I went into last night's game focusing on two players: Justin Britt and Jordan Hill. The pair face somewhat different questions as we enter the roster pare down phase of the pre-season.
Britt has been all but formally crowned as opening day starter at right tackle. Veteran tackle Eric Winston and backup tackle Alvin Bailey are in the mix, but they have played exclusively in a backup role. The starting job seems like Britt's to lose. On the other hand, even though most roster projections I have seen include him on the final 53, I sense that no one considers Jordan Hill an absolute lock.
A few overall impressions about Britt's play against the Bears:
Britt probably softened some of his harshest critics, but he hardly silenced them. First and perhaps foremost, no false start or holding flags on him, that I recall. (He hit a bit of a monkey roll on one of those backside cut blocks that drew a clipping penalty.) That's not just damning with faint praise. Britt matched up frequently with Lamarr Houston.
Second, we saw a good bit of what Cable likes about Britt: the athleticism, the power, the get off for a 6'6" man, the ability to lock on, and the nasty at the point of attack. When Britt and Sweezy double and switch off it looks like they've been doing it together for a while. Also, some of Britt's backside cut blocks are more than just perfunctory get-in-the-ways. He routinely wipes out or neutralizes pursuit, like on Lynch's first touchdown. Beast Mode may be even more dangerous on cut backs to the backside this season.
Another area where Britt raises the offense's potential is the screen game: Both Britt and Sweezy are excellent at getting out on the edge, but more importantly they have the body control to hit moving targets in space and get them to the ground. Breno had the athleticism to get to the edge, but not the body control to change of direction.
In terms of negatives in the run and screen games, Britt still whiffs on assignments from time to time. Whiffs are critical because they often result in negative plays (that's especially true when Robert Turbin is in).
Britt's biggest challenge remains pass pro, though his progress is evident even to my untrained eye. He matched up with Lamar Houston frequently in the first half. On his best plays he basically held serve and allowed Russell Wilson to escape or get the ball out quickly. On his worst plays he got walked back into Wilson's lap. When asked to make a traditional drop in pass pro--where he cannot attack the rusher--Britt lacks the strength and leverage to anchor without giving ground.
I imagine that keeping guys out of your chest plate (i.e., giving up leverage) is a pretty standard challenge for all but a few 6'6" rookie tackles. To his credit I believe his footwork and technique are generally good which bodes well going forward.