Commentary

Bears see no need for preseason panic

But two losses pinpoint some areas of concern on offense, defense and special teams

Updated: August 30, 2010, 1:17 PM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Apparently, it wasn't just the majority of those watching the Bears on Saturday night -- for remuneration or otherwise -- who tuned out before the game was over.

Lance Briggs was in the middle of making the argument that even in the preseason, there's professional pride at stake, when he blanked out on one detail.

[+] EnlargeRashied Davis
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesRashied Davis is confident in the Bears' special teams capabilities.

"You want to look good your first game at home, preseason or regular season," he said, "and you get beat by 27 or whatever it was ... it was 27, right?"

Trouble was, no one in Monday's media huddle could come up with the correct answer right away, either.

Upon further examination, the Bears lost 32-17 to the Raiders on Saturday and have been outscored 57-27 in two preseason games. But they are not panicking. And frankly, some of them are befuddled over why anyone would be.

"What is everyone worried about? Please tell me," said Bears receiver and special teamer Rashied Davis.

I figured special teams was a decent enough place to start.

"What was glaring with the first team other than [Desmond Clark] long-snapping for the first time?" Davis asked, beating me to the punch.

Assuming Patrick Mannelly will be back from his neck stinger and ready for the season opener, Clark's three botched snaps served only to demonstrate how valuable Mannelly is. But then, we knew that already.

But Davis was on a roll, in defense of a unit that was ranked sixth in the league last season according to a system devised by The Dallas Morning News.

"We gave up one decent return with a new guy playing a new position in the middle," he said. "Other than that, our coverage teams were faster. We got down the field. We didn't give up anything on punts, even though we had Dez snapping for the first time. ... Kickoff coverage was pretty solid other than one big play. ... We were one block away from scoring on three returns, two for sure and one maybe. Eventually we're going to score. It's preseason. We don't worry about these things."

Frankly, it's hard to spend much time worrying about special teams when you consider the early shortcomings on offense and defense.

The offensive line is a legitimate source of concern, preseason or not. Particularly when a first-round draft pick the Bears had so much faith in allowed 3.5 sacks -- one when the Raiders were rushing just three linemen.

Can they move the aforementioned Chris Williams back to right tackle? Sure, but then what?

Williams is sticking to the premise that there is plenty of time left before the season. And to a certain extent, Olin Kreutz backed him up.

[+] EnlargeOlin Kreutz
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireOlin Kreutz and the offensive line know they need to improve on Saturday's five-sack performance.

"Preseason is an important part of being ready, especially when you're installing a new offense, and people have to understand that, and obviously there's going to be learning and growing pains," Kreutz said.

But when it's Kamerion Wimbley, who had 6.5 sacks last season, manhandling Williams, it's hard to see how more coaching in the next three weeks is going to be enough to keep Jay Cutler from being bounced on his head.

Kreutz acknowledged that they're concerned, and well they should be despite one of the few offensive highlights, Matt Forte's 89-yard run, made possible by blocks from the veteran center and tight end Kellen Davis.

But Kreutz was not going to let the positive buzz be killed by the likes of us worrywarts.

"I think we're going to have a guy who's going to end up being the best quarterback in the NFL," he said, ticking off the reasons not to panic. "I think we're going to have one of the best running backs in the NFL. I think we have a great tight end, good receivers with Johnny Knox and the others. We have a lot of things to be excited about but ... we need to improve on [not] getting the quarterback hit because all that stuff won't work unless we stand up up front."

Defensively, it's going to take more than Julius Peppers. Danieal Manning continues to look positively lost at safety, and most of the optimism Monday was generated by the fact that Brian Urlacher was not seriously hurt after leaving the game Saturday with a calf injury and missing practice Monday.

"We saw some good things, saw some bad things," said Briggs, not trying too hard to gloss over the harsh realities. "Some [players showed improvement]; some didn't. You want to continue to progress, but sometimes you don't progress as far as you want to."

There was no excuse for the Raiders converting a third-and-17 on the first series, Briggs said. The Bears also failed to stop a third-and-9 in the second quarter, which also led to Raiders points, and just as troubling was how vulnerable the Bears' secondary looked on screen passes.

"Those were really plays we typically play very well," Israel Idonije said. "An error here, something there, that's the game of football. Everyone has to do their job consistently, and if they don't, something can happen."

If they don't, a lot can happen, and none of it good.

Panicking?

Nah, we'll wait until the all-important third preseason game for that.

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.