The Bears didn’t play a single starter during their 32-13 shellacking at the hands of the New York Giants in the second preseason game Friday night, announcing beforehand that 26 (!) players would rest.
Thus, we're not reading too much into a grisly showing in which the Bears were out-gained 411 to 165 yards, lost the time of possession battle by nearly 10 minutes and were flagged eight times. But we still came away with a number of observations regarding the backups, so here are three positives and three negatives as the preseason mercifully reaches the halfway point.
AREAS OF OPTIMISM
Georgia WR products — Sophomore camp star Javon Wims and rookie fourth-rounder Riley Ridley certainly looked the part while working as the top two options Friday night. Wims (game-high five catches for 64 yards) made an outstanding 29-yard grab in the post at the end of the first half to set up Eddy Pineiro’s second field goal conversion, and Ridley (3-19 receiving) was smooth running routes, appeared field fast in his NFL debut and had a chance for a touchdown but Chase Daniel couldn’t find him.
OLB depth: Sure, Kylie Fitts got run over on a big run play in the first half and Chuck Harris narrowly missed a sack. But we’ve been waiting for someone, anyone, to show up behind Chicago’s Big Three — and there’s no question that occurred Friday. Former CFL’er James Vaughters made an early strip-sack — one week after recovering a fumble — after he overpowered a tight end and finished off Giants top pick Daniel Jones by forcing and recovering the fumble. He also registered a hurry in the shadow of his own goal line that led to Clifton Duck (more on him momentarily) goosing Alex Tanney with an outstanding diving pick that he returned 67 yards. And Isaiah Irving set sturdy edges against the run early before notching an eight-yard sack.
Clifton Duck: After a rough first half of his preseason debut last week, the undrafted rookie corner from Appalachian State has looked more like the guy we've seen in camp consistently made plays, none more impressive than the standout interception— Chicago’s second red zone takeaway of the night. It’s also worth noting that Duck’s peak came amid sixth-rounder Duke Shelley’s difficult night that included an early missed tackle on the Giants’ first touchdown and a couple penalties. Could the college free agent overtake the draft pick? Probably not. But he’s making a very compelling case to be on the practice squad, at the very least.
Eddy Pineiro: He was the first kicker off the bench again, but after missing his 48-yard attempt last week, he converted a 41-yarder right down the middle and followed it up with a 27-yard chip-shot conversion. And Elliott Fry — after converting the ironic 43-yarder to end the first half last week — pushed his only attempt, from 47 out, wide left.
AREAS OF CONCERN
OT depth: Second-string LT Cornelius Lucas was flagged twice for holding, after getting beat for a sack last week. Rashaad Coward appeared to be having another difficult game before leaving early with a left elbow injury and not returning. And the man they’re vying to replace, swing OT-turned-TE Bradley Sowell, surrendered a sack and drew his second penalty in as many weeks. Behind their underrated starting OTs, the Bears have big questions and figure to be scouring waivers for upgrades at the position.
QB depth: One more reason the pressure’s on Mitch Trubisky to take another big step in Year Three: his backups have failed to impress so far this summer. Chase Daniel is among the NFL’s highest-paid clipboard holders, but he was indecisive and hasn’t didn’t a good feel in the pocket, taking a safety among his three sacks. Tyler Bray overthrew a streaking Marvin Hall on a would-be easy touchdown for the second week in a row.
Outside CB depth: This has appeared to be a strength in camp, where Jonathan former Florida Atlantic quarterback Jonathan Franklin III has opened eyes but couldn’t close the distance in man coverage against seemingly anyone he battled Friday, losing leverage on a TJ Jones touchdown. Franklin’s primary competition for perhaps the final outside CB spot, Michael Joseph, also was beaten by Jones on a long gain, though it appeared the receiver was juggling as he hit the ground.
WR Taquan Mizzell: The first bad sign was the Bears switching him in the spring from running back to wide receiver. Things went from bad to worse for Mizzell Friday, when he lost fumbles on consecutive fourth-quarter drives.