Bears

15 on 6: Bears need quick trigger with Cutler

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15 on 6: Bears need quick trigger with Cutler

Friday, Nov. 5, 2010
5:49 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

At some point, the Bears can no longer blame the system and the play calling of Mike Martz when it comes to the lack of productivity of the offense. You can either execute a timing offense, or you cannot!

It was absolutely by design that Caleb Hanie logged extra repetitions with the starting offense during the bye week. Sure, it sounds innocent enough by the Bears to say "we are just resting Jay," but there is a lot more to it than that. If Jay struggles early versus the Bills in the great white north, Hanie will see the field!

It really would be the right time to make such a bold move. Hanie played enough meaningful snaps against Carolina on the road for Lovie to think it's possible, and basically secured a victory showing he can manage the game with a lead. He displayed more poise than teammate Todd Collins, a 16-year NFL veteran, who got the nod before him and the offensive line may be in the best shape it has been in all year with the return of Roberto Garza.

Caleb would also force Martz to focus on the run game more, as even he may not trust Caleb's reactions when exposed to certain defensive alignments and coverages. Plus, Lovie has the ultimate veto power if Caleb is in the game. If it's a crucial situation, Lovie will just say "run the ball" into Martz's headset.

When I have been on the sideline with the headset on, many defensive-minded head coaches have made that call with a young QB or even with veterans, on the field.

All we have heard since Martz arrived at Halas Hall is how imperative it is that QB and receiver need to be in sync with the timing of QB drops and coinciding routes. Many I have interviewed on Sirius NFL radio, but the Chicago media has also dived into the subject. Included in this massive list are former QB's who played in a Martz system: Trent Green, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marc Bulger, J.T. O'Sullivan, Jon Kitna - and the most telling statements - from Superbowl MVP in a Martz system, Kurt Warner.

Kurt's comment was "Jay is not comfortable in the system yet."

In my analysis, Kurt was just being kind. Losses to Seattle and Washington right before the bye can be directly related to the QB. Furthermore, if timing of the passing game is an issue, then why does your franchise QB get two days off during a bye week?

It's ok to give your starter a breather during the bye, but no starting QB in the league is shut down altogether. Normally, coaches just reduce reps or take a starter out of an inside run drill. The whole purpose of the bye week is to self scout and correct any the issues with the team.

If Jay struggles on Sunday, the Bears will have to make a decision on whether to pull him, and if Caleb showed growth and command in the system enough during the bye week to instill confidence in Lovie, then Lovie will not hesitate to make a change.

No player is above being yanked for lack of performance. Coaches may try to cover for a player like Mike Shannahan explaining why Donovan Mcnabb was pulled in Detroit for...wait.... Rex Grossman, but at the end of the day, Donovan was not pulled for his poor play in that game, it was a result of Donovan's poor performances the three weeks prior as well.

Same goes for Brett Favre in Minnesota. Brad Childress even called out the legendary QB in the post game presser. He stated "Brett should not try to play outside the offense and throw costly interceptions." Childress was very close to starting Tavaris Jackson versus the Patriots last week. Wisely, knowing how Brett responds, Childress let Brett get the start, but if he did not respond, Brad would have quickly turned to Jackson.

Arizona, Carolina, Washington, Minnesota, San Francisco, and now I would throw the Bears into this group who may have to make a change if their starting QB does not respond this weekend.

Game Plan

Run the Ball! Yes!

The Bills have allowed 200 yards or more rushing four times in the last five games and Martz is on a short leash to ensure this happens.

Greg Olsen, Where have you been? Seems all the offseason fodder about tight ends being underutilized in a Martz system has come true. Running the ball sets up play action and Bills Safety Donte Whitner has been roasted this year by opposing TE's to the tune of 37 receptions and seven touchdowns.

It's called matchups. Jay has to work these matchups. Let's keep it simple with just these two things. After all, the Bears defense only allows 17 points a game, meaning you only need 18.

No need to get too elaborate. It may throw off the timing.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

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USA Today

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

Mitchell Trubisky shook his head and grinned when he fielded yet another question this week about the touchdown pass Tarik Cohen threw against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Dang, you guys can’t get enough of this,” Trubisky said. “I talked about it after the game. Dowell (Loggains) was saying it was the best pass of the game. I’m like, ‘All right, geez, let him play quarterback.

“… He threw a dime ball. I love how he was fading away on it and celebrating on the 50-yard line. Zach (Miller) made a great catch. So A-plus; really impressive spiral, especially with the gloves on. Can’t count any of that out. Tarik’s a special player and it was an awesome throw.”

