Tonight’s action featured starters that played a full quarter, a defense that is still a work in progress, strong play from the backup running backs, stellar pass protection and much more.
We’re now halfway through the preseason, the point at which some players begin to separate themselves from the competition, while others fall back into the pack.
With that in mind, here are the Bears studs and duds from this evening’s contest.
The transformation of McManis is nearly complete. He was a borderline liability in coverage last season, yet this year he’s been outstanding on defense. McManis had a strong training camp and followed that up with an interception in the first preseason game. Tonight, he led the team in tackles (5) and had a solid PBU that broke up a potential touchdown pass. McManis also had a big hit on special teams. He’s a versatile, improving 26-year-old who will give the Bears great depth at the cornerback position.
With his performance tonight, Draughn has solidified his spot as the club’s No. 2 running back. He showed good burst between the tackles and made two very difficult grabs as a receiver out of the backfield. Draughn averaged 11 yards per carry and showed tonight he’s the best backup option on Chicago’s roster.
Carey wasn’t overly impressive but he did lead the team with 36 rushing yards and a score. He looked good in pass protection as well, which is a great sign for the rookie. Most notable was two plays during a 10-play drive in the third quarter. On 3rd and short, Carey bounced a play outside for the first down, and on 3rd and goal from the 1-yard line, he lowered the boom on a would-be tackler and found pay dirt. If Carey can consistently produce in short-yardage situations, he’ll have serious value for the Bears this year.
Morgan caught three passes and led all players with 41 receiving yards. On his last catch, he elevated for a high pass and held onto the ball after having his legs cut out from underneath him. Morgan is the best option to replace Marquess Wilson as the club’s short-term No. 3 wideout and he proved that tonight.
Everybody had forgotten about Washington, last year’s sixth-round pick who is buried on the depth chart, until his standout performance this evening. Working with the third team, Washington was dominant. He was nearly unblockable against the run, picking up two tackles, one for a loss. No player has truly stepped up to claim the club’s No. 5 DE role, so Washington’s performance tonight surely elevated him back into that conversation.
Bellamy actually looked decent as a pass catcher but he only pulled in two of five targets. Additionally, he ran his mouth to the point his teammate, guard Kyle Long, had to yank him back in the huddle. Later, Bellamy put the ball on the ground after a catch. If he can’t show more focus on the field, Bellamy’s bid for a roster spot will go for naught.
Eric Weems struggled as a kick returner tonight, which opened the door for Spurlock, who then looked even worse. He returned three punts for seven total yards, one kick for 19 yards and muffed a punt. Tonight was Spurlock’s chance to claim a roster spot and he turned down the opportunity.
Throughout his career, Miller has been unable to stay healthy. After a breakout performance last week in which he caught two touchdowns, Miller was on the field just a handful of plays against Jacksonville before a foot injury ended his night. He was carted off the field, which is never a good sign. If Miller can’t stay on the field, he’ll prove too unreliable for a place on the final 53-man roster.
Paea picked up half a sack but beyond that, he had a rough night. He struggled to hold his ground at the point of attack and was far too easily moved by the Jaguars’ offensive line. If Paea can’t anchor at nose tackle, Chicago’s run defense will struggle mightily for the second year in a row.
Wilson didn’t have any glaring mistakes but it became obvious tonight that he just can’t move well enough to play in the NFL. He was worth a look but Wilson’s lack of speed, burst and quickness would make him a liability in coverage if kept on the roster. He may be a force in the box but Wilson could drag down the secondary if called into duty.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.