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    HomeSportBrad Biggs' 10 thoughts on preseason opener

    Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts on preseason opener

    10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears rallied for a victory in the first preseason game for new coach Matt Eberflus, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 19-14 on Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field.

    Efficient. Dangerous. Rhythmic. Multiple. Chiefs coach Andy Reid zigged where a lot of veteran coaches are zagging in preseason. He ran his starting offense out for the start of the game and gave the group a series. Not every coach plays front-line players in preseason, especially irreplaceable veterans such as quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and the talented group of Chiefs offensive linemen. Perhaps Reid believes revamping the passing game somewhat after trading wide receiver Tyreek Hill was a good reason to give them a little action in the preseason opener. Maybe he figured they will have a better chance of reaching full throttle in Week 1 with a gradual buildup through meaningless games that expose star players to danger.

    Whatever the case, the Chiefs went right through the Bears defense on an 11-play, 72-yard drive that took 5 minutes, 37 seconds and required them to convert only two third downs. Mahomes capped the drive with an inside screen to tight end Blake Bell that went 5 yards for a touchdown. Yes, the Bears were missing some key players on defense as coach Matt Eberflus held 23 players out, including defensive end Robert Quinn and cornerback Kyler Gordon, and everyone knows linebacker Roquan Smith was not in uniform. More on Smith in a bit.

    It was a crisp operation by an experienced offense with an experienced coaching staff, the kind of drive the Chiefs have done routinely in regular-season and postseason games. Seeing it click in the preseason opener wasn’t surprising, but the Bears haven’t had it happen in what seems like forever. I can’t tell you the last time the Bears had an opening-possession touchdown drive in a preseason opener. I haven’t seen one in 22 years, and checking the NFL website and database for box scores, it hasn’t occurred since at least 2000. Data for preseason games from 1999 and prior was not readily searchable.

    That’s not a condemnation where the Bears are at offensively with a quarterback in Year 2, a line that will have growing pains and a wide receiver group that will look undermanned even when fully staffed — which it wasn’t for this game. Few people in the stadium could understand the difference between the offenses and rosters better than first-year general manager Ryan Poles, who came from Kansas City and spent time visiting with longtime friends on the field before kickoff. There also is reason to believe the Bears offense will look more finely tuned the next time it is at Soldier Field for the Week 1 opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 11. Opening-possession touchdowns in the preseason don’t measure up to opening-possession touchdowns or field goals in the regular season.

    Fields made two terrific throws, the first a lob down the left sideline to Darnell Mooney for 26 yards and the second a tightrope along the right sideline to Tajae Sharpe for 19 yards. Sharpe did a nifty job of getting his feet down inbounds, and the offense was able to simulate rushing to the line of scrimmage to get the next snap off before an opposing coach might throw a challenge flag.

    Other than that, it was a slog for Fields and the first team in 18 snaps. The Bears went three-and-punt on the first series, with Chris Jones beating right guard Michael Schofield for a sack on third down when Fields might have had space to climb the pocket. The starters produced three first downs total — two on the nice throws — and three punts.

    Fields said the communication went well, which is an important aspect with first-year offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who was on the sideline while quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko was in the coaches box. But progress eventually needs to be measured by first downs and points.

    “I have a different mindset coming in this year,” Fields said. “I’m way more comfortable, just being in the NFL this year and of course having played a year. We’re just going to keep working, keep stacking days and continue to get better at the small details each and every day.”

    Even with a massive amount of growth this season — and that might be unrealistic — the Bears still still going to be miles away from the juggernaut offense of the Chiefs. But if you don’t judge yourself against the best (or one of the best), you’re not going about it the right way. One of these years, perhaps the Bears offense will march downfield and score on the first preseason possession. Sure, it wouldn’t mean a thing, but it ought to show the team has apotent offense that is getting ready to roll in the regular season.

    Expect Poles to churn the roster continuously as he looks for parts that fit and discards ones that don’t. The Bears need to see if Fields can be the quarterback of the future, and it’s going to be a weekly challenge without a ton of high-end talent around him. No one will discount that fact as he’s being evaluated, and there needs to be an understanding that statistical improvement will not happen with a clear upward trajectory on a weekly basis. I also would offer a warning not to make sweeping declarations from one week to the next. It’s a marathon, and there doesn’t need to be a weekly or even monthly referendum on the quarterback. I’ve said that before, and it’s so true for a franchise that has been searching for an answer at the position for the longest time. We ought to should know when the quarterback finally has arrived, but how many people have declared that moment in the last decade-plus only to be fooled?