The point here is less about Cohen’s throw and more about the Bears finding yet another way for the rookie running back to make an impact. So far this year, Cohen has rushed 50 times, caught 26 passes, returned 14 punts and now thrown that historic touchdown. He’s been asked to block in pass protection more frequently, allowing him to be on the field more. And he’s worked with wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and Kendall Wright (who Cohen referred to as another receiver coach for him) to expand his route tree, leading him to be the most-targeted player (33 targets) on the Bears through six weeks. 

That may seem like a lot to put on the plate of a fourth-round draft pick from an FCS school, but it hasn’t been too much for Cohen. 

“We need Tarik to be that guy for us — the best playmaker we have,” Loggains said. “There’s no secret there. And he’s a guy who we’ll continue to use, and people are aware of him. So how creative can we get with him? How many different things can we do with him? 

“Like, we’re stretching him. Mentally, he’s stretched to the max playing all these positions — motioning out to wide receiver, playing running back and doing more in the backfield with more carries. So we have to keep stretching him and keep using him in the offense.”

Opposing defenses have keyed on Cohen since his explosive debut Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, scheming to muffle his playmaking ability. But he still managed to nearly have a walk-off 73-yard run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, and then in Week 6, with defenses figuring they could crash down on him on sweep plays to the edge, he (literally) threw another wrinkle into how to gameplan against him. The next time the Bears run a toss sweep to Cohen, opposing safeties will have to think twice about bolting toward the line of scrimmage to stop him. 

Every time Cohen seems to hit a rookie wall, he and the Bears find a way to knock it down. The discussion a week ago about Cohen was that he was dancing too much and not cutting upfield quick enough; this week, it’s all about his perfect quarterback rating. 

“Our coaches do a good job of continuing to put him in places so he can be successful,” fellow running back Benny Cunningham said. “But ultimately I feel like he has such a genuine love of the game, I don’t see that happening (hitting the wall). Since the day he’s been here, from Day 1 to today, I’ve seen no drop-off in his desire to be successful and to help this offense.”

The Bears have known this about Cohen's mentality since they scouted and drafted him back in the spring, and his potential only blossomed after getting him into Halas Hall in May — “Early on, we knew Tarik was going to be pretty special,” coach John Fox said. But Cohen wouldn’t be able to reach that potential without the ability to handle the responsibilities of all the different tasks the Bears have asked of him so far. 

Cohen’s ability to do so many different things makes him an important player for this team, and his ability to do them with an exciting, playmaking flair has made him a fan favorite since training camp. So what’s next for the 5-foot-6 rookie?

“I think we’ve got something — I’ll punt the ball this week,” Cohen joked. “Naw, I’m playin’. I can’t put the ball for nothing, I don’t think. It’ll probably go like 20 yards.”

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

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USA Today

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

Nick Kwiatkoski was a full participant in Bears practice on Friday, marking the first time the second-year linebacker has done that since he suffered a pec injury Sept. 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Kwiatkoski sounded confident he could make his return five weeks after suffering that painful injury. 

“It’s not really my decision,” Kwiatkoski said. “I’m preparing like I am, so we’ll see. … “In my head I am (playing). But we’ll see.”

The Bears’ defense, despite placing three key players — linebackers Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps — on injured reserve, has been solid at worst so far this year. Pro Football Focus has Vic Fangio’s group as the third-best defense in the NFL through Week 6, behind only the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. 

While Christian Jones played some quality snaps next to Danny Trevathan (and John Timu — he struggled after Timu’s injury against Minnesota), Kwiatkoski represents an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Bears liked what Kwiatkoski did last year in place of an injured Trevathan, and were confident they wouldn’t miss a beat with him filling in after Freeman’s Week 1 injury. 

“He’s a smart guy who has been willing to work,” coach John Fox said. “And I’ve seen that improvement from last year to this year. And anytime you get whacked or injured or taken out for some reason, you’ve got to kind of regain that again. It’s like a do-over. So he has had a good week.”

Kwiatkoski stayed sharp by going through meetings and film study as if he were playing while that pec injury — which he said felt like a “bad pulled muscle” — kept him sidelined for practices and games. If Kwiatkoski indeed is active and/or starting Sunday against Carolina, the hope is he can step in and pick up where he left off in Week 2. 

“I have all the confidence that he'll do fine,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said prior to Kwiatkoski’s injury. And that confidence, in all likelihood, still exists.