Sunday, August 23, 2009
Easy Folks, It's Just the Second Preseason Game
But it's the preseason. So I Won't say those things. No matter how awesome it looked. But by God, did it look awesome. A breakdown:
1. The line. The old cliché is that it all starts up front, and last night it was definitely true. Cutler was barely pressured all night, and never sacked (and that Giants defensive line is kinda good, I hear), and that hole Frank Omiyale opened up to spring Forte on his touchdown run was big enough to be visible from space. Anytime your starters rack up over 220 yds on three possessions, you Know the line's playing well.
2. Matt Forte. Any concerns over how he'd be affected by the limited reps he got in training camp and being held out of last week's game should have been answered last night. He hit holes hard and fast, and he even bounced it outside on a nice 18 yard runs. This kid really is the total package. He's got better vision than any Bears runningback I've watched (especially since I only caught the last few years of old, slow Neal Anderson), and his mix of power and speed is even better than that of Thomas Jones, and he figures to get better as he goes on. He also had a really nice catch and made a nice move to move upfield. I wouldn't be surprised if Forte has fewer receptions this year than the 63 he had last year, but it also wouldn't surprise me that with Cutler actually hitting him in stride and giving him room to run, that he could surpass his 477 receiving yards from last year.
3. Earl Bennett and Devin Aromashadu. While there's bound to be some slight concern over the two incidents of miscommunication between Cutler and Hester (Hester broke in on a pattern where Cutler thought he'd break out, leading to an overthrow, and Hester slowed down and misjudged a GLORIOUS deep ball from Jay, leading to another overthrow), its also comforting to see Bennett show off some nice moves and a good rapport with Cutler (he had 2 catches for 42 yards), and I'd be real surprised, after the strong camp he's had and his great diving catch last night, if Devin Aromashadu Isn't the slot receiver against Green Bay on September 13th. All in all it was a pretty solid night from the receiver corps.
4. The defensive line. These guys looked truly spectacular last night. They put in the kind of aggressive work effort we haven't seen from them since 2006. They had five sacks on the night, with the starters contributing two of those. Ogunleye and Brown got to Manning on two consecutive third downs, with Brown forcing the fumble. Mark Anderson later shot off like a bullet and did a nice job blowing up a screen pass, and Dusty Dvoracek also contributed with a nice sack of David Carr later in the game.
5. The defensive backs. Last night was a good example of what I've been trying to say about the defensive backs and the Tampa 2 defensive scheme for a long time. Everyone moaned last year when Lovie tried preaching that "slants don't beat you," and last night was a good example of how the short stuff doesn't beat you if you play the scheme well. Manning completed 7 of 10 for 62 yards, but the Giants still failed to move the ball because the defensive line forced him into taking shorter passes and the defensive backs did a great job of moving up and making plays on the receivers before they could reach the first down marker. The one time Manning did try to throw it upfield, Kevin Payne made a beautiful play to knock it away. He's a player I really think could make some big strides this year, and right now he's locked in a three way battle with Danieal Manning ( who looks to be the starting FS despite his recent hamstring problems) and Al Afalava.
6. Caleb Hanie. I have to give this guy a shout out whenever possible, because he's a real promising prospect. The numbers don't look spectacular for him last night (10/18(55.6%), 120 yds, 6.7 ypa, 0 tds, 0 ints, 76.2 rating), but he overcame some poor play from the back up offensive line (two sacks and one drive where back to back false starts moved it from a 3rd and Inches to a 3rd and 11) and put in a pretty solid effort. His touchdown run was called back by a hold, but the mobility he has is impressive nonetheless. I like where his future is headed. Perhaps some day if he gets a regular season game or two to flash his ability (though here's hoping any injuries Cutler may suffer in his decade long, title filled run in Chicago will be minor), he could bring a Matt Schaub like return in a trade (Schaub, who had only started 2 games for the Falcons, was traded from the Falcons to the Texans in exchange for a swap of first round picks and two 2nd round picks).
7. Jay Cutler. Finally, I reach the big guy, and I'm not really sure what to say. Bears fans have acted this year like they've never seen a strong arm before, and I disagree. Grossman had an arm. Kramer had an arm. But my God, Cutler has an ARM, and he knows how to use it. The two passes he made on roll outs were ones no Bears quarterback has been capable of, at least not regularly. The throw to Earl Bennett (who was on his knees) was just muscled in there, and the bomb to Hester (which, by the way, BOTH sides took the blame for, Rick Morrissey), while on the run was simply mind blowing. Other than one poor decision he made on a slant to Bennett that was nearly intercepted, every decision he made and damn near every throw was perfect. Add onto that his 12 yard scamper for a first down, and you get a good idea of everything this guy brings to the table...and it's all just. freakin'. awesome.
So yeah, a lot of positives to take out of last night. Granted, they could lay an egg in Denver next weekend and the sportswriters will all run out to pen articles about how Cutler can't take the pressure of facing his old team, but I just don't see them looking like they did against Buffalo very often in the future. They probably won't score on every possession like they did last night, but there's really no reason Not to be excited for what's to come.