Daily Herald
Bears have more work to do before Saturday's home game
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 8/17/2009 12:10 AM

Saturday night's unimpressive performance in their preseason loss leaves the Chicago Bears with plenty to work on this week in the final four days of training camp in Bourbonnais.

Here's what the Bears learned Saturday night in Buffalo:

1: The top priority has to be developing a better rapport between quarterback Jay Cutler and Devin Hester, who is supposed to be the teams' go-to wide receiver. Cutler directed 6 passes in Hester's direction during the 27-20 loss to the Bills, but there were just 2 completions and 22 yards to show for it.

One errant pass was picked off, and two others were bad throws when Hester couldn't defeat double coverage.

"You'd like (Hester) to, if that ball's up like that, go try to break it up, and he'll learn all that," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said of the interception, which was more the result of Cutler's bad pass. "It's just a play we've got to get on the same page with, and those guys getting more reps together.

"You don't just snap your fingers and say, 'All right, Jay Cutler's here, we're going to be in sync and start clicking.' They've got to see looks, they've got to see the stuff full speed, game tempo over and over to get it. It takes time."

2: Pass defense has to be another concern after the Bears allowed the Bills to complete 29 of 34 passes in the 27-20 loss. Nate Vasher clearly struggled to cover Lee Evans, allowing completions of 36 and 9 yards in the first quarter, and reinforcing a popular opinion that Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman are the Bears' two best corners.

Tillman (back surgery) is still at least a couple weeks away, but Bowman should be back before then.

The Bears also hope to have defensive tackle Tommie Harris back to bolster a pass rush that collected 2 sacks.

"It wasn't great," said Alex Brown, who had 1 sack. "I don't think we would want to start against Green Bay like that (in the regular-season opener), but it was a start."

3: It wasn't all bad Saturday night for the Bears. As he did a year ago, backup quarterback Caleb Hanie played very well, completing 8 of 11 passes for 87 yards and leading the offense to 10 points in two quarters with a passer rating of 125.9.

"I think I played solid," Hanie said. "I made a couple plays here and there and made some good completions and all that, so I felt good."

Hanie completed 29 of 49 passes last preseason for 321 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and a passer rating of 82.1.

4: Defensively, rookie safety Al Afalava filled in for starter Danieal Manning and looked as if he belonged. And Craig Steltz, who has fallen to third-team free safety, had an interception that set up the Bears' last touchdown and a forced fumble that prevented a possible score.

"I just have to continue to work," Steltz said. "You can never look at (the depth chart). You've just got to go out there and whatever task I have, whether it's on special teams or a defensive scheme or wherever I'm going to end up, continue to go out there and produce."

The Bears hope for more performances like that from their starters Saturday night at Soldier Field against the Giants.

"Normally there's a big improvement from Game One to Two," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We're hoping that will be the case."