This preseason did not go as I expected it to. I was hoping to get more of a look at what Matt Nagy's offense will look like, but the starters hardly got any playing time at all.

Chase Daniel dramatically turned his play around after the Hall of Fame game.

A lot of teams this preseason seemed to hold their starters. This is a continuation of a trend that we've been seeing over the past few years or so, as teams wanted to avoid injuries to marquee players. However, rule changes before the season made a huge difference. The NFL changed the rules so that teams don't have to cut any preseason players until after the final game. Teams are going from 90 players to 53 players between the last preseason game and the first regular season game. Because of this, the teams have a lot more reserves still on their rosters that they can continue to evaluate, and they seem to be taking advantage of that.

After a rough outing in the Hall of Fame game, backup QB Chase Daniel pulled his preseason together and was actually the best-performing quarterback on the team. Part of that is because he also got a majority of the snaps. Trubisky didn't even play in the last two preseason games, and Tyler Bray got limited action.

Preseason standouts like Tanner Gentry and Taquan Mizzell were retained on the practice squad.

Tyler Bray did get the start for most of the final preseason game, and he had some pretty good drives. The team couldn't pull out a win, as the Bills' reserves outplayed the Bears' in the fourth quarter.

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Geez, it's already football season? Thursday night saw the annual NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony and preseason football game. The Bears and the Ravens played the game, which finally gives us Bears fans a brief (and limited) glimpse of what new coach Matt Nagy's team might look like.

Brian Urlacher was inducted into the Hall of Fame prior to Bears playing the game.

Perhaps my favorite player ever, Bears great Brian Urlacher, was inducted into the Hall of Fame prior to the game, alongside players like Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, and Packer great Jerry Kramer (how was Jerry Kramer not already in the Hall?). It goes without saying that I miss watching Urlacher play. I also miss playing as him in Madden video games.

Devin Hester return TD
Brian Urlacher was a great player and
consummate teammate who always
celebrated his teammates' success.

I always admired the physicality, speed, and intelligence that Urlacher played with. But it wasn't just his on-field performance that I admired. I also appreciated the way that he always seemed to be watching his team from the sidelines whenever he was off the field. I remember every time Devin Hester returned a kick, or every time a back broke a big run, or the QB made a big throw, Urlacher was running down the sideline, chasing his teammates and hooting and hollering in celebration of their success. He was a consummate team player, and seemed to be an all-around quality person. Players like him, Devin Hester, Charles Tillman, and some non-Bears like Peyton Manning, are the reason that I started watching football more regularly.

Hopefully, recent linebacker draftees Roquan Smith and Leonard Floyd can live up to the legacy of Urlacher, Butkus, and Singletary.

Limited look at Matt Nagy's offense

Sadly, we didn't get to see first round (8th overall) draft pick Roquan Smith at all, nor did we see second year QB Mitch Trubisky. Smith is holding out over contractual concerns relating to the NFL's new helmet collision rules and other issues. I'm not going to talk much about the team's defensive performance, as it shouldn't be indicative of how they'll play in the regular season. I'll pay more attention to the defense in the next couple games. First of all, coverages and blitz schemes in the first game of preseason are usually very simple and rudimentary. Also, I'm assuming (and hoping) that Roquan Smith's holdout will be resolved by the time of the regular season.

Backup Chase Daniel [LEFT] was outplayed by his backup Tyler Bray [RIGHT].

Even though we didn't see Trubisky, both of the Bears' backup QBs weren't too bad -- something that we don't often see from the Bears. Admittedly, it's the first week of preseason, starters aren't playing on defense either, and coverages aren't going to be too sophisticated. Chase Daniel had an early interception, but it was a fluke ball that bounded off a lineman's helmet, so not Daniel's fault. He threw another interception later, but that looked more like a miscommunication between QB and receiver rather than a bad throw or bad read. He petered out quite a bit after the first drive, but a lot of that had to do with receiver Bennie Fowler III dropping passes. Fowler better pick up his play if he wants a spot on the 53-man roster.

