What We Learned: Bears vs. Browns

The Chicago Bears had the franchise's first winless preseason since 1998, and that team finished 4-12. What did we learn about the Bears after a defeat to Cleveland? Start with these five observations:

1. Collins is going to be the No. 2 quarterback behind Cutler
When Mike Martz was hired by the Bears to be their new offensive coordinator, he didn't know anything about third-year pro Caleb Hanie and made no apologies for wanting to have a veteran backup quarterback behind starter Jay Cutler. But Hanie grew on Martz over the course of the offseason program and training camp, and he was on his way to a third straight impressive preseason before an injury to his right shoulder shelved him for the final three games of the exhibition slate. Signed off the street no more than a week and a half ago, 38-year-old Todd Collins was the starter Thursday at Cleveland and performed quite well, completing 10 of 15 passes for 139 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in the first half.

Even if Hanie deserves to be the No. 2, and he does since that was his job last year and he did nothing to lose it aside from getting hurt, Collins is the dictionary definition of the aforementioned "veteran backup" and will probably get the call if something were to happen to Cutler.

2. Gilbert and Melton may have done enough to stick around
Two players with all kinds of of pressure on them entering the 2010 season were second-year pros Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton, both raw defensive linemen taken in Rounds 3 and 4, respectively, of last year's draft. While Gilbert was little more than a game-day inactive as a rookie, Melton got the proverbial redshirt season on injured reserve because of a minor foot problem he suffered. Both of them have been on the bubble all training camp long, but Gilbert responded by recording a sack in each of the last two exhibition contests and Melton was second on the team in tackles against the Browns with seven.

The Bears would likely have to keep 10 defensive linemen in order for both Gilbert and Melton to make the roster, as Anthony Adams, Mark Anderson, Tommie Harris, Marcus Harrison, Israel Idonije, Julius Peppers, Matt Toeaina and Corey Wootton all look to be locks, although it wouldn't be a total shock if either Harrison or Toeaina got pink-slipped.

3. There is room for the tight end in Martz's passing game
Expect Greg Olsen's numbers to take a dip this season, as the 60 receptions, 612 yards and eight touchdowns he racked up in 2009 were all career highs and could be out of reach playing in Martz's tight end-unfriendly system. But if one of those three statistical achievements is in play for 2010, it's probably the TD catches because Olsen is going to be the primary target in the red zone a great deal. Between the 20s, Martz prefers to get the ball in the hands of his backs and receivers since they're more capable of delivering a big play, but Olsen's 6-5 frame makes him an ideal weapon the closer the Bears get to the enemy goal line, and he's still the best on the club when it comes to running a fade route.

CB Cornelius Brown
Justin K. Aller/Getty

Olsen's one grab Thursday at Cleveland resulted in an easy score from 15 yards out when he put the shimmy-shake on a linebacker, and catches like that should become all the more routine with Cutler and his big arm under center instead of the soft-tossing Collins.

4. Defending short and intermediate passes will be a problem
Rumors have been circling throughout Cleveland that rookie QB Colt McCoy might not even make the team despite being a third-round pick, but he certainly helped his cause Thursday by hitting on 13 of 13 passes for 131 yards. Because McCoy's arm strength is below average by every standard of measurement, he did the majority of his damage on short and intermediate throws, buying extra time in the pocket with his quick feet and refusing to take chances down the field. As the Bears have seen throughout the preseason no matter the opponent, that's exactly how to move the ball consistently against this D because the pass rush is far from fearsome and there isn't a lock-down coverage man in the secondary.

Coach Lovie Smith's scheme is designed to make 10- and 12-play drives difficult to manufacture, but right now Chicago is allowing the sticks to be moved too often with low-risk passes that afford run-after-the-catch opportunities.

5. Special teams to be the measure for on-the-bubble players
The Bears played Thursday's game against the Browns with 75 players on their roster, but they only have until Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Central time to whittle down to the league-mandated 53. Most of the decisions were made before the matchup with Cleveland, as it would be foolish to let a meaningless affair between second and third stringers carry too much weight, but on-the-bubble players did their best to put as many quality plays on tape as possible. When it comes down to those last two or three spots, the ability to contribute on special teams makes all the difference since they probably won't play much on offense or defense anyway.

While Garrett Wolfe will surely never be as good of a tailback as Juaquin Iglesias is as a receiver, Wolfe has a better chance of keeping his locker at Halas Hall because of his value on the coverage units – Iglesias, despite his talent, has never carved out a special-teams role for himself.

Agree? Disagree? Let your voice be heard on our message board RIGHT HERE.

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.

Bear Report Top Stories