Final scores in preseason games don't mean much but the Chicago Bears were happy to walk away from this one with a win. After getting demolished last week 31-3 by the Denver Broncos, the Bears wanted to show improvement on the field, as well as on the scoreboard. In their 33-31 victory over the Washington Redskins tonight, the team achieved both.
S Chris Conte injured his shoulder in the first half and never returned. It appeared to be a stinger.
P Adam Podlesh hurt his hamstring chasing down a ball carrier on a punt return.
S Brandon Hardin tried to make a tackle with the top of his head and was carried off the field on a stretcher with a neck injury. He was moving all of his extremities, a great sign, and even gave the fans a thumb's up before being carried off the field.
DE Corey Wootton took a few reps on special teams but never played on defense. After the game, I asked him if he was hurt. He said he tweaked his groin but will be good to go this week.
News and notes from the second preseason game
-Throughout practice this week, DE Israel Idonije was rotating between defensive end on 1st and 2nd down, and defensive tackle in nickel situations. It appears to have rejuvenated the 31-year-old, who had a dominant performance tonight. He picked up 2.5 sacks as well as a forced fumble. He got sacks from both spots and was a beast all evening.
-Idonije's success was likely due to the fact Julius Peppers played almost a quarter and a half. The attention Peppers commands on every play offered Idonije the one-on-one matchups he was able to exploit – something he failed to do last season. Peppers on a couple of occasions fought through a double team to make a play in the backfield. And on a Robert Griffin scramble, Peppers was able to chase down the fleet-footed signal caller, forcing him to throw the ball away.
-Coming into this season, everyone knew Michael Bush would make a good short-yardage running back. Tonight, he demonstrated his ability near the goal line by plunging into the end zone on a one-yard TD to cap off Chicago's first drive of the night. Two series later, he took a middle run from the 8-yard and line and completely juked a defender, then took the rock in for his second score.
Yet Bush also showed well as a pass catcher and a blocker. He made a very nice blitz pickup and snagged a tough swing pass. His all-around game will be very valuable to the offense this year and makes him a competent fill in if Matt Forte gets hurt.
-On the first offensive play of the game, Brandon Marshall lined up wide right. At the snap, Jay Cutler dropped back and found a wide-open Marshall running a fly pattern. Marshall had a good three steps on the defender. The pass was completed for a gain of 41-yards. He then caught a 20-yarder a few plays later, breaking a tackle for extra yards. With Cutler and Marshall back together, the sky is the limit.
-For the second week in a row, Alshon Jeffery led all players in receptions (3) and receiving yards (62). His longest catch was a 34-yard strike that saw Jeffery snatch the ball out of the air and then break a tackle. So far, Jeffery is well ahead of the learning curve and looks like he'll be a significant producer from Day 1.
In addition, Jeffery earned a personal foul penalty for ripping the helmet off DeAngelo Hall. Usually, a 15-yard penalty is not something to brag about. But against a player like Hall – who in the past has resorted to calling Cutler names through the media – it was a welcome sight. Jeffery is a quiet guy but, as he showed tonight, when he gets on the field, he flips a switch and becomes a very aggressive player.
-At left tackle, J'Marcus Webb and Chris Williams split reps well into the fourth quarter. Neither player outshined the other and both played well. Webb was solid in pass protection, after a disappointing outing last week, while Williams looked very comfortable on the left edge. The battle for the starting LT spot rages on.
-At left guard, Chris Spencer once again had a rough outing. He was driven into the backfield early in the game and then missed a blitz pickup. It prompted coordinator Mike Tice to insert Chilo Rachal in Spencer's place. Rachal looked decent for the second week in a row. It now appears he is in the running for the left guard gig.
-Right tackle Gabe Carimi is still having issues in pass protection. His lateral agility has been compromised somewhat by the right knee injury and he struggled all night with Redskins defensive end Adam Carriker. Yet Carimi was strong in the run game. On the goal-line play in the first quarter, Bush ran off-tackle right. Carimi crashed down and wiped out the entire right side of the defensive line, allowing Bush to walk into the end zone. No matter his problems in pass protection, Carimi will always be able to maul in the run game.
-With both Brian Urlacher and Dom DeCicco out due to injury, Blake Costanzo got a big chunk of reps at middle linebacker, including some with the first team. For a player that has never started an NFL game at linebacker, Costanzo was very impressive. He showed great sideline-to-sideline speed and was powerful at the point of attack. He struggles in coverage still but his aggressiveness tonight is something to build on.
-I'm starting to worry about Matt Spaeth. He's supposed to be the club's blocking tight end but he was just horrible in that area tonight. On numerous snaps he was outmuscled and failed to get the job done. For a $2 million backup, Spaeth needs to step up and earn his paycheck.
-Backup defensive tackle Nate Collins had his second straight strong outing. He was explosive off the ball and got good one-gap penetration. His strength and quickness make him a load in the middle and he looks almost unblockable at times. He currently has a stranglehold on the fourth DT position and will continue to earn more reps for as long as he keeps up this high level of play.
-Chris Summers is a big-bodied wideout who shows flashes of considerable potential. He had a couple of opportunities tonight to put points on the board. The first was a corner fade in the back of the end zone that he just couldn't hang onto. The second was a crossing pattern late in the game that he went up and snatched out of the air. He broke a tackle and took off down the field, heading toward the end zone, before being hit by a defender and fumbling. Summers is a raw receiver and has a ways to go before he can be counted on. For now, he looks like a prime candidate for the practice squad.
-In the battle for the sixth receiver spot, Rashied Davis took reps before Dane Sanzenbacher. This could mean the team is leading toward Davis. Yet Davis went out and immediately dropped a pass, something he does well. This battle isn't over but Davis has a slight lead right now.
-Lorenzo Booker returned a kick 105 yards for a touchdown. It was an impressive run where Booker showed shiftiness and speed. He made two very nice cuts then burst through a seam. Despite the team having accomplished returners ahead of him, Booker's skill is undeniable. He has leapfrogged Armando Allen on the running back depth chart already. Another return like tonight's and he'll make a strong argument for a roster spot.
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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.