By Bryan Dietzler
Following the Bears 19-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday, Chicago now sits at 2-1 in the preseason. While preseason records don’t matter at all regarding how things shape up in the regular season, being 2-1 doesn’t feel bad.
The Bears’ game against the Titans was loaded with both good and bad moments. This writer watched the game closely and saw five things that stood out in the game. Some of them are obvious while others may not have been that noticeable. However, every observation is important to how things might shake out during the 2017 regular season.
Cameron Meredith’s Knee Injury and the Rest of the Receivers
Meredith’s injury will have been covered by every major media outlet by the time you read this, but it’s still something that should be talked about. The loss of the Bears number one wide receiver stings but the sting of that loss isn’t so bad if you look at the talent the Bears have. They have two former number one picks at wide receiver in Kendall Wright and Kevin White. They have Markus Wheaton (when he is healthy) and Victor Cruz. There is no shortage of talent at the position. The problem is, can the rest of the receiving corps step up and “turn it up” with Meredith out?
We are seeing that Chicago’s quarterback situation is slowly starting to stabilize. The running game will, again, be one of the best in the league. The defense will be very good if their top players can remain healthy. So that leaves the passing game as the biggest question mark and more questions appeared with the loss of Meredith. While Chicago may not be able to do too much about it this season, they need to spend next offseason shoring up the position. This cannot be a point of weakness on this team past this season.
The Enigma that is Lamarr Houston
I like Lamarr Houston and think that his absence the last couple of seasons with knee injuries has hurt the Bears. But, despite the fact, Pernell McPhee is out Houston still sits on the bubble when it comes to making the roster. If you watched the game, you would have seen that his play was both good and bad. Houston helped and hurt himself Sunday
Houston earned two penalties in the game. He had one for being in the neutral zone at the snap. That penalty came on a fourth down play and gave Tennessee a first down. The other penalty was for being offsides.
His best play of the day came when he had a sack strip of Titan’s quarterback Matt Cassel. That play stopped a potential Titans’ scoring drive and sealed the win for the Bears.
When Houston is “on”, he’s good but he can make mistakes. The Bears will need him, though, with McPhee struggling to stay healthy. Aside from the starters at the outside linebacker position, no one has stood out as a someone who can step up and get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. Houston can. He should make the team despite the fact some feel he could be cut. Should he remain on the roster and stay healthy, he could have a big impact for the Bears in 2017.
The Chicago Bears MASH Unit
Not only did Meredith get injured this Sunday but there were four other key injuries. Long snapper Patrick Scales went down with a knee injury. It appears as if it is a torn ACL and that he might miss the entire 2017 season. To help overcome the loss, the Bears signed long snapper Jeff Overbaugh today to help fill the role left by Scales.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara hurt his ankle early in the game and did not return. Amukamara had been struggling with a hamstring injury just before this game and suffering another setback hurts him. It had been looking like he might be the starter at one of the cornerback spots but now he may not even make the team. Hopefully, this latest injury is not a setback and he will be able to continue with the Bears.
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd left the game with a foot injury that didn’t’ appear to be too serious. His defensive teammate, linebacker Dan Skuta, was going through the concussion protocol and didn’t return. This may hurt his chances of making the team due to the fact he might not be able to play in Thursday night’s preseason game. Sherrick McMannis hurt his hamstring in the game but backup and special teams ace should make the team even if he misses Thursday’s game.
The Worst Defensive Play of the Game
The Bears had the Titans backed up deep and Tennessee had a third down with 31 yards to go. Sounds impossible to get a first down with 31 yards to go, right? Well, not for Tennessee on Sunday and against the Bears’ defense. Quarterback Marcus Mariotta tossed a pass to Taywan Taylor and he blew right through Quintin Demps, Eddie Jackson and Cre’von Leblanc on his way to a 48 yard gain. He was finally dragged down by LeBlanc after carrying him for a few yards.
This blown coverage was scary. Taylor went right past Demps, a seasoned veteran and for Demps that is inexcusable. LeBlanc should have been able to make that tackle right away as he was in a good position. Jackson appeared as if he might have been waiting for the two veterans to make the tackle. What was even more embarrassing was seeing LeBlanc getting dragged by a guy about not too much larger (Taylor is 190 and LeBlanc is 174) than him down the field for what seemed like forever.
What happened reminded me a lot of last year regarding how the secondary played. They gave up big plays which helped the Bears lose games. Let’s hope doesn’t make this a habit in the regular season. The Bears brought in a lot of talent in the secondary and this talent is the best that they have had in a long time. They have to step up and play better because one play like that in any game can cost them a win.
The Bears have to be better than that play. The need to be better than that play.
The Possible Resurrection of Jeremy Langford
Running back Jeremy Langford had started out last season as the Chicago’s number one running back. However, due to an injury and then great play by Jordan Howard, he ended up losing that number one spot. Now, Langford is on the bubble, so to speak, and could get cut. But, perhaps, after having a nice game where he looked solid against the Titans, rushing for 18 yards on five carries, he may be able to carve out a spot and not get cut.
Benny Cunningham has fallen off a bit and Joshua Rounds is not going to make the team. The injury to Ka’Deem Carey will put him on injured reserve and that’s if the Bears keep him. Tarik Cohen is a lock and Howard will be the starter. Langford must, somehow, prove that he can be a vital asset to the team. Special teams might be a way for him to do that but he’s not a proven kick or punt return specialist.
Predicting if Langford will earn a spot on the team is going to be extremely difficult. Keep an eye on his status to see how he lands.