    I asked a couple of keen NFL evaluators what would be realistic for Fields this season in terms of growth.

    “I don’t want to get into cliches about incremental improvement, but I like how they are using him,” said former Bears quarterback Jim Miller, the team’s preseason television analyst. “I think they are going to take advantage of his skill sets. They will have the RPO angle of the offense. They’re going to do a boatload of chili-roll stuff — play-action half-roll. They’re going to do a lot of bootlegs. They will do some quarterback draws, RPO influence, and they need to run the ball well.

    “Everybody understands all of the stuff that Bill Lazor got to later in the season last year, and I think they’re going to expand on that. I see the improvement he’s already made. His footwork? He’s really worked hard at that and he’s watched a lot of tape of other guys. Probably (Luke) Getsy gave him a lot of Green Bay stuff that he’s watched. His footwork is a lot better, even how he positions his feet. He’s more in balance to throw the ball. But the talent just oozes out of him. He’s so special. But they have to cater it to him. If you’re seeing incremental improvement every week where the turnovers are cut down, if you see him improve in situational play where he’s making his adjustments and getting better every single week, there is a lot to be excited about.”

    Ross Tucker, who has a network of podcasts and does work for CBS Sports, Audacy and Westwood One, sees potential but believes Fields is short-handed when I asked what type of growth is realistic.

    “I would say any type of improvement,” Tucker said. “Any clear improvement would be a success, especially with how limited they are around him. I’m not going to put numbers on it, but it’s almost like … we’ll be able to see his command of the offense. How often is he running for his life versus how often is he getting rid of the ball quickly? That’s a big, big thing — how fast is the ball getting out of his hand and the turnovers?

    “If he doesn’t have a lot of turnovers and he is getting the ball out quick, I feel like that will be considered a success no matter what the team’s record is or the stats because they’re just not very good around him. You can make a strong argument that they have the worst receiving corps and the worst offensive line in the NFL. It’s almost … unconscionable that a first-round quarterback would be going into his second year and you could say that is what he is being surrounded by.”

    Another issue is how this offense will better support Fields. A lot of analysts have said Fields is in a far better position with Getsy as the play caller than he was a year ago, that the scheme will make a huge difference. The roots of what Getsy does and the roots of what Matt Nagy (and Lazor) does trace back to Bill Walsh and the West Coast offense. Understanding that, how different are things going to be for Fields?

    “It’s a different emphasis,” Miller said. “And there is a lot of carry-over. Andy Reid is West Coast but he is about 70-30 pass versus the run, and he’s kind of always been that way. This is going to be more run-based, more Rams style, more Minnesota style. The 49ers (and) Kyle Shanahan, they use (fullback Kyle) Juszczyk a lot, they do a lot of 12 (one running back, two wide receivers, two tight ends). Even look in Green Bay last year — the Packers were second in the NFL in 12 personnel.

    “So I can see Cole Kmet and Ryan Griffin or James O’Shaughnessy being on the field at the same time. It will be more run-based than what Andy Reid does, and he gets criticized for that all of the time. He did that when he had Donovan McNabb, and even though he had Brian Westbrook, he was 60-40 and now he’s probably 70-30.

    “Nagy would have chucked it every down. He couldn’t control himself. No offense. I love the guy. You’ve got to do what is best to protect the young quarterback, whether it was Mitch (Trubisky) or this guy, and it’s got to be run-based first.”

    A veteran personnel man also weighed in.

    “There is only so much you can do with 11 guys on the field,” he said. “The lineage of the two offenses — Nagy and Getsy — is similar. The lineage says that this is a good offense because (Kyle) Shanahan, (Sean) McVay, (Matt) LaFleur, Arthur Smith, those guys have run offenses in this league that have been very successful with a good run-pass mix. And they’ve run them, outside of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, without dominant quarterbacks. Look, Sean McVay went to the Super Bowl with Jared Goff. So there’s no question the offensive system works.

