The first thing that needs to be discussed is how terrible Langston Walker was. He was awful. I think both of Trent's sacks were on him and for every pass play that he didn't screw up, there was one he did. He gave up a little early on a handful of plays, got beat by speed rushers, inside moves, bull rushes, a stunt and anything the D decided to throw his way. I don't think I can describe how bad he was without actually putting the tape up and making people rewatch each play. I'm hoping Ron will do a play by play OL review like he usually does. I actually thought the OL as a whole was pretty solid, but Walker was just dreadful.
So I did a little film study on the Bills' pass rush hoping I could track QB pressures. I won't be able to tally them up over the course of a season and I'm not ambitious enough to attempt to grade players, but I'll do a little play by play of Cutler's pass attempts. He threw the ball 10 times.
Pass one - No real pressure, but the front four as a group gave Cutler a small pocket to work with and Cutler settled for a short completion to Hester. McGee was covering.
Pass two - Both DEs got great pressure ..... but it was a screen pass.
Pass three - At first I thought this was a blown assignment. Schobel lined up way outside the TE, blew by the OL unblocked and an RB went low on him. Cutler had to get a throw out and it was the short 3rd down attempt to Hester where Hester never really made a play on the ball and McKelvin broke it up.
Pass four - Zero pressure. Completion to Hester, McKelvin was covering, but there wasn't much he could do.
pass five - Kelsay lines up outside the TE, isn't blocked by an offensive lineman, an RB goes low and Cutler gets the ball out quick. This was the play where Cutler overthrew a perfectly covered Hester down the sideline. McGee covered and Whitner would have been there in time too had the ball not been (intentionally?) overthrown.
pass six - No pressure, but the DL shrunk the pocket in every direction and Cutler forced that ugly throw to Hester which lead to the gorgeous INT by McKelvin.
pass seven - Poor pass rush, Corner drops the INT.
pass eight - Good bull rush by Schobel as the DL doesn't pose a real threat to sack the QB, but doesn't give Cutler any space to work with. Cutler had a great completion to Desmond Clark after Harris passed him off in zone coverage to a nowhere to be found Ko Simpson.
pass nine - George Wilson essentially lines up as a defensive lineman over the TE. Chris Ellis is lined up way outside the TE and again, nobody on the OL blocks the player coming from that spot. Buggs blitzes up the middle and is easily picked up. Chicago was in a two back set and both went low on Ellis whose presence still provided enough pressure to force a quick out to Earl Bennet.
pass ten - Buffalo was going to blitz heavily, but Chicago called a last second timeout. Somebody from the right defensive end position (looked like number 95, but didn't look like Kyle Williams, I'm guessing C. Bryan) came in unblocked as an RB predictably went low, but Bryan/mystery defender still provided enough pressure for Cutler to force a throw to the back of the end zone. This was the play where Harris got a hand on it, Florence was in place to maybe break up the pass and Ko Simpson laughibly came in two or three seconds after the ball would have arrived and tackled his own teammate.
Overall, Buffalo provided very little pass rush when Chicago chose to block them with their offensive line. I thought Schobel looked quick and healthy, but wasn't much of a factor. It was interesting watching Buffalo line up a DE outside of the TE and Chicago consistently give that rusher a free pass by the OT.
Buffalo only blitzed once and would have blitzed twice if it weren't for the time out. I think Buffalo blitzed too often and too predictably last year. Kawika Mitchell (who now has an awesome mustache by the way) is a player that needs to be used as a blitzer. It's probably his best asset as a player (aside from the fact that he could play a Mexican drug dealer in a movie now). But Buffalo rushed five far too often last year. I'd like to see them blitz 20% of the time (down from 32%) or less this year, but rush 6 or 7 way more often than they have under DJ.
That Edwards strike to Evans down the sideline was a thing of beauty. Rookie safety Al Afalava was starting at SS and was creeping up into the box. Trent read that Kevin Payne was going to back in a cover 1 playcall, stared down Derek Schouman forcing Payne to leave Evans one on one with Nathan Vasher. Vasher's a good CB, but that isn't a battle many CBs are going to win. It was easily the most encouraging play of the night. Great decision, poise and throw by Edwards.
Trent only made two throws that weren't great passes. He had a short throw to Fine that was low and while he caught it, Fine didn't have a chance to do anything afterwards. There was also one play where Urlacher (who I thought had a great game) showed blitz and backed into coverage. It was the slant to Evans and Urlacher read Trent, broke on the route and came pretty close to getting a hand on the ball or even picking it off. It was a no harm, no foul play and it wasn't a bad decision to throw by Trent, altough it was a bit of a close call. When those are the only not great plays your QB made, then he had a great, great night. Trent was forced to check down a lot, but I didn't think any were due to him hesitating or something like that. Walker and the Bears pass rushers forced the ball out of Trent's hands a few times.
That bootleg was an awesome playcall. Any chance we go from being really worried about Schonert a year ago, to a great no huddle offense, good playcalling and an offensive coordinator that we start viewing as a prefect hire by DJ? Maybe it's time we gave the coaching a break, or at least we gave the coordinators a break.
Some quick hitters:
Spencer Johnson had nice night.
Ko Simpson didn't have a nice night and is firmly on the bubble. After tonight, he may be on the outside looking in, I thought George Wilson was a better defender and if that's the case then Simpson is a goner.
I thought those 2nd team LBs looked really quick. They read and reacted to run plays very quickly, especially Buggs. They make our starting LBs look really, really slow. Ellison is probably still our third best LB, but we can't get him off the field quick enough.
Fred Jackson doesn't have much of a burst. I can see why he wasn't drafted and took a couple training camps to catch on. It's incredible how elusive and strong of a runner he is despite such average athletic tools. It makes me like him even more.
Dominic Rhodes is a reliable, versatile player. He's also not better than Lynch or Jackson at pretty much anything. With McIntyre not being a complete disaster tonight, will Rhodes be active once Lynch comes back?
Buffalo had 6 different RBs with 5+ carries. None of them had a run longer than McIntyre's 7 yard adventure and none of them averaged more than Lynch's 3.2 yards per attempt. It's time to officially put the run game on the list of things to be concerned about.
One positive thing about the run game is that after being shut down by a Haynesworth-less Titans D last week, Tampa Bay got shut down by that D too. Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham combined for 10 yards on 8 carries. So maybe Buffalo's run struggles are just the result of great run defenses. Chicago gave up the third fewest ypc in the league last year at 3.4. ypc.
On the flip side, what I thought was a poor TB run defense had a better performance than we did against Johnson and White. Chris Johnson had just 7 yards on 7 carries and White had 6 yards on 3 carries. I've now got my eye on those two for the rest of the preseason for fantasy purposes.