When Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler, Aaron Kromer and pretty much everybody who matters for the Bears talked about the importance of calling plays, lining up correctly, avoiding pre-snap penalties, etc., as the priorities for preseason Game 1, most of you smirked and demanded more.
Unfortunately, though, this is a process. Those were very important issues and, for the most part, the team got them all right. Now, what’s next?
The Bears’ goal for preseason Game 2 is improvement in as many areas as possible.
They won’t talk about winning, losing or stats until Game 3 in Oakland next week. This week, the Bears need to see a lot of young players get better, the Bears need to see some veterans for the first time and they need to see production on the first couple of offensive possessions.
Asked Tuesday where he thinks the offense is, Jay Cutler reminded us that “It’s a brand new offense. We’ve got a bunch of new guys. There are just too many variables to say where we should be or where we could be right now. We just have to go a day at a time and get better.”
Much as he was in preparation for Week 1, Cutler is right. But how will we measure that improvement? Cutler needs to lead at least one sustained drive by converting a few third downs and possibly even putting the ball in the end zone.
Trestman is excited to get work for a few more players.
“One thing that’ll be different,” he said, “is we hope to see Brandon Marshall get some work with the first offense.”
He also hopes to see defensive ends Corey Wootton and Julius Peppers, who weren’t available last week. Their status is still uncertain.
It will also be very surprising if we don’t see a little more of running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush or minimally a much more even balance of running and passing than last week, when the Bears threw more than 70 percent of the time.
Most importantly, though, the Bears need to see a significant step forward by the offensive line. Another seven-sack performance would be cause for serious concern.
On Sunday, when Trestman talked about elevating Kyle Long and Jordan Mills to the first team in practice, he said it didn’t mean they would both start Thursday. After practice Tuesday, it seemed clear they would.
Mills is clear on what he thinks his biggest challenge is.
“I have to learn to be more patient,” he said. “Coming from college, all you want to do is thrash everybody. But you just can’t do that at this level. I have to be patient, learn my reads and let the game come to me.”
It is unclear whether Mills is getting this opportunity because he’s earned it or because J’Marcus Webb has struggled as badly as he has, but offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer made it crystal clear what Webb has to do against San Diego.
“J’Marcus needs reps at left tackle and needs to prove he can be versatile to be one of our final eight,” Kromer said.
If Webb struggles at left tackle against the Chargers, he could very well be done in Chicago.
Of his two rookies, Kromer says, “Mills and Long both have a lot of natural ability, but they need more experience. Both need reps. They each had 51 reps last week, the most on the offensive line, and they’ll get more against the Chargers.”
Eben Britton at right tackle and James Brown at left guard with the second team also bear serious watching. Until he was forced to step in at left tackle, and struggled in Carolina, Britton had been the most interesting development in camp. A strong performance vs. the Chargers will make him a real threat to take that spot from Mills and Webb.
Brown is probably the only offensive lineman besides Long, Roberto Garza and Jermon Bushrod who is guaranteed a roster spot – no I’m not forgetting Matt Slauson – but he needs to establish his ideal spot if he’s going to start.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.