Sunday, August 19, 2012

Preseason Week 2 @ Chicago

The team, particularly the starters, looked a bit shakier this game, though there was some good as well. Notes below.

-Offensive line looked slightly better in the run game; it wasn't a great showing, but on certain plays they opened up good holes for Morris or Royster. On the other hand, in pass protection, they looked weaker this game, and RG3 had to do a lot of scrambling, and was still sacked 3 times. The weakest link was clearly Tyler Polombus at RT, who was routinely beaten by Israel Idonije (2.5 sacks, 1 FF).

-On the fumble, Trent Williams and Maurice Hurt doubled Julius Peppers on the weak side. Tight end Niles Paul released up field leaving Major Wright, who was sitting on the line of scrimmage, a free blitz at the quarterback. RG3 scrambled up past him, but Idonije, who was being single-teamed by Fred Davis on the other side, had gotten free by then and hit Griffin from behind. There were a lot of protection issues on that play. I have no idea why an obvious blitzer was allowed to run free. It looked like Chris Cooley was supposed to be helping Davis with Idonije, but barely got a chip on his outside shoulder as he got into Davis. Later in the play, Hurt seemed to switch in and help on a defensive tackle, and Williams let Peppers go, who ended up recovering the fumble. It was a terrible mess coming out of a 3-TE set.

-Brandon Banks did very well as a returner. Chicago has a top-notch coverage unit, but he still had multiple good returns, including a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown. He didn't get used much on offense this game, but I can't see the team cutting him. There was a Post article this past week saying that his showing in game 1 wasn't great, and blaming him for some of the missed opportunities, claiming he didn't get good separation and slipped on a would-be reception. I couldn't disagree with them more, as I said last week, as I think he looked very sharp and was hamstrung by Grossman's inaccurate throws.

-Aldrick Robinson was very elusive on a catch-and-run for a touchdown, but otherwise didn't look very impressive. I'd like to see him on the practice squad for another season. 

-We're going to have secondary problems this season.

-Cedric Griffin was getting beaten quite a lot again. He has been unimpressive at corner from everything I've seen.

-Richard Crawford, on the other hand, had an outstanding game. The 7th round pick was good in coverage and frequently had his name called as he made plays. Almost snatched a great interception but couldn't quite hold on. Based on what I've seen, I wouldn't be against him as our 4th or even 3rd corner; I haven't seen much from Barnes and Griffin has looked bad, which leaves him and Brandyn Thompson.

-Alfred Morris got an extended look with the starters, pretty much confirming my thoughts from last weak. Runs very hard, but a bit of a plodder. Will fall forward, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him get some short-yardage work, but I wouldn't expect significant work running the ball from him without a lot of injuries. Then again, no one knows what's going to happen with a Shanahan running game.

-While he wasn't making huge plays, I consistently found myself noticing Keenan Robinson in positive ways. Really looks explosive.

-Perry Riley showed some good and bad. He seems to be a really talented blitzer, rushing hard and timing his blitzes very well to slip through holes in protection. On the other hand, Michael Bush juked him out of his cleats on a touchdown run.

-Lorenzo Booker broke the ankles of half of our kickoff coverage unit to open the second half. On Eric Weems' earlier good return, it was mostly due to the Bears' blockers executing well and leaving him a little room, but on Booker's return, guys beat their blockers, got in place, and had him surrounded, they just couldn't execute a tackle, and he beat us for a 105-yard touchdown.

-Dezmon Briscoe had a couple nice plays after a very quiet week 1. He produced well for Tampa Bay last season, so I was interested when we picked him up. In particular, he had one good catch on a quick slant throw from Kirk Cousins.

-Kirk Cousins, on that note, was spectacular. He showed some decent athleticism, and great poise and accuracy on 18/23 for 264 yards and 3 touchdown passes as he narrowly missed a great comeback thanks to a 57-yard Robbie Gould field goal. Grossman didn't play, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Cousins take the backup spot from him.

-Adam Gettis got some good push at RG on some plays. When he has a clear guy right in front of him, he latches on and drives hard. He also got beaten a couple times due to bad positioning, though, which is bad for a zone-blocking lineman. It looks like his technique needs some work, but I still think he shows some promise.

-Maurice Hurt impressed me some on the other side. He wasn't particularly good, but was better than I expected and could potentially have some long-term promise as well, which is all you can ask from a 7th round sophomore. I'm still hoping Kory Lichtensteiger will be ready for the regular season, certainly.

-Lorenzo Alexander made some impressive plays, and between him, Riley, Robinson, and Brian Kehl, who also had a nice play or two, I'm feeling better about Fletcher's inevitable retirement in the long term, and pleased with our inside linebacking group in the short term.

-Our outside group, as I said last week, is also in a good position, but we lost Orakpo on an open-field tackle attempt early in the game to a shoulder injury. He didn't come back, but it isn't thought to be too bad right now. We also lost Merriweather to a knee injury.

-Niles Paul looked a lot better than last week, and made some good plays. He's been getting a lot of work in the pre-season; I think the Shanahan's are committed to finding him a niche somewhere to keep him around. He still had problems with his hands, though, and will definitely need to work on consistently holding onto the ball.

-RG3 this game looked pretty good, though he had a few shaky throws. The poor pass protection he received is obviously a concern and shook his poise a little bit, leading to a couple mediocre throws, but it did allow the opportunity for him to showcase his electrifying athleticism on a few scrambles (3 rushes, 17 yards). The offense was a little more open this game than last. I'll be interested to see next week.

-All in all, our backups looked pretty good this game, but the starters were shaky. I think on offense, the line is holding us back significantly. Since there isn't presently much drop-off between our starting and second-string linemen, when the rest of the backups come in and that gap closes, it allows our offense to fall into sync much better. The starting group, however, couldn't deal with the Bears starting defensive line, which screwed up all the timing of the offense as a whole.

-The defensive equivalent is no doubt our secondary. Cutler excelled because our defensive backs gave him outlets too quickly when our pass rushers were doing their jobs. Wilson was okay, and Crawford was impressive, but Hall didn't look very good, Griffin was bad, and none of our safeties were impressive in coverage (though there was some work in run support that was good). This will likely be an issue all season.

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