Takeaways from Bears loss to Bengals: A little Mitch, O-line flux, and paging Kevin White and a pass rush

John Mullin
NBC Sports Chicago

Definitive conclusions are typically in short supply outside of film-room reviews of preseason games. But the Bears' second preseason loss contained a handful of "notables." 

What a difference a Trubisky year makes

The state of Mitch Trubisky is the over-arching question for the 2018 Bears preseason, a little like it really was about this time last year, Mike Glennon or no Mike Glennon.

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Trubisky took his first step into playing his way into a quarterback controversy last preseason, starting with completing his first 10 passes against the Denver Broncos and finishing with 18-of-25 passing for 166 yards and a touchdown. This time there's no quarterback controversy but neither were the Bears particularly interested in exposing much of Trubisky, who took a total of 10 snaps, two of which were rendered "no play" by penalties.

Kevin White struggling for a connection

Wide receivers Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson were out of the mix on Thursday but it was difficult not to wonder if Trubisky was putting a little more juice into trying to get Kevin White up to a higher level in the offense. It didn't work.

White has been serviceable through camp to this point but not evinced much that would suggest he was once the seventh pick of a draft if you didn't know it already. He and Trubisky have a clear personal comfort component, enhanced by shared time working out in California, and Trubisky came out with throws to White on two of the game's first three plays.

"He knows I've got a lot of confidence in him," Trubisky said.

Unfortunately neither pass resulted in a completion, a deep first-down throw that was incomplete, and White dropped the second, shorter throw in a play that was nullified by a roughing-the-passer flag against the Bengals.

"It was a drop," coach Matt Nagy said. "And he would tell you that."

Trubisky went to White a third time on the Bears' second possession, again looking deep, but the attempt was incomplete, making White the only Bears receiver targeted in the game but who did not register a catch.

O-line in motion?

One thought is that the Bears' offensive line is far from settled under returnee coach Harry Hiestand. And that is not necessarily a bad thing at all.

Hiestand, O-coordinator Mark Helfrich and Nagy presumably will use the five-best-will-start plan, and the best combination may still be yet to form at two spots. Cody Whitehair rates as a clear member of the five-best'ers, but whether the line is its best with him at center or guard is open to discussion, and was a topic inside Halas Hall after last season.

Whitehair was the starting left guard through his rookie (2016) preseason, moving to center just before Opening Day because of the Bears signing Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. He stayed there last season and was graded as the No. 4 run-blocking center and allowed just one sack, according to Pro Football Focus.

Meanwhile, the Bears invested a high second-round pick in James Daniels and said initially that Daniels was going to work at guard despite a career at center for Iowa that included some All-American and All-Big 10 mentions. More immediately relevant perhaps, Daniels was clearly behind Eric Kush and Earl Watford in the guard mix.

Shifting Daniels' focus to center in mid-camp sticks out as potentially significant, where he would be flanked by Whitehair and Kyle Long. The decision, as so often in these situations, is not whether Daniels is better than Whitehair (he's not), but whether Daniels is a better center and Kush is a guard.

Daniels rates an unofficial edge on potential, Kush on experience.

Duly noteds

In what may have been a mini-preview of a crucial segment of the emerging Bears iteration of the time-honored West Coast offense, tight ends were a collective factor even in defeat. Tight ends caught 10 of the 11 passes thrown to them, topped by Daniel Brown's five and Adam Shaheen's three. Ben Braunecker caught one of the two thrown to him, while Trey Burton and Colin Thompson each caught their one target.

Notably, yards after catch were in evidence. Brown took one short completion 56 yards, Shaheen turned one upfield for 29 yards, and Braunecker's catch went for 20.

Cincinnati quarterbacks dropped back 37 times in Thursday's game. Only twice did a Bears defender register even a hit on one, and both of those by linebacker/end Roy Robertson-Harris, who collected his second sack of the preseason. No other Bear was credited with a quarterback hit, although Leonard Floyd and rookie Kylie Fitts will be credited with hurries.

Cornerback Marcus Cooper was a bad signing in free agency last offseason, and did not look much better as a re-signing at a guaranteed $1.15 million. Cooper was beaten in coverage and failed to close on two must-tackles on the first Cincinnati touchdown drive.

 

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