It was a rough night on Thursday for the Chicago Bears, who lost their preseason opener in lackluster fashion in a 22-0 drubbing at the hands of the Denver Broncos.
To be fair, preseason games are meaningless from a wins and losses perspective, and teams generally don’t put highly-detailed game plans and strategies into effect, but even with those caveats, there were a few areas that should provide some concern for Bears fans coming out of the defeat.
Offensive Line Not Up to Challenge From Broncos
Offensive line is one of the toughest spots to evaluate, as even experts aren’t always positive which blocking assignments are being used or what schemes are being deployed to move players around on the line.
That holds even more true in the preseason, as teams don’t want to give away any trade secrets to opponents. That gets complicated when another team uses a variety of blitzes and fronts in preseason game action, as it can expose holes that normally wouldn’t be there.
Unfortunately for the Bears, that’s exactly what happened to them on Thursday night. They surrendered seven sacks and a safety in the game as the Broncos routinely got to the quarterback with ease, and it wasn’t just one linemen that was giving up free runs at the quarterback. Ted Larsen and Kyle Long had trouble communicating off the snap. Cody Whitehair had difficulty getting into his blocking lane when he moved to center with the second team. Even players like Donovan Williams missed assignments, leading to a painful night at the office for the Bears’ quarterbacks.
The Bears’ line is still figuring out its chemistry after Hroniss Grasu went down with an ACL tear, but their first performance on Thursday still left something to be desired.
Injuries to Lower Tier Players Never Good
The Bears’ starters were able to escape any damage in Thursday’s game, but the same cannot be said about some guys who could play important roles for the Bears despite not being starters.
The first among those guys is Ka’Deem Carey, who will be looking to earn a spot on the Bears’ roster after seeing the team draft running backs in consecutive NFL Drafts. Carey ended up picking up an injury on special teams Thursday night, going into the NFL’s concussion protocol after hitting his head while making a tackle.
Cornelius Washington, who had an excellent game for the Bears Thursday, was also injured as he sustained a leg injury. He made several big plays up the middle of the field, and he could provide depth for a defensive line that is looking to make a big step forward in 2016.
If the Bears lose Carey or Washington for an extended period of time, it won’t necessarily devastate the roster, but it will chip away at the depth that always proves to be so crucial for an NFL team’s success in a season. It also impacts the players’ chances of making the final 53 man roster too, as preseason games provide key auditions for guys on the fringe.
Cody Whitehair Looks Shaky at Center
One of the biggest benefits of the preseason is to work out players at various positions, setting in place backup plans for when injuries inevitably cause issues during the season.
To that end, the Bears put rookie guard Cody Whitehair in at center for part of the game on Thursday night, with mixed results. Whitehair, who played mostly tackle in college but projected to be a guard at the professional level, committed two penalties on the same drive and allowed two sacks while he was at the position, causing Bears fans some consternation in the process.
Although those issues are negatives, there is some good that came of it. Instead of throwing Whitehair in as the third-string center if Ted Larsen ends up getting hurt during the season, the Bears are opting to give him game reps against real opponents, giving him a crash course in the position that could prove to be beneficial should the need arise for him to kick further inside during the season.