What We Learned Thursday

The Midway Monsters finished the exhibition schedule 3-1 after a 19-9 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, and BearReport.com came away from Soldier Field with five important observations.

1. The preseason is way too long
I talked to a few players in the locker room after Thursday night's game, and every one of them agreed that four preseason games is too many. The final preseason contest is pretty much a waste of time since the entire second half is usually being played by third- and fourth-stringers that don't have a chance to make the team. Two exhibition games would be plenty, especially when you consider that college football has no such luxury and laces it up for real pretty much right away.

The biggest hurdle is the fact that 16 regular season games is a perfect number in a 32-team league, and the NFL is making way too much money to sacrifice two preseason dates unless it also means adding two regular season dates to keep the books overwhelmingly in the black.

2. Manning looks to be more athlete than football player
If the Bears decided to hold a decathlon at Halas Hall, my money would be on second-year defensive back Danieal Manning to win the gold medal. Not only is he strong enough to lay the lumber in run support, but he might also be the fastest player on the roster in terms of straight-line speed – even Bernard Berrian admits to that. But from a football standpoint, Manning misses his share of tackles and is out of position in coverage way too often, which could be why the organization jumped at the opportunity to land Adam Archuleta from the Redskins.

Manning received a lot of time at cornerback during training camp in addition to his work at safety, but he looks to be a full-time safety once again since seventh-round rookie corner Trumaine McBride clearly outplayed him.

3. Some pretty good players will be set free
When the Bears cut down to 53 players on Saturday, many casualties will wave goodbye to Chicago despite the fact that they can certainly play in the NFL. This is arguably the deepest team in the league on both sides of the ball, so the likes of David Ball and Darrell McClover will probably be available simply because there was no room for them in the Windy City. Even Leon Joe, who was let go last week despite being active for Super Bowl XLI, was quickly signed by Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay.

 WR David Ball (Nam Y. Huh/AP Images)

The Bears will try to stash some of their excess talent on the practice squad, but even one or two of them could get snatched away – just like tailback P.J. Pope a year ago.

4. Great college QBs don't always make great NFL QBs
Believe it or not, both fourth-string quarterbacks in Thursday night's preseason game won national championships in college. Chris Leak of the Bears led his Florida Gators to the title just this past season, and Ken Dorsey of the Browns brought his Miami Hurricanes to the promised land back in 2001. But while they both had stellar collegiate careers and will go down in history as legends at their respective alma maters, Dorsey has been a journeyman at best on Sundays, and Leak did not look like an NFL signal-caller in training camp as an undrafted free agent.

Neither has the kind of arm strength that is necessary to succeed at this level, so Leak and Dorsey will most likely have something else in common very soon – unemployment.

5. The 2007 Bears are better than the 2006 Bears on paper
Offensively, Rex Grossman finally has a full season of starting under center, the receiving corps features five quality targets, rookie tight end Greg Olsen is the real deal, the offensive line remains intact, and everyone has another year of experience in the system. As for the defense, Darwin Walker is an upgrade over Tank Johnson, Mark Anderson looks noticeably stronger than a year ago, Lance Briggs is on a mission, both corners are inked for the long term, and Mike Brown is back at his original free safety position. The special teams look to be as good as ever, and this Super-Bowl-champions-or-bust attitude could serve the team quite well.

The schedule is tougher and they won't have the luxury of sneaking up on teams anymore, but the starting lineup on both sides of the ball come Week 1 at San Diego will be superior to the one that lost to the Colts this past February.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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