CINCINNATI — The most important thing to remember about NFL exhibition games is they don’t count. They do not count at all.
No matter what happened in the Bears' 30-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, it really won’t mean a thing by the time they get back to Bourbonnais on Friday.
For that I’m sure a number of people in the Bears organization are quite grateful, because the Bears got a handful of reminders in Cincinnati how far they still have to go to become a good football team.
Don’t be fooled by the 27 points and 423 yards of offense the Bears put up. Of it, 125 yards came on a 69-yard run by Ryan Nall and a 56-yard catch and run by Daniel Brown from Tyler Bray in garbage time.
The offense never seemed to find a rhythm and was clearly behind the Bengals, who may not have a new head coach but have had almost a week less of training camp and do have a new offensive coordinator and scheme, just like the Bears.
Mitch Trubisky wasn’t on the field long enough to merit a grade, but it was disappointing to see him badly overthrow Kevin White, who had a step and a half on the DB on a fly pattern on the first play of the game, and equally disappointing to see White then drop an easy 11-yarder on a curl pattern that hit him right in the hands a few plays later.
Objectively, I think you’d have to say White has had a better-than-average preseason so far, but he’ll need to do a lot more than that to overcome the disappointment of his first three seasons.
Fortunately, he has three more practice games to figure it out.
The Bears may keep us in some suspense the next few weeks, but Eric Kush and Cody Whitehair are going to be starting at left guard and center, respectively, when the Bears go to Lambeau Field Sept. 9 — and both were abused early Thursday night by Geno Atkins.
Atkins is a Pro Bowl defensive tackle who’s embarrassed a lot of great players, but the Bears' interior line play is going to have to improve significantly for Matt Nagy’s offense to take flight.
Cincinnati glared a spotlight on how badly the Bears need to get Danny Trevathan on the field and Roquan Smith in the fold.
Nick Kwiatkoski is having a good camp, and didn’t do anything terribly noteworthy one way or the other in Cincinnati, but you need at least three inside linebackers to field a top-10 defense, and John Timu cannot play when faced with a first-string offense to stop.
The Bengals abused him in the first 20 minutes, and it was also troubling to see Adrian Amos badly whiffing on a tackle attempt of Joe Mixon that allowed Mixon to score the Bengals' first touchdown.
Anthony Miller has had an excellent preseason so far, but Nagy talked earlier in the week about getting the rookie to focus on learning the offense and understanding the importance of doing everything the right way.
Rookies are supposed to make exhibition mistakes, but seeing Miller miss an audible in the red zone and run the wrong route on a play aimed at him was not a good look.
There were a few pleasant moments.
Kyle Fuller’s pick-six was a gift from Andy Dalton, who made a terrible throw, and John Ross, who fell down trying to adjust to it, but it was still great to see Fuller flash his ball skills and take it to the house.
Adam Shaheen appeared to take a real step forward, putting on a nice little show in the first half.
And then there’s Nall. Clearly, the Bears currently have Taquan Mizzell ahead of him on the depth chart, but if you’ve been in Bourbonnais and watched the Bengals game, clearly Nall is the better player and should now be the frontrunner for the Bears' fourth RB spot.