Chicago Bears: Improving Through Preseason
Their offseason was considered one of their most productive in recent times, with the arrival of Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall and some highly-touted rookie draft picks.
Along with their typically solid defensive squad, the Chicago Bears look to be in it until the end in the offensive-minded NFC North.
Here's a look at some players who impressed in their 33-31 victory against the Washington Redskins and some that need to improve their play as the preseason goes on.
Jay Cutler did not dress for the first preseason game due to the birth of his son, so everyone was excited to see how the 29-year-old quarterback would look after missing the final five games of the 2011 regular season. He wasted little time in showing the fans he was back to normal and ready to go this season, connecting with Marshall on a 41-yard gain on the first offensive play from scrimmage for the Bears.
Cutler led the Bears seamlessly up the field, with catches by Devin Hester and impressive rookie wide receiver, Alshon Jeffery. New Chicago running back Michael Bush finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
The first-team offense looked very impressive. Cutler ended the game with 122 yards on 7-of-13 passing. Michael Bush took the majority of the carries as Matt Forte only took a few in order to save him for the regular season. Bush finished with two touchdowns and made it clear that he is as good as advertised rushing the ball in the red zone.
The most important aspect of the offense's performance was the play of the offensive line. Cutler was not sacked once against Washington's potent defensive line. Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are two very good defensive ends, and J'Marcus Webb (left tackle) and Gabe Carimi (right tackle) held them in check.
Webb has been much maligned as of late. The seventh-round draft pick of two years ago has been very inconsistent in his young career, but it is vital that he plays well this season to protect Cutler's blind side.
Other notable action from the second and third-team offenses included rookie tight end Evan Rodriguez. The fourth-round draft pick made some nice grabs and also played some H-Back, a position similar to that of a fullback, but providing more of a pass-catching ability. Look for him to be another solid option for Cutler behind fellow tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth.
Trending upward: Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has been very impressive to this point throughout this preseason. He caught all three balls thrown his way, including one in which the defender committed a defensive pass interference. He finished the night with 62 yards.
His large frame, 6-foot-3, 216 pounds, provides Cutler with another big target to go along with Marshall. Jeffery's ability to run after the catch was apparent on a 34-yard reception from backup quarterback Jason Campbell in the second quarter as well, providing the faithful of Soldier Field a glimpse of the extreme potential this rookie possesses.
If Jeffery can continue this progression and avoid injury, he looks to have an impressive rookie campaign here in Chicago.
Trending down: Offensive lineman Anthony Spencer, a free agent acquired last offseason, has had a tumultuous tenure with the Bears to this point. He came in initially to fill the absence of long-time Bears' center Olin Kruetz, but lost out on the job to Roberto Garza.
Since then, he has played a lot of left guard, but in Saturday's game, he seemed lost on the field. Spencer committed a false start penalty and was seen getting beat on multiple plays. Look for free agent addition Chilo Rachal, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, to compete with Spencer for that left guard spot.