CHICAGO - AUGUST 25: Hunter Hillenmeyer #92 of the Chicago Bears looks on during the game against the San Francisco 49ers on August 25, 2007 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Watching from home, former Bear (and current Grizzly Detail contributor) Hunter Hillenmeyer was not concerned with the final score of the Bears pre-season loss to the Giants, but he did see some things on defense that he knows will make his coaches and old teammates unhappy.
"I thought it was not as bad as the score. I really only paid attention to the first half as far as what it means for the season," Hillenmeyer said during an interview. "On defense, we are always bland in the pre-season. The one thing the coaches will be most disappointed with defensively is our run fits. They had a few gashes, that's what we call it when they run through a gap that nobody's in. It's not a missed tackle. It's not an effort problem. It's that somebody missed their assignment. There were a few gashes in the game, but the Giants are notorious for having difficult run fits. They do some things that are tricky to fit up."
Hillenmeyer isn't yet concerned about the Bears defense, and doubts that his coach is, either.
"Lovie didn't lose sleep last night over the result of the game. Pre-season games don't hurt the way regular season games do when they don't go the way you want them to. But, you want to see your guys play well every time out. I think the defense has just got them accustomed to playing elite football. The game really came down to some funny things. We never lose the special teams battle, and we got killed in special teams. The red zone scoring, too. You see the scoreboard and it looks like we got blown out, but you could point to four or five plays in the game, and then it's a toss-up. You can usually say that about any football game, but in this one it was particularly true. They will get some good things from the film, even though the result wasn't what they wanted it to be.
Since it is still the pre-season, Hillenmeyer says that the Bears want to see the team on an upward trajectory and stay healthy. The scoreboard is not always the best indicator of that.
"In the pre-season, you want to get better. For the young guys especially, it's not don't make a mistake. It's don't make the same mistake twice. For the starters, it's about getting a comfort level. They phase the stars out pretty early. I agree that the most important thing is to get out healthy. You saw the Giants cornerback blow his ACL out in one of the last plays of the first half. I guarantee you, if Lovie could have won buy 30, instead of losing by 30, and we were the team who had our starting cornerback blow their knee out, he's not going to take that trade."
Hillenmeyer saw plenty of things to be optimistic about over the course of the game.
"The things that people were most worried about going into the game worked out. The offensive line played better. Robbie was good kicking. I know that there's probably a little concern about the operation, and how not having Brad holding is going to affect things, but to me, what I was looking for watching the game, I was satisfied with what I saw."
At linebacker, where Hillenmeyer played for the Bears for seven seasons before suffering a serious concussion, the Bears lack depth. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are Pro Bowlers, and Nick Roach has complemented them well, but the back-ups are inexperienced. It's a situation that could cause Bears fans to hold their breath every time Urlacher or Briggs is slow to get up after a play.
But Hillenmeyer has faith in his teammates.
"Lance and Brian are (knocks on wood) notoriously durable guys. Brian's had a few seasons where he's had injuries, but those two guys. They're fixtures of the Bears for the last decade. Nick has done a fantastic job. I would put our starting three linebackers against anybody in the league. I think that the Bears linebackers have been the best unit on the team for a decade. That's probably not going to change anytime soon. There's young backups, and unproven backups, but with Coach Babich in there and Coach Marinelli in there, they're going to get up to speed quick, because the guys setting the pace are going to force them to."