By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Sporting that Bears “C” on his chest and roaming the sidelines at Soldier Field on Thursday evening, coach John Fox took a few moments to take in his new surroundings. This opportunity brings a new beginning for the man responsible for turning two NFL franchises around.
But when Fox returned to the locker room shortly after the Bears’ 27-10 preseason win over the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field, he carried the concerns of any coach in their first preseason game.
“It was very sloppy,” Fox said.
That would be correct.
Miami opened the game with a 14-play, 85-yard touchdown drive, capped off by Ryan Tannehill’s fourth-down scoring toss to Jarvis Landry. The Bears opened up their first drive with Jordan Mills picking up a false start, then following with a three-and-out.
Eventually, the Bears would settle in, with Robbie Gould putting home four field goals, Ka’Deem Carey capping a drive with a fourth-down touchdown scamper and Senorise Perry taking a zone-read run 54 yards to the house.
“We still have a lot of work to do — not only as an offense, but as a whole,” Perry said.
Of course, progress is the theme of any preseason game. It’s a chance for starters to grow comfortable — especially in Chicago, with a new coaching staff and fresh systems — and reserves to fight for roster spots.
The Bears looked like a team adjusting to a unique Adam Gase offense and venerable Vic Fangio defense, all while battling a lack of promising depth. There were many mistakes, and that’s OK for a preseason game.
“That’s part of the growing that we’re going through right now,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said.
With the first preseason game in the books, the Bears hop on a bus Friday and head back to Bourbonnais to finish the training camp portion of the preseason. After that, it’s off to Halas Hall, then Indianapolis for some work with the Colts, before the next game on Aug. 22.
Fox can at least briefly enjoy his new Chicago home and the atmosphere it brings each game, but there’s much more to manage on his mind.
“We still got a little bit of work to do,” he said.
Clausen makes his case
Three plays weren’t enough for Cutler and the Bears’ first-team offense Thursday. A three-and-out wasn’t what Fox wanted to see.
So Cutler and the ones marched back out onto the field and put together a serviceable drive. Then, it was Jimmy Clausen’s time. The Bears’ backup finished the evening 17-of-27 for 151 yards. It was all a part of his progression into this new offense.
“It’s tough,” Clausen said. “The offenses are pretty similar all around the league; it’s just different terminology. The coaches do a great job of helping us prepare.”
Fox wanted Clausen to take advantage of his time on the field. After all, he’s still learning — not only the Gase offense, but the NFL as a whole.
“Jimmy’s the backup quarterback at this point,” Fox said. “He’s a young player, and it’s important he gets reps in the preseason. It’s time to hit it.”
Overall, Clausen did what a backup quarterback must do. He protected the football and did well in keeping the offense comfortable.
Clausen received strong reviews after the game.
“Jimmy did a great job,” Perry said. “He went out there and handled his business like a pro.”
A preseason game in desperate need of a highlight got one in the fourth quarter, courtesy of Perry. The second-year running back out of Louisville busted through a hole on a zone-read option and sprinted 54 yards for a touchdown.
Perry was thrilled upon reaching the end zone but kept a level head after the game.
“If I take it one day at a time and keep putting it together through practices and games, it’ll show up,” Perry said.
The play was made possible by 2015 sixth-round pick Tayo Fabuluje, who opened up the backside cut for Perry’s clean route to the end zone. It was an important moment for the rookie.
“It felt good,” Fabuluje said. “It’s always good to go out, do your job and get positive results. I was just happy to be able to open up a hole for him and be able to put our team in a better position to win.”
Perhaps the most important aspect for Perry was the fact that he appeared in special teams, giving him an apparent leg up in the Bears’ running back competition.
Behind Matt Forte, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jeremy Langford are favorites to stay on the roster, and the versatile Perry seems to have hope to stick thanks to his abilities in special teams.
The even-keeled Perry isn’t focusing on his odds to stick on the roster.
“You can’t worry about the talent or the competition,” Perry said. “Just take it one day at a time.”
McManis wants to be more than special
Preseason football brings unlikely heroes. After all, that’s what this time of year is for.
Sherrick McManis made a statement for the Bears. The six-year veteran recorded a forced fumble and recovered it 10 yards down field, among several other standout moments.
“I’m very determined,” McManis said. “I’m determined like this every year, honestly. Just to be out there trying to compete, do my special teams thing, and also to show them that I can play corner, or that I can play nickelback just to help the team in any way that I can.”
McManis impressed his coach, who offered strong reviews.
“He’s a competitive young guy,” Fox said of McManis. “He’s a guy who made his name in this league as a special teams ace — so have a lot of great defensive players in our history. I always like it when a young man competes.”
It would seem that McManis is safe in earning a spot on the Bears’ roster, largely thanks to his abilities on special teams, but he wants more than that.
Three more preseason games ahead will provide more opportunities.
Extra points: Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery missed Thursday’s game with a strained calf and is day-to-day, Fox said … Forte, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young were all sidelined for rest … The Bears forced four turnovers and didn’t turn it over themselves.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.