Friday, August 22, 2014

Bears Are The Perfect Warm-Up

The best part of pre-season games is also the worst: they don't count. Knowing that allows coaches and players to focus on player development and assessment. This third pre-season game is often used as the tune-up for the starters as the fourth game is almost entirely used to evaluate the back-end of the roster before cuts. The Seahawks could hardly ask for a better opportunity to get ready for opening night against the high-powered Packers offense than facing the explosive Chicago Bears.


High octane offense

The Bears are 3rd in the NFL in pre-season offense (401.5 ypg) and 1st in passing (316.0 ypg). They are 9th in scoring (27 ppg) and 5th in yards per pass attempt (8.4). Their personnel includes the mercuric Jay Cutler as the triggerman, and two of the best wide receivers in the game with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. Cutler enters the game with a gaudy 123.3 passer rating. Matt Forte is among the most versatile running backs in football. This is a team that will challenge any defense. 

Seattle's defense is not yet fully healthy, as Bobby Wagner will not play, but defenses are rarely fully equipped. It would not be a surprise to see the Bears have some success. Marshall had the best game I have seen against the Seahawks secondary. T.Y. Hilton had big numbers last year, but some of those came on communication breakdowns. Marshall was just the better player on a number of plays. That simply does not happen against Seattle. 

Jeffrey is one of the most exciting young receivers in football, but he has not faced this defense before. 

Good or bad is good

It would be terrific to see the Seahawks shut down the Bears, but the beauty of it is that even if the Bears score a bunch of points, the Seahawks have two weeks to get their heads straight before facing an even better offense in the Packers. If they shut down the Bears, it just increases their confidence level. Confidence is one of the NFL's most precious commodities. 

The undercard

It is hard not to start by talking about the Bears offense against the Seahawks defense, but this game is a perfect example of what will likely be a recurring storyline this season. The Seahawks offense has a substantial advantage over the Bears defense. It would be a disappointment if they did not score at least a couple of touchdowns, and I'd like to see them break 20 points again. 

Expect the Bears to test rookie Justin Britt. Jared Allen might get that matchup. The Bears have given up more passing yards than any defense so far this pre-season (292 ypg), and only have two sacks. They have been opportunistic, though, snagging four interceptions.

Their run defense has been more stout, allowing only 84 ypg thus far. Seattle has a significant advantage on offense overall, and needs to move the ball consistently.

Eyes on Justin Britt

The word is that Britt appears to have won the starting right tackle job. This will be the last chance for the coaches to reconsider that decision before the regular season begins. The rookie played much better in his last game, but the level of competition was much lower. I still have serious doubts about his ability to hold up in pass protection, and would feel much better if he could demonstrate some competency against some quality players on the Bears.

Eyes on Christine Michael

Two fumbles. That is what is keeping an ultra-talented player from ascending to the role this team needs him to capture. He has blocked well, and appeared to hit the designated holes in the line with force instead of freelancing. This would be a logical game to give him a lot of carries as the team really knows what they have in Robert Turbin. Another fumble would be bench sentence. Michael is better than that, though, and could very well use the chance to remind everyone what the hype is about. It would be a very good thing if everyone is oohing and ahhing about Michael when sports radio goes on-air Monday morning.

Eyes on the young defensive lineman

I have made it clear that the play of the younger defensive lineman on the team has been disappointing. I expected more from Greg Scruggs, Jordan Hill and Benson Mayowa. Scruggs is still close enough to his surgery that it is understandable, and his effort has been terrific. The team is going to need Hill and Scruggs this season, and they need to be productive when their names are called. Mayowa is likely on the outside looking in at the roster right now. He may not even get much play in this game until the late third quarter or fourth.

Cassius Marsh has been a bright spot, but took a step back in last week's game against starting caliber players. He will be in the rotation tonight against the Bears starters, and it would be nice to see him flash. I already know he's more than a AAAA player (baseball reference), and am hoping he proves he is ready for the majors.


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