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Chicago Bears alt logo

I was a little late at seeing the Bears' first 2017 preseason game. I had meant to record it Thursday evening and watch it later that night. Instead, my DVR recorded two hours of A Football Life instead of the game. I don't know if this was NFL Network's fault for airing the wrong show, or if it was Century Link's fault for mislabeling the schedule. In any case, I had to wait to record the re-broadcast later Saturday morning and watch it Saturday night.

I've been pretty vocal about my confusion with the Bear's offseason quarterback decisions. While I wasn't sorry to see Jay Cutler kicked to the curb, I was very unsure about signing Mike Glennon. I was even more dumbfounded by the Bears' decision to trade up to draft Trubisky after having already spent all that money on Glennon.

Glennon didn't give fans reason to be optimistic, as his preseason debut went about as bad as it could possibly go. His second pass of the game was intercepted by Chris Harris Jr. and returned for a touchdown.

Mike Glennon's second pass was intercepted by Chris Harris Jr. and returned for a TD.

In Glennon's defense, the offensive line wasn't doing him many favors. He seemed to be getting hit every time he dropped back. While Chris Harris Jr. was high-stepping the pick into the end zone, Glennon was peeling himself off the turf. If the Bears want Glennon (or any quarterback they decide to field) to be successful, then they're going to need to beef up their protection.

Cody Whitehair, in particular made a key mistake by snapping the ball over Glennon's head during the Bears' second possession. The ball was recovered by the Broncos, but the Bears' defense managed to hold them from scoring.

Cody Whitehair snapped the ball
over Glennon's head.

The Bears' third drive was where they were finally able to move the ball for the first time in the evening thanks mostly to their running game. Jordan Howard only got a few runs, but rookie Tarik Cohen made some pretty good runs that may earn him some extra play-time and maybe a spot on the final roster. Down 10-0, Glennon ended his night in the early second quarter with only two completions on eight attempts, with the pick-six and a quarterback rating of 0.0 -- yes, that's zero point zero!

Mark Sanchez didn't see much playing time, but I think the coaches probably have a pretty good idea of what Sanchez brings to the team...

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Madden NFL - title

Well, here we are at the end of the NFL season already. Seventeen weeks are in the books, and the 2016/2017 playoffs are in full swing. As we prepare to say goodbye to the 2016 NFL season, it's also time to start looking ahead to the future of the Madden video game series.

I was really happy to see the practice squad and weekly training added to this year's game. I feel that this allows for more realistic development of players over the long term, and it makes the draft feel more worthwhile since you no longer have to cut your late-round draft picks. Despite being a good thing to have, the practice squad feature has some problems.

Madden 17 - practice squad player ratings
Being able to see all of a player's ratings make it trivially easy to poach other team's practice squad players.

For one thing, determining who to start and who to throw on your practice squad is a pretty trivial process of comparing numbers in a spreadsheet. Heck, you can usually get away with just comparing a single number: their overall ratings. Practice squad poaching is another problem. Any player with a rating above 70 is likely to get poached off of your practice squad by another user (even by CPU teams). The reason for both these problems is that it's trivially easy to know how good any given player is - the game shows all their ratings right there in the menu. You don't need to put either of them head-to-head in practice or put them on the field to see how they perform. The ratings dictate performance, and the ratings are publicly available.

Uncover rookie ratings during training camp

How can we resolve this problem of practice squad poaching? Well, we can hide rookie ratings until you actually practice with them and play them in games. Much like how the true ratings of players in the college draft are hidden until you scout and/or draft them, the game could also hide the true ratings of incoming rookies.

