What We Learned: Bears vs. Chargers

The Chicago Bears dropped their preseason opener Saturday in San Diego, losing to the Chargers 25-10. What did we learn about Lovie Smith and Co.? Start with these five observations:

1. The running backs need holes to run through up front
It's easy to blame the running backs for their lackluster showing in the preseason opener Saturday, as Matt Forte, Chester Taylor, Kahlil Bell and Garrett Wolfe combined to rush for just 32 yards on 17 attempts, but there weren't a lot of gaping holes to run through provided by the offensive line. While quarterback Jay Cutler and center Olin Kreutz were only on the field for the first possession, the other starters were out there for the entire first half. Tackles Chris Williams and Frank Omiyale did a pretty good job keeping pressure off the edge at bay, but guards Roberto Garza and Lance Louis had a tough night and replacement center Josh Beekman was positively dreadful.

The ball carriers do deserve some of the blame, though, especially in pass protection because none of them blocked very well when the Chargers threw some of their blitz packages at Cutler, No. 2 Caleb Hanie and No. 3 Dan LeFevour.

2. Peppers isn't going to ramp up the pass rush by himself
Cutler, Hanie and LeFevour all operated under duress the majority of the evening, but that was not the case for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. For the most part, he was able to sit back in the pocket and look for open receivers comfortably, which he did in completing 4 of 6 passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. Julius Peppers said after the game Saturday that he was a bit frustrated and didn't get a chance to do much from a pass-rushing perspective because San Diego lined up in the shotgun a lot and got rid of the ball in a hurry, meaning he was hardly noticed.

Peppers only appeared to be in the vicinity of the passer on two occasions, and that was when San Diego was throwing a screen pass to his side and allowed him to get a little deeper in the backfield to clear that area of the field.

3. Aromashodu is the receiver you want on your fantasy team
If there is one bright spot the Bears can take away from Saturday's exhibition contest, it's that Devin Aromashodu looks to be the real deal and can indeed build upon the success he experienced toward the end of last season. The 6-2, 200-pounder was targeted early and often by Hanie, reeling in four passes for 78 yards and Chicago's lone touchdown of the contest. Not only was he able to use his size to shield the defender in the end zone on his 7-yard scoring catch, but he also showed his speed on a short slant pass and exploded through the secondary for a 47-yard gain.


S Al Afalava
Stephen Dunn/Getty

Devin Hester and Johnny Knox may be the starters, and they have done nothing to lose their jobs atop the depth chart, but the flexibility Aromashodu has to play all three wideout positions and the way he provides a big target in the red zone makes him a good bet to be the best Bears receiver in fantasy this year.

4. Both of the safety positions are still a major concern on D
The Monsters of the Midway were a bit short-handed at safety by the opening kickoff, with neither Danieal Manning nor Josh Bullocks healthy enough to go Saturday. Then Craig Steltz got hurt in the first frame and rookie Major Wright exited the game in the second stanza, which resulted in extra playing time for second-year pro Al Afalava and rookie free agent Quentin Scott in the second half against the Chargers. Even worse, Chris Harris reminded Bears fans that has never been effective in coverage when he reacted late to a Legedu Naanee streak down the right sideline that became a 28-yard TD pass from Rivers.

Fortunately, Wright was playing great before being forced to leave with a finger injury, so assuming it's minor and he'll be back to normal quickly, he needs to be out there as much as possible and save what has been a struggling unit for years.

5. LeFevour was a waste of a draft pick this past April
Hanie came out of nowhere as an undrafted free agent in 2008 to have a sensational preseason, forcing himself onto the 53-man roster and eventually developing into what the coaching staff believes is a capable backup behind Cutler. LeFevour, on the other hand, looked completely overmatched in his professional debut by connecting on only 2 of 10 passes for 21 yards and being sacked three times. Moreover, he just about got a few of his receivers killed by delivering the ball high and late and with very little steam behind it, which is something he could get away with in the MAC but simply won't fly in the pros.

The Bears didn't need a QB in April's draft and, therefore, shouldn't have taken one, regardless of the supposed value LeFevour represented in Round 6 – not once during rookie minicamp, veteran minicamp, OTAs, training camp or the preseason opener has he resembled an NFL passer.


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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter 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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