CHICAGO -- Let's see...busted coverage? Check. Leaky pass protection? Check. Zero first downs? Check. Critical special teams error? Check. Hey, at least the Chicago Bears were consistent on Thursday night. They really touched them all.
But seriously, the most important development in Chicago's 22-0 loss to Denver: no starters got injured. After absorbing training camp injuries to such key players as Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, Zach Miller and Hroniss Grasu, the Bears simply could not afford to lose another starter in a meaningless exhibition game. Thankfully, the Bears stayed healthy despite hot and muggy conditions at Soldier Field. At the end of the day, that matters way more than anything the Bears put on tape -- even if John Fox desperately wants to burn that tape.
QB depth chart: Jay Cutler did not look comfortable in the pocket. Neither did Brian Hoyer. Both were under constant pressure from Denver’s defense. Cutler completed 3-of-4 passes for only 18 yards, as the Bears went 0-for-3 on third-down conversions. Hoyer (7-of-10 for 81 yards) had a tad more success in the vertical passing attack, but he, too, spent much of the night running for his life. No. 3 quarterback David Fales will also be sore in the morning.
Maybe that player could start: I want to nominate two players. First, third-round pick Jonathan Bullard, who memorably blew up a ball carrier near the line of scrimmage. Bullard routinely did this in Bourbonnais. He has a quick first step. There is no doubt he can start on Chicago's defensive line, and perhaps soon. And the second guy is rookie cornerback Deiondre' Hall, who successfully defended three passes (two in the end zone) in the second quarter. Given Chicago's underwhelming situation at cornerback, Hall is a wild card to play in 2016.
Who got hurt? Defensive lineman Cornelius Washington was carted back to the locker room in the fourth quarter and running back Ka'Deem Carey is being evaluated for a concussion. Also, sixth-round pick DeAndre Houston-Carson was being examined by the medical staff late in the game.
A surprise player who impressed: Jeffery. Jeffery is not a "surprise player," but his participation on Thursday came as a shock. The last time Jeffery finished a practice (open to the media) was on Aug. 1. Two days later, he suffered a mild hamstring strain that kept him out until the beginning of this week. But even then, Jeffery only did side work and individual drills on Monday and Tuesday. However, Jeffery not only started the game, but caught a 12-yard pass on Chicago's first offensive play from scrimmage.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Bears looked: Way, way below average. Aside from Cutler's opening pass to Jeffery, the offense looked terrible. The Bears' first-team managed just one first down in three series, and allowed Denver to sack Cutler twice. The only saving grace for the defense was Bryce Callahan tipping a pass that Jerrell Freeman intercepted. But Callahan was also responsible for Demaryius Thomas being wide open on a 32-yard touchdown throw from Mark Sanchez. The Bears committed colossal mental mistakes on both sides of the ball. The Broncos even blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown. Not much to be happy about. But again, it's just the preseason.
One reason to be concerned: Just one? Well, let's highlight the pass protection. Two sacks in the opening three series? That's unacceptable. Now, Cutler probably held the ball for too long on one, but the second sack (10-yard loss) was a total breakdown. Someone has to block T.J. Ward, who delivered a hard hit to Cutler on a third-down safety blitz. And Denver later sacked Hoyer three times in the second quarter. Keep in mind, the Broncos played without several key guys on defense, including Von Miller. Imagine if he played. Ouch. But, yet again, it's only preseason game number one. Important to keep that in perspective.
One to remember: Kevin White finally caught a pass versus another NFL team. The fact White's completion went for only three yards is of no consequence. The former first-round pick picked up a confidence builder on Thursday, after he missed his entire rookie year due to a stress fracture in his shin. Look for White to become more involved in the offense as the preseason wears on, but only if the Bears can protect Cutler.
On the mend: Royal and Miller appear close to passing the NFL's concussion protocol. Both players participated in a lengthy conditioning workout prior to kickoff, and Royal even spent extra time coming out of his break to catch passes from a member of the club's support staff. There is chance Royal and Miller could return as early as the weekend, when Chicago is scheduled to practice at Halas Hall on Saturday and Sunday before departing for New England.