Coming into the Bears third preseason contest, all the attention was on the Bears top two quarterbacks. John Fox told the media earlier this week that the plan was for Mike Glennon to play the entire first half, while Mitchell Trubisky would enter at the start of the third quarter with the rest of the first team offense.
Fox stayed true to his word, even letting Trubisky run a second series with the starters. That was significant because- 1)Mark Sanchez entered the first two preseason games before Trubisky (Sanchez did not get a snap in today’s game) and 2)Trubisky had yet to take any preseason reps with the first team or against a first team defense.
Despite the slight quarterback shakeup, and both Glennon and Trubisky providing solid performances, the story of the game was the loss of the Bears top wide receiver, Cameron Meredith.
The third year Bear tore his ACL, and the team fears there could be even more ligament damage revealed in the MRI. His 2017 season is certainly over, and returning by the start of next season is in question.
While Meredith certainly had to improve this season to prove himself worthy as a true #1 wide receiver, he was far and away the best wide-out on the team, not to mention the most reliable. The Illinois State product caught 66 passes for 888 yards last season, no other current receiving weapon had more than 47 catches (Zach Miller) or 586 yards (Victor Cruz) in 2016.
Not only does the injury threaten the career of a hardworking, overachieving individual, it dampened the excitement of a pretty damn good showing by the Bears today.
Going back to the quarterbacks, Mike Glennon had his best performance as a Bear today, cementing himself as the team’s week one starter. He led two scoring drives in four tries, including a 15 play, 96 yard touchdown drive on the team’s first series of the game. He finished 11-18 for 134 yards and a 102.5 QBR. He was 3-3 for 35 yards on 3rd down on the opening drive, each of which needed 7 yards to gain or further. He also fired an impressive 28 yard strike to Meredith while getting hit, with a defender right on Meredith’s hip. He capped off the drive with a 1 yard touchdown pass to Dion Sims on a play action roll out.
Trubisky was just 3-6 for 33 yards in two drives with the starters, while pre-snap reads and under center snap execution plagued him in his second drive. The Bears were forced to call a time out from the sideline due to the play clock running down, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was caught by the game mic yelling “GO MITCHELL, GOOO” before burning the time out. Trubisky then tripped over his own feet and fell down trying to hand the ball off on a stretch play after taking the snap from under center. He gathered himself on the next play and fired a 14 yard strike to Deonte Thompson, setting up a 4th and 1 from the Titan’s 40 yard line, but Trubisky officially ended the threat by taking a delay of game penalty, forcing the Bears to punt.
Trubisky didn’t look completely overwhelmed, but he looked juuust flustered enough that the lack of experience concerns the team has with him became validated. He turned his game up a notch against the Titans second team defense, finishing the day 10-15 with 128 yards, highlighted by a beautiful 45 yard touchdown strike to rookie wide receiver Tanner Gentry.
While Trubisky will be slated behind Glennon to start the year, he showed plenty of talent and promise in the preseason. It’s feasible that if Glennon struggles, we could be seeing Trubisky inserted into the starting lineup as soon as week five.
The starting defense shut out Marcus Mariota and the Titans, looking impressive in the process. The top defensive unit has given up just 10 points this preseason, and while they still haven’t shown the ability to generate more turnovers, this unit led by a stout front seven has flashed the ability to be in the top 1/3rd of the league, especially with linebacker Danny Trevathan set to return for the season opener.
With just two weeks and one preseason game left before the regular season opener, the focus will be to make sure they step into soldier field against the Falcons with everybody healthy. That includes getting players that didn’t play this week *cough* Kyle Long *cough* up to speed for the opener.
Other things that mattered:
- If Kyle Long isn’t ready to go for the opener, expect Cody Whitehair to shift to left guard and Hroniss Grassu to start at center, that’s the lineup the Bears have used to start each of the last two games
- Jordan Howard looked fresh today, rushing for 45 yards on 12 carries in what was his most extensive action by far this preseason.
- Staying with the running backs, Jeremy Langford returned to action today and played well, picking up 37 yards on seven touches. With Kadeem Carey sidelined for up to six weeks with a wrist injury, Langford might have solidified a roster spot when it seemed just a week ago that he was all but cut.
- Kendall Wright was impressive, connecting with Mike Glennon for three third down conversions on the opening series. He’s the heavy favorite to win the starting slot job over Victor Cruz, whose most memorable play today was dropping a perfectly thrown pass from Trubisky, who had evaded a sack and escaped the pressure on third and long. The former Giants star might be looking for a new job after final cuts are made.
Wide reciever was the thinnest position on the team before Meredith went down in today’s game, with his injury the position is now in dire straits. The Bears simply do not have the talent to replace Meredith’s production from within, Ryan Pace needs to find a starting caliber receiver outside of the organization somehow. How good of a player he’ll be able to find remains to be seen, but starting Deonte Thompson or Tanner Gentry opposite Kevin White in week one is a recipe for a Mike Glennon’s neck sized disaster.