    “It’s more about being a play-caller. Not a great caller but a smart play-caller. That has to be the hope here — that Getsy handles game situations better than Matt Nagy did from a play- calling perspective. … Also the coaching. It’s one thing to be a real sharp play caller and a real forward thinker as a play caller, but the coaching matters. Is the quarterbacks coach improving Justin Fields like Ken Dorsey did with Josh Allen in Buffalo? That’s the model now. If you want to look at a development arc that went from a flatline to straight up, Ken Dorsey and Josh Allen in Buffalo is what you’re looking at. He went from being a quarterback that consistently went outside of structure, struggled with accuracy, struggled with ball placement, struggled with decision making to being one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL in a very short time. That is play calling — Brian Daboll was very good. … But Daboll is calling plays and Ken Dorsey is coaching the kid. Your quarterback coach is so important, and we don’t talk about it enough. You really make them accountable for what they do every time they take a snap in practice and every time they do it in the game. It has to be done correctly, and if it’s not, you keep working at it because that will translate into him being better. The offense is proven. Is the kid getting better from a fundamental standpoint? That’s the big thing. It’s hard to say because you’re not in those position meetings.

    “When I think about what Getsy is going to do with Fields, it’s got to be a heavily defined passing game where you give him clear and defined reads off of play-action and then you count on him to make some special plays on top of that because of his athletic traits. You’re not going to put him in 25 drop-back situations a game. That’s not good coaching. We saw Nagy try to do it last year, and it didn’t work. (Fields is) probably not at that level yet in terms of his experience as a pro quarterback to consistently read it out on drop-backs. So let’s define it for him. Let’s get him on the move. Let’s give him those clear and defined reads so he can get the ball out with timing and rhythm, and there are going to be situations where because he has rare physical tools for the position, he’s going to make some big plays outside the structure of the offense. You don’t want him doing that all the time but when necessary.”

    The fifth-year linebacker sent a statement Tuesday morning to NFL Media saying he would like to be traded, but this latest wrinkle can put a wedge (or a larger wedge) between the team and the player. The Bears are not believed to have granted Smith permission to seek a trade. It’s my understanding the PFT report is 100% on the money, so at least you know Smith is serious about wanting to be traded. The longer the standoff plays out, it would seem the greater the chances are the Bears would consider trading him, which is something I would have put very, very low odds on when training camp opened. Poles, at his impromptu press briefing later Tuesday, indicated no desire to shop Smith.

    “There’s no real update on that front,” Poles said Saturday on the Bears pregame show on WBBM-AM 780. “I’ll say it over and over: I love the player and what he’s done on the field. This is a very unique situation that we’re handling the best that we can.

    “We hope to have him in a Chicago Bears uniform. Hopefully when we get through this game, we can come to some type of resolution.”

    I still believe the team and Smith will work something out because more trade requests pop up as a negotiating tactic than an actual precursor to a trade. But this situation has become an unneeded distraction for a team with more than enough questions as Poles and Eberflus try to settle into their roles. Smith was on the field during the game Saturday but didn’t participate in warm-ups as his “hold-in” continues.

    Eventually, the Bears and Smith have to arrive at one of three outcomes:

    • The team and player, who is not registered with the NFLPA as having an official agent, come to terms on a contract.
    • Smith determines that he needs to start preparing for a season that he cannot afford to sit out and joins his teammates on the practice field while contract negotiations continue or end.
    • Poles reaches the point at which he decides Smith wants more money than the Bears want to pay and declares he wants players who want to be at Halas Hall, likely deciding that Smith probably isn’t the difference between a six-win season and a nine-win season in 2022. Or something along those lines. In that case, Poles would move to find a trade partner and add some draft capital for 2023 when he will need to fill key spots on both sides of the ball.

    One of the key elements in play here is positional value. Smith is an off-the-ball linebacker, and while you could make the case it’s a key position in Eberflus’ Cover-2 scheme, the spot has not seen huge growth in terms of contracts. That is a reason stack linebackers rarely are selected in the top-10 picks in the draft. That’s the upper echelon a lot of football insiders will tell you is reserved for players who score touchdowns — quarterbacks and elite wide receivers) — and stop touchdowns — pass rushers and cornerbacks. Premium left tackles could be added into that grouping, too, because they are considered essential for scoring touchdowns.

