I've said many times that the worst mistake you can make as a football fan is to overrate anything you see in the preseason. If you need evidence of that I can always direct you to my favorite stick-poking of Bears fandom's greatest ledge-jumper. That said, you can occasionally glean some useful information from individual matchups during preseason games, and I really had just one hope for this game, which was that the offensive line might try to be something better than a total embarrassment.
Okay, it looked bad. Raw sack totals are always misleading, though. I'm throwing out the five second-half sacks of Nathan Enderle because all of the back-ups were in at that point and trying to take anything meaningful from the second half of the first preseason game is an endeavor well beyond foolishness. The four first half sacks are certainly concerning, however. I'll say that the overall size and strength of the unit appears to be much better, since the runblocking was pretty stellar for Marion Barber and Khalil Bell, who capitalized for 120 yards at 6.0 ypc.
As for those four sacks of Cutler and Hanie, the positive that I can take away is that no one appeared to be consistently defeated. Unlike last year's Kamerion Wimbley/Chris Williams shellacking in the 2nd game of the preseason, this year the responsibility for those four sacks belongs to J'Marcus Webb, Lance Louis, Roberto Garza, and Caleb Hanie, in that order.
Webb was certainly the most egregious defender, as he allowed pressure from Shawne Merriman that forced Cutler to step into Marcell Dareus (who was forcing his way through Lance Louis after a missed double-team assignment) and he allowed Merriman to sack Hanie as well. On Merriman's second sack, Webb did his job and blocked Merriman before passing him off to Garza, but Garza faltered and allowed Hanie to go down, however, as Erik Kramer pointed out, Hanie needed to get the ball out quicker on that one, as he had an open receiver to his left and failed to pull the trigger. Lance Louis struggled one-on-one with Marcell Dareus, but he should have had help on the first sack he allowed.
I think things will get better. I'm not going to blow smoke up anyone's ass and I'm still scared as hell of this unit, but this is, for the most part, a young unit that has plenty of promise, unlike last year, where Kreutz and an injured Garza were two aging question marks and Frank Omiyale proved once more that he's beyond redemption. Lance Louis struggled Saturday night but allowed just one sack in five starts last year and has performed well in camp. Chris Williams actually played well, to the shock of all. Carimi seemed to be as good as advertised. John Mullin thinks they'll be alright as well, and notes that the team can make some lineup changes as well. I think the struggles in this first game were mostly missed assignments or technical issues, and the concern will come in the future if Webb fails to shake off this week's game or if the line appears to be physically overwhelmed, which wasn't the impression that I got, and I'd say that's supported by the rushing totals.
As for other highlights, it was good to see Amobi Okoye make an impact with 2 sacks, and I think he'll be a great situational pass-rusher at defensive tackle. As I said before, his biggest problems in Texas stemmed from weaknesses in run support and a general failure to hold up as a 3-down player. In Chicago he could simply sub in for Anthony Adams on third down and be a defensive tackle version of the 2006 Mark Anderson. The linebacking crew looked stellar as always, Johnny Knox performed well as a kick returner, and Major Wright seemed to be around the ball every time he was on the field. I was glad to see Lovie get Cutler and Forte out of there ASAP on a night where the field was sloppy and wet and the line was struggling. Hopefully things will be better this weekend, when the starters should get a few more reps that may give us something more hopeful.