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Arkush: Bears still a work in progress

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler passes the ball in the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Soldier Field on Thursday, August 14, 2014. The Bears are down 16-7 at the half.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler passes the ball in the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Soldier Field on Thursday, August 14, 2014. The Bears are down 16-7 at the half.

CHICAGO – More than anything, people need to remember it’s early.

The Bears’ performance in their second exhibition game, a 20-19 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night at Soldier Field, was uninspired at best.

But I am here to brighten your day. How many of you have forgotten that the 1985 Bears started 0-3 in exhibitions before beating up on the Buffalo Bills to get ready for their opener.

The moral of the story, of course, is these games are meaningless.

Still, there is a recurring theme this year that is a bit disturbing.

From the moment the Bears arrived in Bourbonnais, we knew there were at least 16 players on the roster capable of contributing to a winning team, perhaps even a playoff team.

They include Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza and Kyle Long on offense, and Jared Allen, Jeremiah Ratliff, Lamarr Houston, Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman on defense.

The whole idea of this preseason has been to find out if there is anyone else on the roster who can step up and join them?

Cutler acknowledged the need for help, speaking at halftime about the receiver position.

“We had really liked going with three receivers, but Marquess (Wilson) is out, so we’ve got to adapt and use some different guys. We’ll see what some of these guys can do in the second half: (Micheal) Spurlock and (Eric) Weems and (Josh) Bellamy and Josh Morgan. We’ll see how it works out.”

It didn’t. Through two exhibition games, there aren’t more than a few players who actually have staked a claim to the remaining 37 spots on the roster.

Zach Miller, although not a prototypical Marc Trestman tight end, had at least made a strong case in the first preseason game and the few practices that followed it about his ability to contribute.

Against Jacksonville, he injured his foot and had to leave the field on a cart.

The Bears must replace the greatest kick returner in the history of the game in Devin Hester. Chris Williams was thought to be the guy. Against the Eagles, he pulled a hamstring and hasn’t played since.

Weems responded to that opportunity by fumbling his second kickoff return opportunity of the game and being slightly less than mediocre on the others.

Jimmy Clausen clearly has moved ahead of Jordan Palmer in the race to back up Cutler. Given a chance to slam the door against the Jags, he refused to seal the deal.

Ka’Deem Carey has by far the most carries of any running back on the team and it’s clear the Bears want him to claim the No. 2 running back spot. It’s even clearer that Shaun Draughn is the second-best back on the team.

And that’s just the backups.

With the No. 3 receiver, SAM linebacker and both starting safety spots up for grabs, not a single contestant has done a thing to lay claim to a job.

There were a few nice moments against Jacksonville.

Jon Bostic made a nice play from the nickel to end the Jaguars’ first drive on third and 1 at the Bears’ 27.

Trevor Scott looks like a lock for the No. 4 defensive end position and appears capable of supplying pressure on the passer if given the chance.

Draughn did have a nice game against the Jags and Patrick O’Donnell appeared to lock up the punting competition with a clearly superior performance to Tress Way.

Lance Briggs seemed to sum it up best, talking about where his club is right now, and where he hopes they’re going.

“I think we’re a humbled group,” Briggs said. “We’re working real hard. We’ll keep taking steps in the right direction. You’re never going to know (in the preseason). It’s good to get tested against an opponent, but you’re never really going to know until Week 1.”

• Chicago Football editor Hub Arkush can be reached at or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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