    In the last 10 drafts, only five stack linebackers have been drafted in the top 10:

    • 2020 Isaiah Simmons, Arizona Cardinals, 8th overall
    • 2019 Devin White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5th
    • 2019 Devin Bush, Pittsburgh Steelers, 10th
    • 2018 Roquan Smith, Bears, 8th
    • 2014 Anthony Barr, Minnesota Vikings, 9th

    Pay for the position has been stagnant. Luke Kuechly, the retired Carolina Panthers star, was the top earner for a long time. Now Shaqullie Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts and Fred Warner of the San Francisco 49ers are at the top of the pay scale. Leonard averages $19.7 million per season and Warner is at $19.045 million, way ahead of Smith, who will earn $9.735 million in the fifth-year option of his contract. Leonard and Warner were drafted behind Smith in 2018 but were not first-round picks, so they didn’t have fifth-year options and were able to get to the negotiating table sooner. Smith can maintain that because he’s next, he should be the new top earner. That’s how it has worked for the wide receiver market — a rush of players have signed new contracts averaging more than $20 million per season.

    Negotiations also can get bogged down if the Bears don’t believe Smith, who is highly skilled and might be at his best in Eberflus’ scheme, is in the same range as Leonard and Warner.

    “I think this could be an evaluation problem,” one veteran agent said. “They haven’t convinced him he is not a great player. And that is hard to do. Roquan has every right to believe he should be the highest-paid linebacker, just as the Bears do to believe he should be somewhere below that. When there isn’t an agent involved to act as a buffer in these talks, it gets a little messier.”

    Where does it go from here? I’d bet top dollar Poles would love to find a resolution before the team plays again Thursday night in Seattle, when the dilemma could be a featured topic on the national broadcast on ESPN. Reasonable? Doable? Who knows?

    “I’m curious where their number is for Roquan,” one personnel man said. “Linebacker isn’t a position you really want to throw huge money at. You get hamstrung sometimes if you want to take care of your own from a culture standpoint. But if he (Poles) is not in love with the guy, it might be a shrewd move to at least see what could be out there for him. Only thing I would say is, if that’s the case, they would have gotten out in front of this and made it seem like they were driving it, not Roquan. It just looks like a mess.

    “When I say out in front of it, I mean back in the spring. You don’t want him? Fine. Cut bait and get max value. Why keep him around in a total rebuild if that is the case? Maybe they really do want him and this whole thing has just kind of snowballed. But it’s tough to see the plan at this point. On top of all this, you have the ghost agent supposedly calling around. Who’s handling this?”

    Reiff has been with the starters at right tackle for the majority of training camp. That decision was probably for two reasons. First, they don’t want to lose Reiff, their only experienced tackle, in an exhibition game. Second, it gave them more reps for a long list of young players they want to test.

    Pulling rookie fifth-round pick Braxton Jones with the starting offensive players after 18 snaps is a dead giveaway that he is the Week 1 starting left tackle. I thought they might give Jones an extended look, maybe through the first half, just to get him more acclimated to the NFL. Nope. He came out with the other starters, excluding right tackle Larry Borom, which is an excellent sign for Jones when projecting ahead. Jones looked the part, too, and didn’t seem overwhelmed with Frank Clark across from him.

    Borom played pretty well and even played a series early in the third quarter. He looks to have a roster spot locked up, and I wonder if we will see any moving parts in practice this week. Will the Bears consider one of the younger options at right guard? Michael Schofield was beaten by Chris Jones for a sack. Schofield has a lot of experience but he signed for the veteran minimum, and sometimes the money tells you just how committed a team is to a player. It’s possible the Bears will continue with Schofield locked in at right guard, but keep an eye on this spot.

    Teven Jenkins saw a lot of action at right tackle and looked rusty at times. On one play, he dove at the feet of a Chiefs lineman and missed. He looked a little off in some pass sets. But he moved well, maybe better than I would have expected, and flashed at times. He missed a lot of camp with an undisclosed injury and still could be working his way back into shape. If he’s better Thursday against the Seahawks, that could bode well, but he’s working his way up from the bottom. The other young linemen had a rough go of it, but guard Ja’ Tyre Carter’s athleticism stood out. He’s probably at least a year away, but after seeing him play,it makes sense why the Bears added him.

