Holmes’ Mailbag: How Much Stock Should We Put Into Preseason?
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Laurence Holmes takes your Bears questions every week in his mailbag:
Is this a case where the preseason is predictive of how the Bears will be? Because it’s similar to last year where we all thought they would be bad and they made it to the NFC Championship Game. I’m finding it hard to be able to learn anything from the preseason. Thoughts? – Paul, Chicago
Paul, I think it’s hard to know what a team is based on the preseason. Especially this year. There were no organized team activities (OTAs) or mini-camps, so there were a lot of players who were coming in cold. Yes, some of the guys got together and had ‘player practices’, but without the tape breakdown and coaching, it seemed like more of a conditioning thing than anything else. Once the lockout was over and teams got to camp, there was still a week before a 1/3 of the roster could practice. So yes, I think it’s hard to make any proclamation on what the Bears can be. The third preseason game this Saturday will give us a better idea. In the third game, the Bears will actually put in a minimal game plan. They’ll try to attack some weaknesses of the Titans, but they’re not going to show all their cards. In fact, they could put some things on tape in this game to throw off regular season opponents. Paranoia and espionage are at an all-time high in the NFL. To me, the preseason offers more in the way of looking back than looking forward. It’s not always a predictor, but when trying to deconstruct a success or failure, it may offer a clue.
What was your assessment of Lance Louis in Monday night’s game? I know many scenarios include him out, Garza to RG, and Spencer at C — do you see any changes in the starting offensive line before opening day? – Jeff, Buffalo Grove
Overall Jeff, I thought the line played well. Louis in particular was fine. He needed a good performance to renew some faith that he can be a starter. I do think that eventually Chris Spencer will find his way to the first unit, but the Bears coaches have been very happy with Chris Williams at LG thus far. Louis isn’t out of the woods yet. He needs to play well this Saturday. They don’t want to see him get overwhelmed physically or have any assignment mistakes.
Is Devin Hester having problems with his footwork? It looked like he got a little tangled up with himself on the long sideline reception forcing himself out-of-bounds. He also tripped near the goal line on what would have been a sure touchdown. Possibly a concentration issue? Worried more about hands, route, etc? – Scott, Chicago
Overall, in camp, Hester has been very fluid. The coaches have been impressed with his focus and the fact that he put on some upper body strength to better be able to get off of jams at the line of scrimmage. It is weird that a guy who has such great body control when he’s returning, isn’t quite as nimble when he’s running routes. Mike Martz has spent a lot of time with Hester in camp, breaking down his depth of route and making sure that he runs them hard. Hester told me that it’s been a great help.
“It’s great coaching that comes from experience when you got a coach that demonstrates it for you. It helps you to understand reading coverages and how the play is developing,” Hester said.
He’s definitely put in the work, but even he would tell you that he can get better. The Bears want to harness his play-making ability and make him as much of a threat as a receiver as he is a returner. His routes seem to be improved, but when he adjusts to the ball in the air, he doesn’t look quite as comfortable.
Hey Laurence, Curious as to why the Bears decided to have Robbie Gould kick that 25-yard field goal in the first quarter as supposed to attempting a fourth-and-goal play. I understand in the regular season why you would kick the field goal, but it seems in a preseason game the Bears let a golden opportunity pass them by to practice a big fourth down play. Is it just a matter of them not wanting to put anything on film with what type of play they would try? It seems to me that there is a lot more benefit gained from attempting to covert the fourth down, whether successful or not, then having the field goal team boot a chip shot. Love the work you do. – Northside Dan
Thanks Dan. It’s not just the preseason for Robbie Gould, it’s the preseason for the entire field goal team, including a new holder, Adam Podlesh. They have to get their work in game conditions too. You want to know that guys are paying attention when “field goal” is called and that everyone is in the right spot. The Bears also want it on tape so that they can make any adjustments. Patrick Mannelly, Podlesh and Gould need to work on their timing as well, so there is a benefit to it. It’s not about Gould booming one from 25-yards, it’s the entire unit that is being tested.
This is a make or break year for Mike Martz and the Bears, but I don’t see the improvement. Do you!?! – Your loyal reader Peter, Philadelphia
It’s hard to judge right now Peter, but the Bears have put resources into the Martz system, getting players that he wants like Roy Williams and Matt Spaeth. You’ll see the Bears use the tight ends more as blockers with the hope that the offensive line can provide time for Jay Cutler to make plays down the field. I still think the Martz system can work in today’s NFL, but you have to be able to block for it. Cutler was sacked on average every nine times he dropped back last year. When it looked like the system wasn’t quite perfected, Martz scaled it back and balanced the run/pass ratio in the last nine games. They’ve added personnel that they think can better run the vision of his system, but they can’t forget about the success they had last year when the offense was balanced.
Thanks for the great questions. I’ll be joining The McNeil and Spiegel Show live from Halas Hall at 12:30. I’ll also have my own show on tonight starting at 6 p.m. There will be plenty of Bears talk for you to digest. Please follow me on Twitter (@lholmes670) because if anything interesting happens at Bears practice, I’ll let you know.