The Chicago Bears' offense did some very good things in the team's first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. The unit rushed for 164 yards and put up enough points to earn the win. Yet the offensive-line play was shaky, resulting in just 94 passing yards on the night. I spent some time watching the game film. Let's take a look at what it shows.
-On the first offensive play, coordinator Mike Martz called an end around to Devin Hester. The play-side wide receiver, Roy Williams, locks up with the corner. As Hester comes nearer to him, Williams peels off and puts a nice block on the safety, who was flying up for the tackle. This allows Hester to get to the sideline. How Williams will impact the passing game remains to be seen but at the very least, he'll have value as an outside blocker in the run game, something he's excelled at throughout his career.
-3rd and 8. Cutler drops back to pass. Bills DT Marcell Dareus runs a cross stunt with NT Kyle Williams. Dareus, who lined up across from RG Lance Louis, swings behind his teammate and rushes through the A gap on the left side. At the same time, outside linebacker Nick Barnett blitzes the area vacated by the Dareus. Yet Louis inexplicably follows Dareus until there is a gaping hole for Barnett to run through. RB Matt Forte steps up to block the blitzer but can't handle the job, which forces QB Jay Cutler out of the pocket. Louis should have held his ground once he realized Dareus was stunting left. He could have then picked up Barnett on the blitz. It's these types of mental mistakes that need to stop in a hurry if the Bears' offense has any chance at success this year.
-2nd and 9 at the Chicago 32-yard line. The Bears run an off-tackle-right play. C Roberto Garza and RG Chris Williams pull left to lead the way into the hole. On the backside, Louis is asked to reach block on Dareus, hoping to slow the defender down so he can't chase the play down from the back side. The two collide and Louis bounces off like a pinball and is driven three yards into the backfield. He had been playing well in practice but he started off this game in horrible fashion.
T Gabe Carimi
-The following play, Cutler drops back to pass. RT Gabe Carimi chips on Dareus and leaves the defender for Louis. Yet Louis stops moving his feet and lunges, two egregious breakdowns in technique. Dareus runs right past him and picks up the sack. On the other side, Shawn Merriman uses a rip move against LT J'Marcus Webb. Merriman gets leverage off the edge and powers his way toward the quarterback, forcing Webb to pick up a holding penalty. Both offensive linemen had breakdowns in footwork and positioning.
-3rd and 13 at the Buffalo 32-yard line. The Bears line up in a three-receiver set with two running backs in pro formation. QB Caleb Hanie drops back to pass. Merriman rushes into Webb on the left side. At the same time, NT Kyle Williams swings outside. Chris Williams follows the nose tackle, as does Webb, who passes Merriman off to Garza. Merriman blows right past Garza and takes Hanie down for the sack. Williams, like Louis on the first drive, follows his player instead of passing him off to his teammate. This is a communication and chemistry problem that will need remedied. And Garza looked lost on this play, as he did for most of the first quarter.
-The two sacks at the end of the first quarter were as much Hanie's fault as anyone's. He held the ball too long, with receivers open, on both plays. It's concerning that he didn't try to get the ball out earlier, considering the questionable play of the front five. As he's shown in practice, all of Hanie's mistakes are mental ones.
-1st and 10 at the Bears 48-yard line. Chicago lines up in a strong-right, I-formation. Hanie turns and hands the ball to RB Marion Barber running up the middle left. LG Chris Williams locks on to DE Dwan Edwards and drives him four yards backward, opening a big hole for Barber to run through. Barber makes a nice move and picks up 11 yards and a first down. Of all the offensive linemen, Williams was the most impressive. He had a very rough start to training camp but he's been arguably the most consistent blocker the past 10 days. His continued development would be a welcome surprise for the offense.
-On the next play, TE Matt Spaeth lines up on the left edge of the line. The play is run to his side. Spaeth briefly locks onto OLB Danny Batten, then scrapes off to pick up a linebacker, only he fails to block anyone. Batten then rushes into the backfield and drops Barber for a 1-yard loss. The team traded Olsen and brought in Spaeth because Martz likes to use his tight ends as blockers. Throughout this first contest, the tight ends blocked as well as Olsen did last year. The big guys on the edge need to do a better job moving defenders in the run game or the questions about the Olsen trade may go on all season.
-The following play, the Bears run a draw with Barber. The front five does a good job of holding up the defensive line. FB Eddie Williams leads through the hole and makes an outstanding block on LB Reggie Torbor, upending the defender and sending him to the ground. Barber rushes for 12 yards and a first down. Williams has been solid in camp so far. He'll be relied upon all season to provide these types of lead blocks in the run game.
-Later in the drive, the offense lines up strong right with TE Desmond Clark on the left edge and Barber alone in the backfield. It's an off-tackle-left run. Clark crashes down on the defensive end and opens a big hole on the left side. Barber runs through the hole, then runs over CB Drayton Florence before bouncing it outside and picking up the first down. Re-signing the veteran Clark was a savvy move by Chicago's front office. He's solid in every phase of the game. Additionally, on this play, Barber may have officially taken control of the backup running back position. Chester Taylor did nothing in the first quarter, yet Barber was just running over guys left and right when it was his turn. He's the perfect compliment to Matt Forte.
-For his first professional game, rookie offensive tackle Gabe Carimi played better than most exected. There was almost no pressure from his side all night. He picked up his assignments and was steady. Consistency from a rookie is rare so it's good for the team that Carimi was able to come out and perform like a first-round draft pick.
RB Marion Barber
-Late in the first half, Lance Louis gives up another sack, this time to DT Spencer Johnson. It looks as if, at that point, Louis was lost on the field. He drops back in pass protection, yet never engages the defender. He just keeps dropping until his feet get tangled up with Carimi's, allowing Johnson a free run at Hanie. It will be very interesting to see what Tice decides to do with Louis this week. After this first game, it's obvious Louis is the weak link. He was very down on himself after the game and for good reason. His job could be on the line.
-Marion Barber also showed great ability in pass protection, selling out a few times to protect Hanie. Barber isn't just a bruising runner. He has value in the pass game as well.
-Third quarter, 2nd and 8 at the Chicago 22-yard line. RB Kahlil Bell runs up the middle. LG Edwin Williams locks up Bills NT Torell Troup and drives him inside, opening up a big hole. Williams finishes the play by bulldozing Troup to the ground. At the same time, C Chris Spencer gets to the second level very quickly and gets good position on the linebacker. His play at the second level was great throughout the game. Spencer had a solid night and should be given consideration for the starting lineup this week.
-Josh Davis had a hard time in this game. On one play, he is repeatedly pushed back on his heels by DE Alex Carrington and eventually allows the sack. Davis has a tendency throw his head back when he punches with his hands, which throws him off balance. He needs to tighten up his technique if he's going to make the roster.
-Kahlil Bell ran hard all night and showed a lot of good open-field moves. He's very good on special teams as well. After Saturday's performance, he is close to locking up the third running back position.
-The more I watch this tape, the more impressed I am by Spencer and Edwin Williams. Spencer is textbook in his positioning on nearly every play. He isn't overly physical but his technique is outstanding. Williams, on the other hand, was mauling people all night. His performance gives him a much better chance at making the 53-man roster.
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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.