowing him to read and react much quicker than he did a week ago.

    Both Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams got limited reps with the starting unit, allowing guys like Khaseem Greene, Christian Jones and Jerry Franklin to get more playing time in the second half.

    None of those three took any big jumps forward, but none looked out of place when on the field Thursday night either.

    The biggest story of the night for the position may be how much better Bostic looked Thursday night than he did the week before.

     

    Grade: C

Secondary

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Just as wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery do not need to prove anything in the preseason, neither do cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.

    One player that can use all of the reps he can get, rookie Kyle Fuller, was lost for the game on the opening kickoff with an ankle injury, via the Chicago Tribune's Rich Campbell:

    Bears CB Kyle Fuller (ankle) will not return. Hurt on the opening kickoff.

    — Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) August 15, 2014

    After the game, Fuller told the media his X-rays came back negative, via Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times:

    #Bears CB Kyle Fuller said x-rays on his ankle came back negative. Said he did hurt it on the opening kickoff and that he should be OK.

    — Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) August 15, 2014

    In Fuller's absence, veteran Kelvin Hayden saw time at the nickelback with Jennings remaining on the outside, via Campbell:

    Interesting to see Kelvin Hayden playing slot CB instead of Tim Jennings so far. Jennings has said he needs reps inside.

    — Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) August 15, 2014

    Second-year cornerbacks Demontre Hurst and C.J. Wilson, along with rookie Al Louis-Jean, saw the majority of reps in the second half.

    Wilson closed out the game with an interception of Jaguars quarterback Stephen Morris. 

    Although unspectacular, the cornerback play on Thursday night was consistent from the beginning of the game until the end.

    The same couldn't be said about the safety position.

    After playing a strong game against the Eagles, Ryan Mundy played a bit inconsistent Thursday night.

    He played well against the run but struggled at times in pass coverage. He was paired up with Danny McCray to start the game, and the two were replaced by Adrian Wilson and Brock Vereen in the first half.

    None of the team's safety duos played particularly well Thursday night, leaving the starting positions wide-open heading into their third preseason game next week against the Seattle Seahawks.

     

    Grade: B-

Special Teams

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    After a poor showing against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, the Bears special teams unit looked to show improvement Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

    While the unit showed improvement on its coverage teams, their return unit struggled.

    Despite returning four kicks for 95 yards, return man Eric Weems lost a fumble early in the game, via Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times:

    Eric Weems fumbles. Not good. With Chris Williams out, kind of a big game for him.

    — Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) August 15, 2014

    With Chris Williams out with a hamstring injury, Weems and Michael Ford both struggled with return duties Thursday night, prompting the Chicago Tribune's Rich Campbell to suggest how badly special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis likely wants Williams back:

    Michael Ford drops the kickoff. Eric Weems fumbled one. Wouldn't be surprised if Joe D starts massaging Chris Williams' hamstring soon.

    — Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) August 15, 2014

    While the return unit struggled, rookie punter Pat O'Donnell did show some promise, punting three times for an average of 48.7 yards per punt, more than Tress Way's 43.3 yards per punt on three attempts. O'Donnell also had two of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line. 

    Kicker Robbie Gould did not attempt a field goal but did make both of his extra points.

     

    Grade: D+

Coaching

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    Trying to grade the coaching in a preseason game is never easy.

    Head coach Marc Trestman's likely goal for the game was to see his offense move the ball, his defense stop the ball and to come out of the game injury-free.

    Trestman's offense did move the ball, but he acknowledged after the game that they need to improve their run game.

    "We haven't been productive," Trestman said after the game about his running game, via Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com. "Certainly, we've had a few more [productive] runs with the second [teamers] and thirds than we did with the first. We're working on it hard every day."

    After the game, Trestman admitted the team had issues with the headsets earlier in the game, via Kevin Fishbain of ChicagoFootball.com:

    Trestman said the headsets went down tonight, which didn't help Clausen and the offense with play calling.

    — Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) August 15, 2014

    Despite the headset issue, Clausen and the offense were still able to move the football through the air.

    Defensively, Mel Tucker's decision to play linebackers Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin late into the second half may end up paying dividends for both players in the future.

     

    Grade: A

Final Grades

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
    Positional UnitOverall Grade
    QBA
    RBB
    WR/TEC+
    OLB-
    DLB-
    LBC
    SecondaryB-
    Special TeamsD+
    CoachingA
    Cumulative GradeB-

     

    Overall, the Chicago Bears played a solid football game on Thursday night. While there were some lapses in all three phases, the first-team offense and first-team defense both showed flashes of what could make them special this season.

    One of the biggest takeaways from Thursday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars is that the team still needs to improve their special teams unit.

    The big test will come in their preseason Week 3 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 22 in Seattle. 

     

    Record/statistical information provided via email from the Chicago Bears or ESPN.com.

    Matt Eurich is an NFL/Chicago Bears Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

    Follow @MattEurich