The first official unofficial game is in the books. On a night that featured rain almost throughout, the Chicago Bears pulled off a 10-3 win over the Buffalo Bills. It was a sloppy game, with hardly any offense to speak of. A few players performed as expected, some played worse and others stood out for their strong efforts. I spent some time with the tape, let's take a look at what it shows.
-Corey Wootton's knee injury happened on the opening kickoff. He ran downfield to the 25-yard line, locked up with a Bills blocker and his knee buckled. He didn't need to be helped off the field but the team ruled him out of the game almost immediately. Wootton has been playing lights out in camp so far and was expected to be a big contributor this year. His loss would be a big blow to the defensive line.
-On the first play of the game Henry Melton lines up at right tackle in the gap between the guard (Andy Levitre) and center (Eric Wood). At the snap, Levitre chips Melton then peels off for a linebacker. At the same time, Wood pulls left and tries to trap Melton to the outside. Melton explodes into the block and drives his way into the backfield, forcing the runner to slow up, and allowing Lance Briggs and Matt Toeaina to make the tackle.
Melton has been outstanding in camp so far. Yet there were still questions about his inexperience at the position and how adding 25 pounds in the offseason would affect his explosiveness. It took him all of one play to prove wrong his doubters. He's playing at a very high level right now.
DT Henry Melton
Three plays later, the Bills line up in an off-set-right I-formation. At the snap, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick turns and hands the ball to RB C.J. Spiller running off-tackle right. The offensive line zone blocks, with each running down a track to the right, blocking the first person they come across. Melton shoots right in between the left guard and center, Wood. He fights through Wood's block and takes Spiller down for a loss of three yards.
His weight gain doesn't appear to have compromised his burst. The former running back at Texas is in line for a career year.
-The next play, the Bills run a wide receiver screen to Stevie Johnson in the left flat. He makes a few nice moves to elude about three defenders and get across the line of scrimmage. S Major Wright slides all the way down to the box and firmly wraps up Johnson. The play goes for a 2-yard gain. On tape it's hard to see, but from the press box you could see Wright patiently work his way toward the line of scrimmage, mirroring the runner. And the tackle was textbook. He made a number of very good open field tackles in the game and led the team with five tallies. Last season, he didn't miss a single tackle in 30 attempts. Expect very solid back-end support in the run game this year from Wright and fellow safety Chris Harris, another hard hitter.
-Later in the first half, the Bills line up in a three-receiver set with RB Fred Jackson alone in the backfield. The play is on off-tackle-left run. Idonije is lined up at right end and is being blocked one-on-one by TE Scott Chandler. Idonije is stood up and driven inside, which allows Jackson to get to the outside, where he stiff arms CB Charles Tillman and gains 11 yards. Idonije needs to be able to come off the block of a tight end.
-Next play, 1st and 10, shotgun formation, the Bills run a draw. Melton lines up across from LT Erik Pears. Melton stands up the opposing lineman, then rips his arm through and drives his way down the line. He grabs the runner, with Pears still on his back, and pulls the ball carrier down for a 2-yard gain. Just a good example of how powerful Melton is inside.
-3rd and 7 at the Chicago 32. The Bills line up in a five-receiver set, with three to the right, C.J. Spiller the middle of the three. LB Brian Urlacher has to swing left to cover the tight end, Chandler. At the snap, Chandler heads straight toward Lance Briggs, who is lined up across from Spiller. Spiller cuts inside. The play is a screen. Urlacher recognizes that Chandler is attempting to block and turns toward the middle of the field. Two offensive linemen (Wood and RG Kraig Urbik) try to block him, but Urlacher shakes off both blocks and grabs Spiller from the side, stopping him a yard short of the first down. It looks like the old man still has a lot left in the tank.
-1st and 10 from the Buffalo 26. Fitzpatrick drops back to pass. RE Vernon Gholston gets good leverage on LT Ed Wang and drives the lineman right into Fitzpatrick's face, forcing an incompletion. This happened about four times last night, with Gholston pushing Wang backward. I think this says more about Wang than Gholston though. Throughout the night, he never showed any type of pass rush moves. No spins, rips or stutters, just a straight bull rush every time. He needs to build a better all around game but his effort on the night as a whole was encouraging.
-On the kickoff after the Caleb Hanie touchdown run, WR Sam Hurd does a great job in coverage of ripping the ball out of the ball carrier's hands, forcing the fumble. He was brought over from Dallas in part because of his abilities on special teams and on this play, he demonstrates his added value to the team.
LB Brian Iwuh
-LB Brian Iwuh is extremely impatient. He's able to shoot the gap and bring the runner down for a loss in the second quarter. Yet in the same series, two plays in a row he hops around and gets himself out of position. On one play, he seemed confused pre-snap and just kept sliding to his left. When the ball was snapped, he was standing behind his partner, LB Dom DeCicco, which is way out of position. He's athletic and can hit, two traits that make him a special teams standout, but Iwuh needs to be stronger mentally if he's ever going to contribute on defense.
-2nd and 4 at the Chicago 29. The Bills run an off-tackle right play. LE Nick Reed makes a lazy play and slides inside the tackle. The runner flies right past him for a first down. Reed has a golden opportunity to make the roster if Wootton is out but these types of plays aren't going to help his cause. He needed to hold his ground, fight through the block and force the run inside. Essentially, he took himself out of the play.
-DE Mario Addison had a good night. He was able to get pressure on the quarterback a number of times, flushing him out of the pocket once and getting a knockdown on another. On a third-quarter play, Addison lined up across from the right tackle. At the snap, Addison hesitated for a brief second, used a quick inside stutter step to move around the lineman and then accelerated into the backfield. He took the ball carrier down for a 3-yard loss. A few more performances like this one would go a long way toward earning the undrafted rookie a roster spot.
-Second-team middle linebacker Dom DeCicco is a former safety learning a new position. For much of the night, he had difficulty diagnosing plays and took a lot of bad angles. He doesn't look comfortable in zone coverage either. Yet on a few plays, mainly runs to the outside, he showed great speed and tackling ability. Learning a new position after being locked out has made things extra hard for the undrafted rookie but he looks talented enough to play in the NFL.
-CB Joshua Moore knocked down two passes, the most on the team. On both plays, the defense was in zone, and Moore did a good job of reading the quarterback and breaking on the ball. The second-year player is fighting to keep his roster spot and he did himself well last night.
-Third-string linebacker Patrick Trahan did not look good. He did not play physical, looked slow, repeatedly stopped moving his feet and showed poor tackling. The second-year player out of Mississippi is a long shot to make the roster at this point.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.