What We Learned: Raiders vs. Bears

The Chicago Bears dropped a second consecutive preseason contest Saturday at Soldier Field, losing to the Raiders 32-17. What did we learn about Lovie Smith and Co.? Start with these five observations:

1. Cutler is as tough as they come at the quarterback position
Jay Cutler was far from impressive from a box-score perspective Saturday at Soldier Field, completing just 7 of 15 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, although his passer rating of 90.7 was more than acceptable. But what made his performance all the more impressive was the fact that he was running for his life behind a porous offensive line from start to finish, getting sacked five times in two quarters of action and never once dropping back in the pocket and feeling comfortable. The plays that Cutler did make, for the most part they came when he scrambled to buy himself some extra time and allowed his receiver to eventually break open downfield.

The scoring strike to Johnny Knox was the perfect example, as Cutler evaded the Oakland rush, flushed to his left and then floated a pretty pass to the back of the end zone after the secondary lost track of Knox for a split second.

2. The Cover 2 is especially bad when Urlacher isn't special
It is no coincidence that the glory days of Lovie Smith's Cover 2 in Chicago came when Brian Urlacher was at the peak of his career as a middle linebacker, winning the league's Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005 and then earning his sixth Pro Bowl berth in seven seasons in 2006. Smith says the three-technique tackle is the straw that stirs the drink for his 4-3 scheme, but unless he has a middle linebacker capable of covering between the hash marks with the speed of a safety, then slants and crossing patterns are going to be open all day long. The Bears have had a lot of trouble covering those routes in recent years, even when the down-and-distance situation is in their favor, which may have something to do with Urlacher either losing a step or not being on the field due to injury.

Smith and Co. had the Raiders right where they wanted them on the opening drive of the game, backed up in their own end and facing a 3rd and 17, but Jason Campbell hit Michael Bush with a simple pass out of the backfield that went for 24 yards and a first down, and Bush did a lot of his after-the-catch damage right through the middle of the Chicago defense.

3. Forte couldn't have made that touchdown run a year ago
The biggest highlight of the game was delivered by Matt Forte, who electrified Bears backers everywhere with an 89-yard touchdown gallop that was blocked beautifully. But it was more than just the blocking, as Forte found himself with room to roam along the right sideline, yet instead of simply racing as far as he could race, he recognized that the safety had the angle on him and made an aggressive move to the inside. Forte caught the Oakland secondary off guard and did the rest himself, refusing to be caught from behind before reaching paydirt.

RB Matt Forte
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

This is the clearest evidence yet that not only was Forte hurt this past season and operating at perhaps 80 percent of his maximum capacity, but that the third-year pro certainly appears to be back to the form that made him such a sensation as a rookie in 2008.

4. Graham can't seem to work himself out of the doghouse
With Danieal Manning still in the starting lineup at strong safety, even if nobody outside Halas Hall can understand why, Corey Graham got every rep at nickel back with the first-team D all offseason long. The job looked to be Graham's to lose the first week or so of training camp in Bourbonnais, but all of a sudden second-year pro D.J. Moore was seeing some time with the starting unit after failing to make any impact whatsoever in 2009 as a rookie. And then against the Raiders, it was Moore working with the first unit in nickel situations, while Graham was stuck with the second and third stringers after intermission.

It's been acknowledged that Graham was in the coaching staff's dog house a year ago when he originally resisted a move to safety, and even though he has made tenfold the amount of plays Moore has in training camp, it's possible Graham is simply not one of Chicago's favorites and could end up losing this very important job.

5. Williams may not be the next Bears Pro Bowler after all
Despite everyone in the Windy City wondering how the offensive line was going to be any better this year than it was last year, as most of the same personnel returned, the one player Bears fans were told not to worry about was left tackle Chris Williams. However, Williams is the most obvious scapegoat after Saturday's embarrassing performance against the Raiders, with the former first-round pick getting his rear end handed to him by defensive end Kamerion Wimbley. After the tape was reviewed, Williams was responsible for 3.5 of the 5.0 sacks of Cutler, and the fact that he wasn't capable of winning a one-on-one matchup against a middle-of-the-road pass rusher is disturbing so close to Week 1.

Some glass-half-full types were thinking Williams had a chance to be the next Pro Bowler in Chicago because of his pedigree and pass-protection skills, but a betting man would be wise to move that money over to special-teams ace Tim Shaw.

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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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