The third preseason game is in the books, and the information that can be gleaned from the 2 1/1 quarters played by the Bears starters is promising:
- Matt Forte- Last week Matt was devastating in the screen game, and this week he dominated between the tackles. Forte ran hard between the tackles (where he was helped by some huge holes) and was awesome on draw plays and the inside zone. He finished with 17 carries for 74 yards and a TD (4.4 yards per carry) and added a 15 yard reception. He's more than ready for the regular season, and it was pleasing to see Martz design a largely successful game plan around him tonight. Now pay the man, Jerry.
-Earl Bennett- The BBE was huge again tonight with 6 receptions for 89 yards. While the appellation I gave him mostly refers to his sure hands and his reliability on third down, it should be noted that Earl can get downfield when he's asked to and has been a pretty good deep threat this preseason as well.
-Amobi Okoye- The defensive tackle has seized his opportunity and at this point, after three preseason sacks, has to be a lock for the roster, if not the starting lineup. He's certainly a threat on passing downs, something the team has desperately needed at the 3-technique for the last couple of years during the Tommie Harris decline.
-The offensive line- They were exceptional in run blocking tonight, giving Forte some holes (especially on draw plays) that he's probably never seen before. In pass protection they allowed some pressure off of the edges but still allowed just 1 sack and have really allowed Martz and Cutler to work the seven step game. I'm beginning to breathe a little bit. So far they've been pretty stout against four man rushes, which is great. If team's have to blitz to generate pressure, Martz's offense will click and he'll be able to scheme to get the ball to the free receiver. Last year teams didn't even have to bring an extra guy to get to Jay.
-Jay Cutler- Jay was damn near perfect tonight, even if the stat sheet shows a mediocre 67 rating. His only interception was clearly Roy Williams fault (more on Roy later) as it went off both of Roy's hands into the hands of the defense. Other than that, Cutler was accurate (13 of 21, despite 2-3 drops yet again) and, more importantly, he was effective downfield (averaged 8.1 YPA, 13.1 YPC) and he wasn't sacked a single time. Over his last four full quarters in these two preseason games Jay is 25 of 42 (60%) for 341 yards (8.1 YPA, 13.6 YPC) despite his receivers struggles in the drop department (Hester had 2 tonight, as did Roy Williams, to go with 4 last week). Jay was extremely quick with his decisions tonight and stared down the blitz quite well. My obvious homerism notwithstanding, I think he's going to do some very special things in year two of this system. You can only draw so much from the preseason, but the velocity and accuracy Cutler has shown (and the protection he's got) bodes well, considering everything looked awry during last year's bumbling preseason and the up-and-down offense of the first half bore out those results. There's no guarantees, but it's promising to see him look so sharp early.
- Roy Williams: I'm level-headed,normally. I've defended this move from every rational standpoint, and still do, considering this was an extremely low-risk, high-reward move, but Jesus, Roy Williams could try not to piss on himself for one fucking series or something. He caused Cutler's interception, he went out of bounds before completing the catch on another throw, then he had a second drop. He's also looked terrible blocking this preseason, so there's that. I hope he pans out, but damn, you're not making this easy, Roy.
-Desmond Clark: Dez himself did nothing wrong, but the fact that he had to be carted off gives me the sads. He was going to be no more than a back up this year, so this doesn't kill the team, but Dez has always been a solid player and a great guy (as far as anyone can tell with any of these guys) and it would suck to see the team bring him back just to see this happen.
-Marion Barber: Same here. Marion played well on his two touches, but his calf injury is concerning. If he's not healthy, that may mean more Chester Taylor, which causes my blood to boil. Considering Chester didn't get any carries tonight it seems more likely that the team will roll with Khalil Bell until Marion gets healthy and they'll still cut Chester, but, damn, it would suck to have Barber out for long after how good he's looked so far.
That's all for now. I've been pleased with what I've seen from the first teams on offense and defense so far these last two games. I think they're going to be just fine by the time Atlanta comes to Soldier Field. Meanwhile, enjoy hearing about how awesome the Lions are.