    Jones really stood out at left tackle, as I mentioned above, and strong safety Jaquan Brisker went from flashing on the practice field to doing it in a game with a pass deflection (he wishes were an interception)and four tackles, including one for a loss. He put a big hit on Chiefs rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore too. He’s a physical performer and quickly will emerge as a fan favorite.

    “The tackling. Deflecting the ball,” Eberflus said of Brisker. “He should have had maybe a takeaway or two. But he was high-energy. Man, he likes to hit. I really liked that aggressive style for him, how he’s playing.”

    Running back Trestan Ebner, a sixth-round pick from Baylor, showed why he might be able to contribute as a change-of-pace back. He was electric in the open field on a 27-yard run, caught a 12-yard pass for a touchdown from Trevor Siemian and had a 34-yard kickoff return. Ebner needs to show a mastery of pass-protection skills, but this offense is seeking guys who can make plays in space.

    Undrafted rookie Jack Sanborn, who is from Lake Zurich, had an afternoon to remember. He had an interception, fumble recovery, five tackles — including one for a loss — and two stops on special teams.

    “We were playing Cover-2 and I made a decent break on the interception,” Sanborn said. “I think there are some more plays I could have made. I was just happy to be out there. Do everything for the team. That is my mindset. Do whatever the team wants me to do.”

    That included being on four phases in special teams, which Sanborn knows might be his ticket to competing for a roster spot.

    Safety Elijah Hicks had two tackles and made a stop on special teams. He has moved well in practice and is another young player to keep an eye on. The Bears hope third-round pick Velus Jones is back in action soon. The wide receiver has missed about the last week with an unknown injury but is expected to contribute.

    Speakers and lights in the locker room were set up differently, wide receiver Darnell Mooney noted. The pregame stretching routine was completely different from what the team was accustomed to under Matt Nagy. Everything has changed, and Eberflus is learning on the fly as a longtime defensive coordinator and position coach on that side of the ball now in a role overseeing the entire operation.

    “We talked about what we’re looking for in this game is, first of all, the game-day operation and how we did as a group,” Eberflus said. “I was taking notes out there a lot today just to make sure we get everything cleaned up in terms of the pregame operation, in-game operation and any postgame operation we have (Sunday) as we go through and evaluate these guys.

    “We have a step-by-step process which we go through and again, there’s some things we’ve got to get cleaned up throughout the day that went on. And then really evaluating scheme in-game. Just an overarching view of it, the guys operated well. There were no pre-snap penalties, very few penalties at all. The biggest thing when you play a sport, any sport, you look at your individual responsibility and your individual performance and ‘how can I get better?’ So if you had 60 plays and you played great in 58 of those but, ‘Hey, two plays I’ve got to get better at something.’ We need to work on that this week in every single practice. They’re going to get with their coaches where I always say they partner together — coach-player, player-coach — to make our football team better. That’s truly a partnership and to me, that’s the big process we’re going through.”

    It’s an interesting takeaway from Eberflus, who is hyperfocused on every detail as he installs his system. But he’s also able to keep a wide-angle focus on what matters when players return to Halas Hall for training camp practice Monday morning. How can each player get better, and what does the tape show they need to improve? Eberflus talks about focusing on individual drills in practice, and that is where this comes into play for a young roster in the developmental stage.

    Did anything catch the coach off guard with his first time wearing the headset as the top dog on the sideline? Surely he thought he prepared for everything.

    “I didn’t realize how much you talk to the officials during the game,” he said. “There’s a lot of conversations going on. Those guys did great. Those guys were with us the whole week. They educated our players and they did a phenomenal job educating the coaches sitting there in the positional meetings and talking to us. Really, we’re trying to learn. We’re trying to play an aggressive style and play it in a smart way. The only way to do that is if you learn and educate yourself on the rules.”

    Long snapper and punter have been two positions that have had mainstays in the more than two decades I have covered the team. The vast majority of punts have been made by three players in the last 21 seasons — Brad Maybard, Adam Podlesh and Pat O’Donnell. The Bears chose to move on from the veteran O’Donnell and bring in a young leg, and Gill performed well.

    He had seven punts, averaging 42.6 yards with a 36.4 net, which should improve when the team settles on a top coverage unit. He landed three punts inside the 20-yard line, had one touchback and a long of 53 yards with some steady hang time. His best kick was a 45-yarder with just more than two minutes remaining that pinned the Chiefs on their 3-yard line.

