Bears Notes: Players Understand Friday’s Tall Task
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By Chris Emma-
LAKE FOREST (CBS) — In sticking to his coach-speak, Marc Trestman’s rhetoric doesn’t match the stage his Chicago Bears face on Friday.
Sure, it’s just a preseason game — something forgotten down the road — but it’s a matchup with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in their extraordinarily loud stadium.
“It’s a preseason game,” Trestman said. “We’re trying to get better.”
The Bears players know the reality. This isn’t a routine trip to an afterthought in which the starters will play two series, then put on a visor and watch. It’s likely three quarters of ones against ones with the dominating champions of last season.
With plenty of carryover from a successful campaign in 2013, the Bears offense is optimistic for its new season. But Friday’s matchup with Seattle will offer a measuring stick for where the unit stands and what needs to be improved.
Quarterback Jay Cutler understands the task at hand, one that will be difficult to deal with.
“They’re really good,” Cutler said. “They’re really good. They’re really good up front. They show you a lot of looks. Their back end is as good as there is in football. (Cornerback) Richard Sherman is really good. It’s going to be a test. “
Just like on offense, the Bears must rely on careful communication on defense. With noise being pumped into practice at Halas Hall this week, the unit has worked to master hand signals, evading the outside sounds. Any breakdown could result in six points for the Seahawks.
If that weren’t enough, containing Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s dynamic offense will be quite the challenge, too.
“It’s a nice team, explosive, they have a lot of weapons,” linebacker D.J. Williams said. “We’re just going to go there and play our defense.”
Regardless of everything else, Trestman wouldn’t budge on his stance. The trip to Seattle marks another opportunity for Chicago to get better and his personnel to be evaluated. The stage is just much more demanding.
“We’re going to go against them,” Trestman said. “We’ll play hard and see how the matchups take place throughout the game.”
Cutler high on Holmes signing
For much of his time in Chicago, Cutler was lacking in weapons on offense. His receiving core was below par, and the Bears’ offense saw struggles.
Things are different now, and Cutler has two Pro Bowlers to target in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. With newly signed Santonio Holmes entering the fold this past weekend, he has yet another option.
“He looks really good,” Cutler said of Holmes.
“He can get in and out of cuts, catches the ball well, extremely explosive, fast. It’s a good signing. We just have to get him caught up.”
Holmes was signed by the Bears to fight for their third receiver spot, behind Marshall and Jeffery. He replaced former special teams asset Eric Weems, who was cut over the weekend.
The past year has seen Holmes reportedly cause problems in the New York Jets’ locker room and undergo two surgeries for a Lisfranc injury. Now, Holmes says that’s all behind him, and he’s optimistic for his time in Chicago.
So is Cutler.
“He’s been around for a long time, been in a few systems and been successful,” Cutler said. “It’s just a matter of getting him caught up, our verbiage showing him how we like to do things, the little tweaks that we like. “
It’s late in the game, with the third preseason game set for Friday night. Holmes has little time to get acclimated with his new home. Settling in with a complex Bears offense is a challenge, too.
“The other receivers might have to help him along and make sure he knows what he’s doing,” Cutler said.
The addition of Holmes was a low-risk move, taking a chance on an accomplished NFL veteran. If he returns to full form, it’s a huge win. Even being a productive player is a plus. Cutler will gladly take another weapon to the arsenal.
Key decisions still looming
If Trestman has his way, Friday’s fight in Seattle will offer four quarters of useful film. He’ll see the starters play against one of the NFL’s best teams and his reserves battle for their jobs.
The important decisions for the Bears’ personnel remain to be decided. First comes Friday, an important milestone in the preseason.
“There are going to be 80 Bears going to Seattle,” Trestman said. “Our ones will be playing against their ones for the third preseason game of the season.”
Key questions still await at linebacker and safety, where the Bears have yet to lock down starters. There are numerous competitions to complete the Bears’ depth chart, too, namely at backup quarterback and running back.
Trestman claims to be waiting out those decisions. A time will come for declaring victories and making cuts, but it’s not now.
“We’re still kind of in a training camp mode, with working with guys and moving people around,” he said.
– The Bears welcomed Lance Briggs back to practice after he sat out Monday with a knee contusion. Eben Britton, Brian de la Puente, Isaiah Frey and Kyle Fuller each sat out, as they have recently. In addition, Jared Allen was held out with a shoulder bruise, though that was just a precautionary measure.
– Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery was asked what the Bears’ potential is on offense. “The sky’s the limit,” he said. “We’re just going to take it one day at a time. Our goal is to try and be the No. 1 offense in the NFL.”
– The Bears feel they have hand signals nailed down in advance of Friday, eliminating concerns over the noise in Seattle. “That communication is the most important part,” Trestman said. “Once you know that play, you’re playing in a vacuum anywhere.”
– Chicago returns to the practice field on Wednesday for one final workout at Halas Hall. The team sets off to the Pacific Northwest on Thursday.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.