This opens the possibility of a training camp feature being a valuable tool for player assessment. I've already proposed a training camp feature in my previous wishlist, but this idea could supplement that. As you put players through your training camp, you'd slowly uncover their true ratings by performing various Skill Trainer drills or other practice activities and scrimmages. Then, once the season begins, you would reveal further ratings through weekly training and by playing the players in actual games. This would also have the effect of adding further value to preseason games, as you'd use those as a proving ground to hopefully uncover any remaining key ratings for your young players. You'd actually have a genuine reason to play them in games because you honestly wouldn't know how well they'd perform.

Madden 17: hidden ratings in player card
Perhaps the ratings of incoming rookies should remain hidden, even after they are drafted?

Any ratings that you unlock would remain hidden to all other teams, so that they won't be able to simply compare overall ratings with their own players. Each team could then maybe have the ability to spend some of their college scouting points on scouting other teams' practice squads looking for players that they could poach. Doing so would gradually unlock some practice squad player ratings.

There could also be a set of publicly-known ratings for each player that would be known to all teams in the league. These would be unlocked as the given player plays in games, and playing in nationally-televised games (such as Monday night) could maybe even accelerate the unlocking of ratings. So players who have been in the league for a long time, and who have lots of public game film would be more of a known quantity. We would all know how good Tom Brady is, but we wouldn't necessarily know how good Jacoby Brissett might be until he actually plays some games.

The entire NFL knows that Tom Brady is a superstar, but not as many people know if Jacoby Brissett is any good.

In the meantime, the game could provide some more "fuzzy" ratings for players whose true ratings are unknown. Either keeping the grades that are used from college scouting (A, B, C, D, etc.), or by providing ranges for unknown ratings (e.g. a player's catch rating is between 75 and 85)...

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One of the things that I like about preseason is that I get to watch all the Bears games, since NFL Network shows re-broadcasts of every preseason game. I don't have any of those fancy satellite TV services, which means I'm stuck with only the regular season games that are broadcast on cable. So I didn't get to watch the Bears week 1 loss to the Houston Texans. I didn't miss much.

Offensive ineptitude ruined any chances of Chicago staying in their week 1 match-up against the Texans.

My preseason perception of the Bears as being inept on offense was validated by the final score of 23-14. Granted, the Texans are one of the better defenses in the league, but sloppy play has been the Bears M.O. throughout preseason. The defense actually gave the team some opportunities, but offensive mistakes just undid any gains that the Bears made early. Botched snaps, sacks, an interception, and fumbles ended too many drives, and the defense just couldn't hold back the Texans' offense.

I did get to watch the Bears' game against the Eagles on Monday night. It looked very similar. The defense played very well throughout much of the game, holding the Eagles to only nine points up through almost the end of the third quarter. Jacoby Glenn and Tracy Porter made some key pass break-ups that ended Eagles drives and gave the Bears offense opportunities to buffer the score. But once again, a fumble and an interception from Jay Cutler gave the Eagles a two-score lead. Cutler was under siege right from the start of the game, and the very first play from scrimmage was a sack of Cutler. It also didn't help that Connor Barth missed a field goal early in the game. So much for replacing Robbie Gould in order to save salary cap space. As Jay Gruden pointed out, you get what you pay for. With the offense being as bad as it has been, Gould was likely going to be the team's leading scorer this year. That should have made him a valuable commodity who is worth paying, even though he is "only a kicker". Cutler eventually left the game with a hand injury, only to have other players make costly mistakes. The Bears were driving at the beginning of the fourth quarter with Brian Hoyer under center, until Jeremy Langford gave up the first fumble of his pro career.

Eagles at Bears 2016 - Carson Wentz
The defense stood firm early, but the Carson Wentz phenomenon
was too much for it to handle without help from the offense.

Then the flood gates opened. The defense just couldn't contain the Eagles anymore. The defense managed to make a fourth down stop on the goal-line, only to give the Eagles a second chance (and a walk-in score) due to an offsides penalty. This sequence also saw starting nose tackle Eddie Goldman go down with an apparent leg injury after being bent over backwards. He had to be carted off the field. Hopefully, the injury isn't as serious as it looked...

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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