CHISportsNation

The Bears are off to a hot start in the preseason. While there is still cause for concern (the first team offense has yet to score a touchdown and looks pretty lackluster), the team-wide improvement in hustle, technique, and effort on defense and special teams is evident. The special teams play has been especially standout- and has made the team the beneficiaries of good field position and lucky breaks. While these two outcomes are fickle, the change is evident enough to award the new staff credit. They have brought in new faces who execute what they are looking for- and as such they are receiving dividends.

It wasn’t all great though. The defense slagged off late and there were several mistakes the Seahawks failed to capitalize on. It looked like a game played by rookies, still figuring out NFL speed. Therefore, I spent the game grading these new players as a block, sorting what they did right and where they went wrong. Here is a breakdown of these rookies’ performances:

 

Velus Jones Jr.

The controversial third round pick had a mixed bag of a day. He fumbled the opening kickoff- never a good sign even if he was able to recover the ball. He let his only target with the first team bounce off his fingertips on a quick out that was catchable, if a little errant. He made up for these faults with a big punt return a few drives later. He also had an effective, though not flashy, catch and run on a screen- both plays showed his quick, decisive north south running style. Grade: B

Kyler Gordon

Gordon’s first action in his native Washington left a bit to be desired. He missed two tackles, including one that led to a big play wherein his ankles were brutally broken. He looked too conservative in coverage, playing way off and letting up small gains (though that may have been a result of the play calls). On the plus side, he showed impressive QB pursuit on one corner blitz and was part of forcing out the football when joining in on a gang tackle with Jack Sanborn. In all, a mixed bag. Grade: C

Trestan Ebner

Ebner did not fully capitalize on a good start in preseason Week 1. He still looked explosive and was able to shake off a few tackles, but never looked like he had much room to run- this was partly his fault as he seemed to have tunnel vision at times. He also was badly beaten in pass protection on one snap, which may be a problem if he hopes to receiver third down work this year. Lastly, he limped out the game early with a leg injury. Grade: C+

Jaylon Jones

Jones, the 24-year-old UDFA out of Ole Miss, looked shaky in his first NFL action. He got a surprisingly heavy workload, but did not capitalize. He was beat bad by receiver Penny Hart, then again on the same drive by Seahawks rookie Dareke Young (Young lost the ball on Jones’s hit- more Young’s failure than Jones’s success). He was able to keep himself on the field with some ok reps late, but I don’t expect him to hang on this team. Grade: D+

Jack Sanborn

Sanborn continued his impressive run. His stopping power and instincts in the run game flashed again, leading to him stopping multiple runs cold in the hole. It was his wrap up that allowed Kyler Gordon and Joe Thomas to knock the ball loose in the second quarter. He did miss one arm tackle after leaving his gap to try to make the play- an understandable failure. He also flashed on special teams- important for him to lock down a role. He did look a little soft in coverage, playing grass and not players, but hopefully he will not be asked to play as much off zone in season. Grade: B+

Jake Tonges

Scored a touchdown on a good, aware reach over the goal line. He’s a long shot to make the team, but is a good practice squad injury policy as a reserve fullback and tight end, Grade: A-

Trenton Gill

Gill continues to look like a hit. The rookie punter has shown a remarkable ability to place his punts inside the 10 with no touchbacks that I would call his fault. His hangtime also seems to put gunners in good positions. Grade: A

Dominique Robinson

Robinson had a good pressure, but I would object to the consistent praise of his development. He struggles to get off blocks to such an extent that he is a non-factor in the run game. As a pass rusher, he lacks counters and a plan. He routinely runs the same outside track speed rush, and when lineman know it’s coming they can usually stop it. Once in a while, he will out-athlete a tackle, but I would advise against counting on it. The praise he gets on Bears Twitter is ill deserved as of now. He was subbed in for an equally weak and lackluster Charles snowden in the fourth quarter- this is more of a reflection on Snowden than an endorsement of Robinson to me. Grade: D+

Zach Thomas

I had an undrafted grade on Zach Thomas and we saw a big reason why this game. While not notably poor on a play-to-play basis, he was badly beat by Alton Robinson early. He did not have the vision to recognize a stunt and fully turned his body to aid in a triple block. When he finally noticed the stunt rusher, he did not have the reaction speed or strength to slow him. He should not be atrusted right now to be NFL ready. Grade: D

Elijah Hicks

I like Eli Hicks- but we saw the reason he was the Bears last pick in this draft. He flashed early by falling on a muffed punt in the end zone, thus earning himself the starting deep safety role for the rest of the game. There, some questions flared up. He is notably undersized, lacking pop on contact and allowing ballcarriers to push through him for extra yards, including in this game a touchdown. He also struggled to keep pace in coverage- his zone was targeted twice in the same drive in the second half for big gains. He also failed to follow a receiver in the back of the end zone on the two point conversion- that may have been Jack Sanborn’s fault, as he was playing at the goal line and with no sense of the play behind him- but Hicks can’t just assume he can pass it off when there’s no other receivers in his area. Grade: C-

What are we doing?

Chase Allen

The other Bears UDFA tight end than Jake Tonges also popped, almost getting a touchdown of his own. He failed to reach far enough and it was placed on the one. He looked decent as a blocker as well, at one point uprooting a defender. Grade: B+

De’Montre Tuggle

Tuggle has shown some flashes- he’s got some notable acceleration and pop on contact, but he turned in a subpar performance. He routinely fails to bounce runs outside, instead looking for contact. The problem is then that, despite being well built, he is simply not big enough to churn through tackles. This cost the Bears a touchdown at one point. He also ran into the returner on special teams, forcing a muffed punt and badly damaging his chances of making the team or practice squad. Grade: C-

Micah Dew-Treadway

Dew-Treadway has continued to be a sneaky performer on a weak interior D-Line. He slipped off a block and hit the ball carrier hard for a loss late. If he continues to show up, perhaps he has a future here. Grade: B+

Jon Alexander

No name pickup Jon Alexander was run out at multiple DB spots late in the game and looked poor. He is simply not an NFL athlete at corner and doesn’t have the instincts at safety. I wouldn’t bet on him being anything more than a camp body for the future. Grade: D-

AJ Thomas

Conversely, fellow UDFA AJ Thomas showed decent instincts late and was able to break up a pass or two. Hopefully we can see more next week to see if this is just a flash in the pan. Grade: B

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