    “It was great,” Gill said. “I was super excited to get out and play in a game. I hope I showed the coaches and front-office people what I can do.”

    Said veteran long snapper Patrick Scales: “Great outing. I think my first snap was a little low, and he did a great job pinning them down there. He was very situationally aware, showed a lot of maturity. It was a great day for him.”

    The Bears have shown faith in Gill by not carrying another punter on the 90-man roster. Part of the reasonprobably is driven by the fact they want to give the rookie a maximum amount of opportunities in practice, but it’s also a positive sign even as the team has brought in a couple of punters on tryouts, which is not unusual at this time of year.

    “I’m still competing with myself,” Gill said. “I have been doing that since high school. Every day I am trying to compete with myself. I know there are a lot of people out there punting and I know every time they bring someone in, if I am worried about who they are bringing in next, I am not worrying about myself. That is the only way to get better.”

    It will be interesting to see how Gill does in the regular season. He could be the next punter to stick around for a long time after O’Donnell’s eight-year stint.

    They had an electric one last season in Jakeem Grant, and Tarik Cohen was as good as it gets before his gruesome knee injury. Devin Hester was the best to ever do it. Dazz Newsome muffed his first and only opportunity Saturday, which doesn’t bode well for him. Securing the football is the No. 1 job. Chris Finke didn’t do a lot with two chances, and Dante Pettis had three fair catches.

    Perhaps rookie Velus Jones will emerge in this role. He’s a potential kickoff returner as well, but the Bears might want him to focus on the offense. This looks like a good question for special teams coordinator Richard Hightower, and it will be interesting to see what the team does Thursday in Seattle and if Jones figures in the mix when he’s back at practice.

    Aesthetically it was a mess and renewed criticism of the team and the Chicago Park District, which maintains the stadium. A lot of observers were distraught after the game, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid said it was better than his high school field — but not by a lot.

    Quarterback Justin Fields said it was better than when the team practiced at the stadium Tuesday, just after the recent Elton John concert. The grass where the stage for the concert was had been replaced. Brown spots look out of place on an NFL field, but the league passed the surface as being safe during the week and before kickoff.

    Three concerts are scheduled at the stadium beforethe Sept. 11 season opener against the 49ers: the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Friday), Bad Bunny (Saturday) and Rammstein (Sept. 3). The surface will be replaced after the Rammstein concert, so every blade of grass you see for the 49ers game will be new. This was planned, and the view should be significantly better in Week 1 than it was Saturday.

    I also can tell you this: The Soldier Field playing surface has been is a lot better and drawn a lot fewer complaints in recent years since the team switched to a grass farm in New Jersey and away from one it was using in Illinois. The sod now used, grown at Tuckahoe Turf Farms in Hammonton, N.J., has less clay and more sand, one reason why you saw sand on the field during the game. It’s there for a reason, and the playing surface is significantly better than it was when players, former kicker Robbie Gould included, would level complaints about it.

    Barring a disaster between the Rammstein show and the opener, this will be a non-story in no time and also has nothing to do with the team’s desire to move to Arlington Heights. The Bears want to own a stadium for revenue reasons in a building they can hold concerts and other non-football events (and cash in on those events). The Chicago Park District has wanted for the longest time to install an artificial surface at Soldier Field. The Bears prefer to play on natural grass. It’s the team’s call.

    It gives the Bears only Monday and Tuesday to practice at Halas Hall and then requires the farthest travel of the season. It’s one reason the they weren’t able to find a match for a joint practice with another team. It will provide the Bears with extra time before the preseason finale in Cleveland on Aug. 28, but I bet the Bears would have preferred a more regular week with four practices between games.

    10a. It will be very interesting to see if rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon practices this week. He has missed more than half of camp and sat out a good chunk of the offseason program. I am sure the Bears are being careful with him, and the guess would be it is he has a soft-tissue injury. Gordon needs time on the grass, as Matt Eberflus says, to be a major contributor.

    10b. Nice game for veteran linebacker Matt Adams, who had a team-high seven tackles. He not only looks like the starter on the strong side in the base defense but also the top backup if one is needed.

    10c. Scouts from six NFL teams — the Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers — were at the game. The XFL and CFL also were represented.

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