CHARLOTTE, N.C. – First the good news. Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler and Josh McCown all agreed leading up to the first preseason game in Carolina that the most important thing they needed to do was get the calls in from the sideline and called in the huddle correctly, get everybody lined up in the right spot and get the ball snapped in rhythm.
Mission accomplished. The Bears had no problems running Trestman's offense in the 24-17 loss and that is significant for a first preseason game with a new coaching staff. Trestman's opening comments after the game included "I was really happy with the tempo, getting the calls in and no pre-snap mistakes."
Unfortunately, that's where the good news stopped as the Bears didn't execute the offense very well, they failed to take care of the football, turning it over three times in the first three quarters, and the defense was mediocre at best.
You will be tempted to overreact to the fact that Cutler was intercepted on the Bears' first offensive play and you shouldn't. It was unclear whether the ball was poorly thrown or Alshon Jeffery broke his route off too short, and fixing those issues are exactly what the preseason is for.
"My fault, wrong shoulder, bad ball," Cutler said. "I thought Alshon ran his route well."
Cutler came on for two more possessions and completed six of seven passes after the interception for 56 yards. His lone incompletion was on third down in his second possession and, on his only other third down attempt, he hooked up with Eric Weems for 11 yards on third and 14 before retiring for the evening. I'd give him a C and move on, no cause for concern yet.
What was disconcerting was seeing J'Marcus Webb beaten badly on an outside speed rush from Charles Johnson and then get beaten even worse on the same play when he tried to push Johnson past Cutler. He allowed Johnson to make an inside move under his outstretched arms to sack Cutler for a six-yard loss.
The play came after Cutler had completed successive first-down throws for 13 and 11 yards and set up the failed third down attempt to Weems, killing any momentum the offense might have gained.
I asked Cutler if he was surprised he played the whole first quarter and he said "Well, one and done in the first series and the second series was short, so I threw more to get quite a bit more feel."
"I'll have to look at the tape but I told you last week (Webb)'s had some good practices and some not so good so we have to keep practicing him and look for improvement," Trestman said.
Throughout training camp, Shea McClellin has looked quicker and more comfortable at defensive end while running everything without contact and mostly at three-quarter speed. In fairness to McClellin, with both Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton in street clothes, he was asked to do a lot playing both right and left defensive end well into the second quarter. Objectively speaking, he did very little and was not a factor.
Rookie linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene both had their moments, especially Bostic, who returned a Cam Newton interception 51 yards for a touchdown, flashing speed and athleticism. But, for the most part, Bostic was a step behind and a bit lost running against the Panthers first-team offense, especially on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell coming out of the backfield. Greene had the same issues with the second defense. Both showed real promise but Bostic is not ready to start yet.
Trestman was excited about the Bostic touchdown and the stamina he showed with the reps he got, saying "We know he's real football smart and he's going to play a lot of football for us but we have to keep working and get him ready."
One bright spot was rookie seventh-round draft choice Marquess Wilson, who helped his case for a spot on the team with a 58-yard catch and run on a toss from Matt Blanchard and great acceleration after the catch.
At the end of the night, what we learned more than anything about these Bears is there is a lot more work to do before they're ready to try the real thing.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUB'S 3=POINT STANCE
It's all new for Bears in Carolina
1. It didn't really sink in until I looked down at the Bears pregame warmups from the press box in Carolina's Bank of America Stadium that with a new coaching staff in place for the first time in 10 seasons in Chicago, every single step this team is taking is new and a work in progress. The pregame stretching routine was all new in Carolina, and just about everything else in the pregame was new as well. With Marc Trestman's attention to detail it all matters and these early preseason games will be more valuable to the team than usual.
2. It appeared the decision for Julius Peppers not to dress in Carolina may have been a late reaction to his pregame warm up in shorts and gym shoes. The list distributed to the media in the press box of players who would not dress did not include Peppers or Brandon Marshall who also sat out.
3. Other than the greeting for Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith, the loudest cheer from Panthers fans in pregame introductions went to former Bears tight end, Greg Olsen.