CHICAGO – Here are five things we learned in the Bears’ 33-31 preseason victory over the Washington Redskins on Saturday night:
1. Cutler to Marshall will be a lethal combination: This was kind of a no-brainer since the two were so successful together several years ago in Denver, but wasn’t it nice to see Jay Cutler find Brandon Marshall twice for 61 yards on the Bears’ opening drive? If the pair stays healthy, they should easily re-write the record books here in Chicago. After all, Marshall’s numbers over his first seven years in the league put him near or at the top of nearly all of the Bears’ receiving milestones, and we’re talking about an organization that’s been around for 92 years. There is still room of improvement, but if Marshall doesn’t catch close to 100 balls this season, it would be a significant surprise.
2. Alshon Jeffery continues to impress: Speaking of wide receivers, rookie Alshon Jeffery just keeps getting better. The rookie second-round pick caught three passes for 62 yards Saturday night and now leads the team after two preseason contests with seven receptions for 97 yards. Jeffery prefers to let his play do the talking. Receivers are usually big on personality, but at least publically, Jeffery is very reserved -- especially when it comes to dealing with the media. That tells me he’s getting sound advice. One day Jeffery and Marshall will be the starting outside receivers with Earl Bennett working inside in the slot. If Jeffery continues to play at this level, that day will be sooner rather than later.
3. The Bears took a hard look at the left side of the line: J’Marcus Webb wasn’t the only guy out there against the Redskins fighting for his job. Left guard Chris Spencer’s subpar performance in the preseason opener opened the door for Chilo Rachal to receive extensive work with the starters against Washington. And as promised, Chris Williams worked in plenty at left tackle. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice meets with the media on Monday, so it’s possible a decision will be made on the final offensive line combination in the near future. Teams really want to have their line set by the third preseason game -- next Friday in New York -- because that’s the closest thing to a dress rehearsal for the regular season. The tape never lies, and Tice should have plenty of film on all four players to make his determinations.
4. Injuries are the worst part of the preseason: Injuries are part of the game, but it’s difficult to watch a starter get hurt in a meaningless game. The scariest moment on Saturday night, was of course, the neck injury to Bears rookie safety Brandon Hardin who was carted off the field and immediately taken to the hospital. The good news is that Hardin never lost consciousness and had full movement of his arms and legs, but there is no telling how much time the third-round pick will be forced to miss. Same with veteran punter Adam Podlesh, who hurt his hip while trying to tackle Washington’s Brandon Banks on his 91 yard punt return touchdown, or free safety Chris Conte who left the game early with a shoulder injury that at first glance didn’t appear to be too serious. The injury bug also bit Washington as the Skins lost OLB Brian Orakpo and safety Brandon Meriweather in the first half. Teams that make it through the preseason without significant injuries should consider themselves lucky. Not sure if the Bears or Redskins fall into that category after Saturday night.
5. Michael Bush is the Bears’ goal line back: Bush fancies himself an all-around tailback, but clearly the Bears view him as their best option on the goal line. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound rusher replaced Matt Forte inside the 10 yard line on two separate occasions and both times he scored touchdowns. At this point, it’s kind of par for the course for Forte, who previously was removed from the game in the redzone in favor of former Bears running backs Marion Barber and Chester Taylor. But it makes sense. Bush has 15 rushing touchdowns the past two years compared to Forte’s nine. Forte is one of the top runners in the league, but the Bears appear content to once again limit his touches near the goal line.