The first-team offense played all of the first quarter and was shut down on its opening drive, going three-and-out. In fairness, the offense was missing starters Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte, along with rookie receiver Kevin White.
“For the first game, the first time they’ve ever executed the offense in a game, not bad,” head coach John Fox said. “Too many penalties. It took us a minute to get rolling. I think we had one good drive in there with the first group.”
After a rough opening drive for the first-team defense, which resulted in an 84-yard touchdown drive for the Dolphins, the unit settled in nicely with four total turnovers and only 10 points allowed.
The story of the night was the high level of production from the team’s large running back group, headlined by Senorise Perry who had a huge 54-yard touchdown run and 89 yards overall, on top of his 42-yard kickoff return. Ka’Deem Carey also had a strong outing with 48 total yards and a touchdown.
Jay Cutler played two drives and finished 4 of 7 for 42 yards. Backup Jimmy Clausen played two and a half quarters and went 17 of 27 for 151 yards and looked sharp overall. Rookie Shane Carden saw action on the last two drives but did not throw a pass.
The offensive line gave up just one sack but struggled at times, especially right tackle Jordan Mills, who opened up the first offensive series with a false start and, later in the contest, would have given up the only sack of the night if not for offsetting penalties. Rookie Hroniss Grasu had an up-and-down game but has shown once again, that size and overall strength is not one of his strong suites.
Eddie Royal (two catches for 19 yards) was Cutler’s main target with both Jeffery and White not playing, while Marquess Wilson made a minimal impact with a single 6-yard catch. Cutler and Royal had a miscommunication on a deep throw in the second drive as Royal cut to the sideline and Cutler went for the homerun. Cameron Meredith had the best game out of receiver, catching four passes for 47 yards, but had a drop.
Overall, offensive coordinator Adam Gase ran about as vanilla an offense as one could expect keeping the majority of routes short and basic, with runs mostly between the tackles.
The defense had multiple standouts, including very good linebacker play and some promise from a transitioning defensive line, starting with rookie Eddie Goldman.
The defense forced four turnovers, including an impressive interception by undrafted rookie John Timu that was the turning point in a 17-point victory.
Ego Ferguson, Jeremiah Ratliff and Jarvis Jenkins opened up as the team’s starting front three but judging from the performance of Goldman and Ferguson, look for Ratliff to slide out to defensive end and Goldman to take the majority of snaps with the first team moving forward. Cornelius Washington and Terry Williams also impacted the game, especially in the run game, while Washington’s back-side pressure led to a Sam Acho interception.
Linebackers were the defensive story of the night. Starters Shea McClellin and Christian Jones had solid showings, particularly on the goal line, where Jones’s strong run fill saved a touchdown. Third-team linebackers Jonathan Anderson and John Timu kept constant pressure on the quarterback, with Timu’s highlight-reel interception the play of the night.
Outside linebackers once again showed their overall depth tonight, even without the presence of Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. Pernell McPhee made his debut tonight along with an impressive opener from Sam Acho, who had a sack, an interception and two tackles. Jared Allen lined up in coverage in the first series and looked surprisingly at home in his short time on the field, nearly intercepting a screen pass.
Cornerback Sherrick McManis was the standout player of the night with a forced fumble, four tackles and a pass break up. McManis also played the run very well and had a tackle for a loss. Kyle Fuller also racked up four tackles but struggled in coverage, allowing three passes in the opening drive. Alan Ball had a pass break up in the end zone, while undrafted rookie Quamain Black struggled in the final quarter. Brock Vereen may have had the toughest night on the field as he missed two tackles and was late in man coverage allowing the Dolphins’ only touchdown.
Overall, the special teams unit looked night-and-day better from last year. Outside of the final punt return of the game that resulted in a large play, the coverage units played excellent, with help from second-year punter Pat O’Donnell, who had a mammoth 60-yarder and pinned two inside the twenty. Kicker Robbie Gould went three-for-three in field goal attempts, including a 48-yarder and was successful on his only extra point try of the night.
The start of the game was rocky for both sides but after a big defensive stop in the second series, the Bears quickly found their rhythm and controlled most of the game. The biggest concern moving forward will be the 15 penalties they racked up over the course of the game. Although the starters didn’t play much tonight, expect to see them play close to an entire half this upcoming week against the Indianapolis Colts, next Saturday.
Aaron Leming has years of salary cap knowledge and has written for Rant Sports, Bears Draft On Tap, and Cover 32. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report.