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Across The Middle: Preseason Week Four

| August 31st, 2016

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Admin Note: the five things I wish the Bears had columns will return Thursday & Friday.

John Fox made it very clear: Preseason games are just more practice and should be evaluated and valued as such. So why won’t people listen?

Like most people, I’m sure, my Twitter timeline was full of people freaking out over how the Bears were practicing on Saturday. Fox told the world before the game that it wasn’t crucial.

“It’s not the season. They call it preseason for a reason, it’s to evaluate, put your players in positions, take a look at players,” Fox said last week before the game. “We put a lot of stock in practice as well.”

After the game, his attitude was the same saying “we got a chance to look at some young guys and make some evaluations. That’s what preseason is for.” He later referenced preseason as “practice games” and spoke multiple times about playing players in different positions.

If you think it’s just coach speak, consider Fox is one of the most secretive coaches in the league. He won’t even acknowledge who is going to start for his team. There’s no way he’s going to give opponents something to look at before the regular season begins.

So, why exactly are people freaking out?

I’m not just talking about fans. The Trib has some seemingly intelligent guys, so why are they acting like the sky is falling? Better question: Why wasn’t the outlook sunny after the New England game? Are preseason games only important if the Bears struggle? Is that subjective reporting?

Calling the third preseason game a “dress rehearsal” has become just media talk. There are some coaches who take it more seriously than others — seriously, Andy Reid challenged a play — but the Bears’ coach isn’t one of them.  It’s OK to accept it and move on.

When the teams played for real a year ago, Alex Smith couldn’t do jack and the Bears won.

Patience with White

I get why people are frustrated with Kevin White. He makes himself an easy target with the drops and he looks like he’s lost confidence. Now, the Bears need to build him back up so he’s ready to go in the regular season.

Jay Cutler was frank when talking about White, saying he told him they “can’t have repeat mistakes.” He went on to say the Bears are mostly limiting him to running routes 15 yards and closer because they know what he can do going deep. It seems like a safe bet that allowing him to play to his strengths will lead to more production.

He’s raw and it’s going to take him time, that should be expected. I also expect him to explode over the last eight games of this season.

Braverman Could Be Cut

There seems to be a large contingent of Bears fans who don’t think there’s any chance Daniel Braverman gets cut, but it’s hard to see how he’ll make the team.

Braverman has been quiet in preseason, which isn’t a surprise given the team’s quarterback play. His camp performance was always overrated, something even Dowell Loggains pointed out when he said “He just has to understand to continue to grow and get open in the timing of the play and not just when the route’s at 10 (yards), break it off at six — but he’s open.”

Consider this: The Bears have had seven different receivers get reps with the starters this training camp and preseason. Braverman wasn’t one of them. He’s currently listed last on the depth chart, behind Cameron Meredith while B.J. Daniels is listed as the fourth string with the other group of receivers. Daniels was their starting kick and punt returner with Deonte Thompson being out against Kansas City. That special teams ability would seem to give Daniels the edge over Braverman and even Daniels is a long shot to make the team.

The only debate is if the Bears should cut a draft pick, which isn’t something they want to do. But do you keep a third string slot receiver over a core special teams player like Bellamy? Or over someone with a considerably higher ceiling like Meredith? Or an explosive kick returner like Thompson? I think I’d have to answer no in all three cases.

As for what comes next, I think there’s a very good chance the Bears could keep him on the practice squad. No team in the league thought he was worth more than a seventh-round pick and, if they were to claim him, they’d have to give up a roster spot for him. Just seems unlikely.

Hoyer Looks Bad Because He Is Bad, But…

Remember how bad Josh McCown looked in 2013?

Hoyer isn’t going to look good in preseason. At least not on a team that lacks depth along the offensive line because the dude can’t move.

If this is your first time evaluating Hoyer, I get the frustration. The Bears know who he is because they’ve seen him before and Loggains has coached him before. If everything around him is perfect, he’ll be fine. If it isn’t, he’ll struggle.

There’s no denying Hoyer has been bad, just like McCown was bad in 2013 when he had a passer rating of 44.9 in the preseason. When McCown got in during the regular season and everything around him was clicking, he was fine.

From The Chart

• The Bears’ biggest issue against Kansas City was their offensive line, specifically Edison and Larsen.

I credited Edison with one win and five losses and Larsen with two wins and five losses — all other plays were graded as neutral because it wasn’t clear who “won” or “lost”. The good news for the Bears was their tackle play was pretty good as Bobby Massie and Charles Leno combined to go 13-3, while Whitehair was 4-2.

While I think my charting accurately captured how each played, charting the offensive line is tough and damn near impossible to do accurately. Take the first sack of Cutler, for example. The Bears ended up with Whitehair, Edison and Larsen blocking one guy, two guys had a free run at Langford. Who messed up? Only the coaches and the players know.

• I graded Cutler with three inaccurate passes in the game. He had another batted, two were thrown away and three were dropped. But, guys at the Trib will tell you he was inaccurate because of his completion percentage.

• Ka’Deem Carey had a couple nice blocks and a nice run after the catch, gaining five yards after breaking a tackle. The more I see him, the more I wonder if Jacquizz Rodgers really needs to be on the team.

• I had Tony Moeaki with another bad run, putting him at 3.5 on the team, which would lead the team, but I had Edison with four Saturday alone.

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