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SportsMonday: Bears Offense Still In Hiding

It's all a set-up.

The Bears have kept things simple on the offensive side during the preseason, barring the occasional bits of trickery. The standard sets and basic plays (how about another pass in the flat to Matt Forte? Or Alshon Jeffery running another in-cut?) serve a dual purpose. They provide a relatively blank canvas for new players (particularly right guard Kyle Long and tackle Jordan Mills) to make an impression. And they give opposing teams nary a clue about what the Bears will throw at them when the real games begin.

Anything the Bears have done in terms of their overall offensive scheme that is more than the most basic of plays is a feint. And it should be particularly effective with newcomer Marc Trestman at the helm.

The man who spent the last five seasons running a team in the Great White North has to be a significant mystery to his coaching brethren. They may convince themselves they know what the former Montreal Alouettes head man will do given his track record in the NFL (numerous assistant jobs culminating in coordinator posts with the Raiders and Dolphins in the early 2000s). But it has been almost a decade since Trestman roamed an NFL sideline.

Pity the Cincinnati Bengals, who travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in the season opener on September 8th at Soldier Field. Well, pity them even more than usual.

At this point, I've officially seen enough of the preseason. I don't foresee myself making time to view Thursday evening's exhibition finale featuring Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards taking turns at quarterback for the Bears against the always scintillating Cleveland Browns. It is officially two weeks minus a day until I tune back in.

Now that isn't to say it wasn't pleasing to watch Friday night as the Bears defeated the Raiders 27-3 in Oakland. What's that you say? The final score was 34-26?

Surely we can agree that the score that matters in the preseason (and "matters" is actually far too strong - how about the "score that isn't completely meaningless"), is what the score is when the starters wrap up their evening's work.

And even if the game was far more about how bad the Raiders are than how good the Bears are, there were still all sorts of highlights.

One thing that was especially promising was the way Jay Cutler was throwing the ball. He was 12-for-21 on the night but his completion percentage would have been far better if his receivers hadn't dropped a half dozen of those incompletions.

These days Cutler is consistently throwing a downward-pointing tight spiral that is both catchable and the least likely sort of pass to be intercepted. He won't be overthrowing too many of those - when he misses, he will miss down. That is also good for receivers who won't have to stretch themselves out and expose themselves to big hits.

Although Brandon Marshall had a few of the aforementioned drops, the second-year Bear wideout has proven in previous seasons that he will turn it on when it counts. Marshall and Forte, who has just been great in the preseason as the Bears have expertly given him enough work to have him primed for the regular season but not to overly expose him to injury, are officially the best running back-wide receiver combination in the NFL.

Most importantly, the Bears made it through another preseason game without an injury to a starter. The status of defensive tackle Henry Melton is still up in the air as he continues to recover from a concussion. And projected middle linebacker D.J. Williams still hasn't returned from a strained calf. But rookie Jon Bostic, while far from perfect, has at least looked like a legitimate starter in a couple preseason games now.

Unfortunately, the defense can't be as deceptive as the offense. The guys on that side of the ball always have to react to what opposing offenses do and it will be easier for opposing teams to look at tape of the exhibition season and make educated guesses about how the Bears will react to certain plays. And especially if Bostic starts, the defense will probably start relatively slowly as the rookie from Florida continues to figure out the pro game.

So the offense may have to win some early games. They have the weapons to do it. There is no hiding that.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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