Bears Notebook: Defense Lacking Its Form

There was some good and bad from the Bears' 30-27 loss to the Bengals.

Chris Emma
August 10, 2018 - 10:24 am
Bears cornerback Marcus Cooper, left

Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports

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(670 The Score) Coach Matt Nagy set the tone ahead of his first Bears training camp by stating that his team would add some callous ahead of the regular season. On the defensive side, the hope is for the defense to be a unit feared each time out.

It all sounded grea when the Bears were just reporting to Bourbonnais and Roquan Smith's absence didn't loom so large. But as the Bears fell 30-27 to the Bengals on Thursday evening, the defense didn't look like the physical unit it aspires to be.

Between missed tackles, lapses in coverage and tentative pursuit of the play, the Bears' first-team defense -- particularly the secondary -- showcased poor form at Paul Brown Stadium. Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman brought their best effort up front, but the linebackers and defensive backs scuffled.

One play that will certainly draw criticism in the film session was the 24-yard touchdown catch-and-run for Bengals running back Joe Mixon, who powered through the attempted tackle of linebacker John Timu and spun off the efforts of safety Adrian Amos. Cornerback Marcus Cooper had his own matchup problems against receiver John Ross, getting beat twice in the first quarter.

The Bears' starting defense had surrendered 139 yards on 16 plays to start the game, with a whole lot of Mixon involved. 

Of course, this was an exhibition on Aug. 9 in which basic schemes were run, not the regular-season opener on Sept. 9. And the Bears also didn't suit up veterans in cornerback Prince Amukamara and linebacker Danny Trevathan, while Smith still remains unsigned.

But coaches want to be critical in evaluating the film from a game like this, and the Bears can take away plenty. What must be discovered is whether the miscues were the byproduct of preseason circumstances or something to get right back in Bourbonnais.

White's woes

The opportunity that receiver Kevin White still has with the Bears may be slipping through his hands.

White suited up for the entire first half of action and failed to flash as the Bears have long hoped. He was officially targeted twice (three times with a play negated by penalty) and didn't post a catch.

Nagy dialed up the deep ball from Mitchell Trubisky on the first play of the game, and it just overshot White. But two plays later, he dropped what would've been a first down on third-and-9. 

While this was a small sample size, it also flows with the first weeks of training camp, over which White hasn't displayed the ability to be a difference-making target. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller will serve as the top receivers for this team, good health willing, but the Bears are trying to give White his chance to enter the fold.

When Robinson has been sidelined from work, it's White filling his void lined out wide but failing to produce. He has been used in personnel packages with all kinds of variations but isn't showing much. Fortunately for White, Bennie Fowler and Marlon Brown haven't pulled away in the receiver competition.

Health is only half the battle for White, the 2015 first-round pick who has played in just five games in three season. He must reveal growth and show progress or the Bears could be ready to move on.

Shaheen shows off

When the Bears were last in Cincinnati, they got a glimpse of the Adam Shaheen whom they hope can transform the offense.

Shaheen went up over a defender to haul in a touchdown pass against the Bengals last December, looking like the dominant player they saw at the Division-II level. He appeared to suffer an injury on the play and missed the final three games of the regular season.

Still, Shaheen had finally reached a point where he felt comfortable at NFL game speed, and it showed in that moment. Sure enough, he was back at Paul Brown Stadium making plays for the Bears on Thursday.

Shaheen finished with three receptions for 53 yards, including a quick pass from Chase Daniel that saw him burst ahead for a 29-yard gain and moved the Bears into the red zone. These were some of the latest positives for Shaheen, who's not only looking more ready for this stage but also displaying greater speed and athleticism on trimmer frame.

Shaheen embarked on a dedicated workout program aimed at becoming a more explosive player this past offseason, then arrived at training camp looking the part. He also spent plenty of time with his head in the playbook gaining a grasp for how he could thrive within this new offense.

In an offense full of targets, Shaheen is showing he's deserving of a place in the plans.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.