Bears struggle with depth, injuries as preseason nears end

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The Chicago Bears hope the team that took the field in Saturday’s lackluster effort against Cincinnati isn’t the same one that hosts defending NFC North champion Green Bay on September 13 at Soldier Field. The Bears, minus their three top receivers and plagued by minor injuries, appeared lethargic and uninspired in a ho-hum 21-10 loss to the Bengals.

More revealing than the final of an exhibition contest, is a troubling feeling that more concerns have arisen since training camp began. Issues at tackle gave QB Jay Cutler little time to throw and have reared their ugly head throughout the preseason. Right tackle, with neither Jordan Mills or Charles Leno Jr. establishing themselves as a starter, was a well-known fact entering camp. However, veteran Jermon Bushrod’s play continues to fall off after an injury-plagued 2014. Bushrod, who has experienced off-on back problems through the preseason, appears slower out of his stance and has been beaten with surprising regularity.  If the Bears expect to develop a ground-oriented run attack that will eat clock and keep their defense off the field, they simply must have better play at tackle.

Likewise, the offense remains handcuffed with Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and even inconsistent Marquess Wilson out of the lineup. As it stands, the Bears are lining up a collection of inexperienced, first-year players and street free agents who won’t strike fear into any opponent, much less act as a decoy to open up running lanes.

First-year General Manager Ryan Pace and his staff will have their hands full over the next two weeks, pouring over waiver claim possibilities and trying to uncover more depth for a Bears squad that lacks enough quality backups and overall talent needed to compete on a weekly basis. It’s alarming and somewhat an indictment, that Pace hasn’t been more aggressive in trying to shore up some sore spots on the roster as the opener looms two weeks away. While coach John Fox and his veteran staff may be able to scheme around some weaknesses, they clearly need more ammunition.

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Defensively, DL Jeremiah Ratliff (ankle) and Eddie Goldman (concussion) were among the walking wounded on a attack unit that allowed the Bengals to march 77-yards in 16 plays en route to a first quarter touchdown. Disappointing third-year LB Jon Bostic also left with a leg injury. CB Tracy Porter continues to experience hamstring issues, leaving Saturday’s game with a reoccurrence.

Tuesday brings the first set of cuts (down to 75 players) and Thursday concludes the preseason against Cleveland. Expect those buried deep on the roster to see the most significant time in that glorified scrimmage. The Bears and the rest of

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the league trim to 53 players next weekend.

Bear Tracks: Veteran CB Tim Jennings appears in a fight for a roster spot. He played extensively with the second and third units…The inside LB jobs are Shea McClellin’s and Christian Jones to lose, but both struggled in pass coverage Saturday evening. Expect Aaron Rodgers and other QB ‘s to mine the middle of the field if the Bears can’t shore up those positions….On a positive note, LB Lamarr Houston saw his most extensive action and displayed some pass rush skills, collecting a sack.  Houston is continuing to work back into shape after knee surgery.

 

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