Biggs: 10 thoughts on Bears' exhibition opener

Bears top draft pick Shea McClellin (99) rushes the passer Thursday against Denver at Soldier Field. (Brian Cassella/Tribune Photo)

Ten things to take away from the Chicago Bears' 31-3 loss to the Denver Broncos in their preseason opener:

1. No one game plans for the opening preseason game and starters don’t play into the fourth quarter in the first exhibition. But maybe nobody told the Bears.

Although they didn’t put together a regular game plan for their meeting Thursday with the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field, the Bears did keep a third-year starter on the field until the midway point in the fourth quarter when left tackle J’Marcus Webb finally went to the bench.

Unprecedented in the NFL? Maybe not. Highly unusual? You bet. On a night when quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte and defensive end Julius Peppers were held out, Webb was on the field for 41 of the offense’s 49 snaps.

You didn’t need telepathy to read the mind of offensive coordinator Mike Tice, who has been among Webb’s biggest supporters. It was a clear message that was delivered to Webb: You have not been good enough.

Tice said earlier this week from training camp at Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais that no one had claimed the left tackle job and run away with it. Webb has it virtually by default, even though it looked like it was designed that way ever since the Bears chose to draft a speed rusher and big wide receiver in the first two rounds last April instead of seeking a tackle.

It is Webb’s job and it doesn’t look like Chris Williams will be going back to left tackle. The Bears need Webb to play better so he got just about every rep possible, even blocking for fourth-string quarterback Matt Blanchard.

You could consider it a punishment of sorts but the Bears aren’t in a position where it makes sense to bring punitive measures to the development of the offensive line. They simply need to improve. Along the way, Williams got extensive time at right tackle but it still wasn’t the workload Webb carried.

“Some players we thought needed reps, we needed to see,” coach Lovie Smith explained. “And our tackles are two of them and we wanted to get them a lot of reps as much as anything. Just practice time, improving our ball club. Some of the guys we know a little more about right now we didn’t play as much and that was pretty much it.”

Webb tried to downplay his night at the office. He was called for one false start and didn’t dominate on the left side but it was still a vast improvement over the preseason opener a year ago when he was run over by Buffalo’s Shawne Merriman.

Was he surprised to play so much?

“Definitely not,” Webb said. “I’ve got to get better every day and every week and that comes with the territory. I think of it as time to get better. I am a young player and if the team needs me to stay in, I will.”

Webb said he wanted to review the film before assessing his play. He wasn’t the only lineman to play more than usual. Left guard Chris Spencer remained in the game for the entire first half. He was beaten for a sack at one point.

Brian Urlacher’s whereabouts and left knee will remain the focus of camp when the Bears return to Bourbonnais on Saturday. But those topics will not completely overshadow the offensive line.

2. Shea McClellin's start to the preseason certainly exceeded his start to training camp. The first-round draft pick from Boise State showed the speed that led the club to select him with the 19th overall pick when he tracked down ex-Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie from behind for a sack. He was credited with two quarterback hits and three total tackles. It was a nice debut for a player who has been maligned by some after only 15 days of training camp.

“I had fun. It’s a start,” he said. “You know I definitely have a lot of learning to do. I’m just looking forward to getting back out to the practice field and getting better.

“It’s always good to get a sack, no matter what it is, it boosts your confidence a little bit. After that you can kind of relax and just go out and play.”

McClellin understands what comes with the territory as a first-round pick. He knows he is residing under the microscope in a defense that needs him to make a significant contribution as a rookie.

“There is always pressure for any first-round pick,” he said. “You just have to go out there and play.”