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Across The Middle: Preseason Week Three

| August 24th, 2016

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Dennis Green: “Who the hell takes the third game in the preseason like it’s bullshit?”

Me: Raises hand.

I used to believe we could get something meaningful from the third preseason game. There are dozens of reasons why that’s wrong, but the strongest was one I realized just a month ago. It doesn’t mean anything to the players who aren’t fighting for jobs or coaches.

I challenge anyone to watch a regular season game, follow it with the third preseason game and try to tell me there isn’t a significant difference in the product. I did just that a month ago, choosing to re-watch the Bears’ third preseason game against the Bengals last year. It’s just a different game.

This is true for many of the same reasons why none of the preseason games matter. Maybe there’s more game-planning in the third preseason game. Maybe teams do a bit more schematically. Maybe. But it isn’t a lot and whatever it is they do isn’t done with the same urgency as the regular season simply because it doesn’t have to be.

The Bears have most of their starters figured out already. They know what they’re doing schematically. The practice and simulation of a game-like atmosphere should help them. But this is preseason. The coach won’t lose his job, neither will the starters. It’s a practice and should be treated as such.

Langford Has The Goods

Mike Clay is going to look really stupid for continuing to tell us how bad Jeremy Langford is.

Forget the long run and the touchdown, I’ll get to those later. His second run of the night, he showed patience, waiting for Cody Whitehair to pull before getting right behind the rookie guard, slipping through a small hole and gaining three yards. My favorite run was one that didn’t even count because Cam Meredith — a guy who wouldn’t usually be on the field — was called for a holding penalty.

He just had a handful of really nice, professional runs. He showed vision, burst and the ability to break tackles — my biggest concern about him going into the season.

Right Side of the Line Can Overwhelm

In two plays, Langford gained 39 yards without being touched.

The 34-yard run wasn’t completely because of the offensive line, but seeing Whitehair and Long get to the second level, while Leno executed a seal block, Massie handled his man and Larsen did just enough was beautiful. After that, Langford helped himself by making a great cut and Alshon Jeffery had a nice block to make it a huge play. Langford took the handoff at the 43-yard line and didn’t get touched until he was at the seven.

The touchdown run was a pure butt-kicking by Long and Massie.

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The Bears aren’t going to be a great pass-blocking line, but if they can dominate the ground game, they won’t need to be.

Drops Will Happen

My Twitter feed was full of people worried about Kevin White’s drop. Relax.

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but great receivers drop passes. Almost all of them do. Even the guys you think have great hands drop passes. Guys like Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson, Wes Welker and Julio Jones drop a ton of passes. Right now, White is a giant ball of muscle moving a million miles per hour. His brain hasn’t caught up, leading to the drop of what should’ve been a routine catch. The game will slow down for him and he’ll be fine. The key thing is not dropping crucial passes.

That said, the way White attacks the ball is very encouraging. My biggest issue with Alshon Jeffery over the years has been how he has allowed defensive backs to beat him for contested catches. That won’t be a problem with White. He made a very nice play on third down during the Bears first drive. Even his drop came while he was sprinting back to the ball. Defensive backs just aren’t going to be able to consistently match his tenacity when the ball is in the air.

From The Chart

Akiem Hicks is a very good player and will be a key to the team’s defense this year, but Eddie Goldman is their best defensive lineman and it isn’t close.

In seven running plays, Goldman either beat his guy clean or pushed him into the backfield five times. He drew double teams four times and disrupted the play three times. For comparison sake, I had Hicks with one play in which he pushed the blocker back.

Hicks is a good player. He had a great spin move to get a hit on Jimmy Garoppolo and got good push up the middle on a passing attempt. But he isn’t Goldman.

So far, we’ve seen the Bears use Hicks and Goldman together. Against Denver, we saw them rotate with My Man Cornelius Washington and Jonathan Bullard. I’d like to see the Bears mix and match more with those four in order to generate more pass rush, but with Hicks and Goldman, they’re going to be tough to run on.

Other things charted:

• I had Massie with three hurries allowed and one bad run, but I’m not sure how much stock to put into this. The Bears ask their tackles to push edge rushers to the outside, allowing the quarterback to step up, so the hurries are a bit misleading.  He was only beaten badly on one of the hurries, the other two came in 2.37 and 2.41 seconds.

The sack was on Whitehair. Long got past Massie, but not enough to get him down. The Bears could’ve picked up the first down, but Flowers blew right by Whitehair.

• Through two preseason games, Tony Moeaki leads the team with 2.5 bad runs allowed. If he doesn’t make the team, this will be the reason.

• A lot of hype for Leonard Floyd and Jonathan Bullard, but they were mostly neutral against the Pats’ starters.

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