First Impressions – Bears @ Giants

| August 23, 2011

This was a very strange game to watch. It began with four straight three-and-outs before the offense woke up and then a number of big plays led to scores on four of the following five drives.
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While the two defenses remain mostly intact from 2010, it was changes on offense that will make differences in the coming year. The Bears are starting a rookie offensive tackle and both teams lost their top tight ends from the year before. While it was difficult to figure out what to make out of it all, it was one of the more entertaining preseason games to watch so far.
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New York Giants – Three Things of Note
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●  The man replacing Kevin Boss in the Giants’ line-up is Travis Beckum. While he looks like he could be a valuable run blocker, New York looked like it has no plans to include Beckum in the passing game. The Giants already threw it to their wide receivers at a higher frequency then other teams, and it looks like it will only increase this year. They also replaced Steve Smith in the offense with Victor Cruz and he had a 21-yard catch on fourth down that was fun to watch. The targets on the vast majority of throws, however, were either Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, or Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants have fewer choices in the pass game then they did the year before, but those remaining are very good options.
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●  The Giants have 2009 second rounder Will Beatty starting at left tackle after logging just 168 snaps last season, and he produced mixed results in this game. Early on, while he was responsible for Julius Peppers, Beatty gave up some pressure and was flagged for a penalty. Later, as Peppers shifted to play primarily on the other side, Beatty fared well. He managed a handful of get-the-job-done kind of blocks in the run game, but showed nothing overly impressive. Not a terrible effort by any measure, he just wasn’t a standout – perhaps counting as a big win for a player settling into the role.
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● The Giants’ defense as a whole has largely remained in place. They were without Osi Umenyiora tonight, which was a factor in the pass rush not being as strong in this game as in others. They were, however, able to get generate pressure on a number of plays, though they only made it to Cutler once. While that sounds good, it was against the Bears’ offensive line that allowed nine sacks from the Giants in the first half last year. On the other hand, their run defense was as good as ever, allowing less than 3 yards per run while the Bears rotated players in and out at halfback.
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Chicago Bears – Three Things of Note
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● Last year, Johnny Knox was firmly set as a starting receiver for the Bears. Now he’s fallen to No. 4 and was nowhere to be found with the first unit. On the first two drives, Chicago looked to the man who replaced Knox, Roy Williams, but both times he was targeted, the ball ended up on the ground. On their third drive, it was Devin Hester’s turn and he brought in a nice first down catch but followed it up with a trip, costing Chicago a touchdown. Slot receiver Earl Bennett got his chance later on, thrown at on the drive’s final three plays. Watching Williams fit in here will be interesting as will seeing what, if anything outside of kick returns, they do with Knox.
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● Last year, it was Greg Olsen and Brandon Manumaleuna being used interchangeably at tight end and fullback. Both are gone, but the role remains similar and is now being shared by Kellen Davis and Matt Speath. Each saw was targeted once and neither appear on the way to becoming the receiving option Olsen was. More three-receiver sets are to be expected out of Chicago. On run plays, they moved around to various two-tight or base formations and, while neither made any blocks that stood out, they can’t be much worse than last year’s run blocking at the position.
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● The Bears have their rookie offensive tackle playing on the right. While there was never a play that was clearly Gabe Carimi’s fault that resulted in a loss of yards, he was called for a penalty in the second quarter, and looked like he moved first when a false start was called Webb earlier on. There were a number of pass plays on which Carimi slid back in protection and kept the rusher moving upfield rather than crashing in around on Cutler; good to see. The Bears only ran eight times in the first half, with just two being to Carimi’s side, and that small sample wasn’t nearly enough to judge his run blocking on.
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If there is one thing we know about these teams for sure, it’s that they have two of the better defenses in the league. It will be the questions on offense that serve as limits for these two borderline playoff talents as they eye the postseason.
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On a side note, cornerback Terrell Thomas of the Giants was injured during the game, and it was reported that he would be out for the year. It’s always sad to see a player go down like that and we wish him the best in his recovery.

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Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke and check out our main Twitter feed too: @ProFootbalFocus
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  • davidjjdowning

    Beatty is actually in his 3rd year.

    • Rick Drummond

      oops, thanks david.

      • davidjjdowning

        No problem.

  • bears0492

    Do you mind telling us how Major Wright and Chris Harris did? From watching the game, it seemed like Wright was solid in coverage and generally in the right spot…just not doing anything special or spectacular like the Bears defense allows the FS to be