15 on 6: Cutler makes most of pass protection


15 on 6: Cutler makes most of pass protection

Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
5:48 PM

By Jim Miller

I never would have guessed such a high scoring affair. The Jets offense had been sputtering the last three weeks while the Bears have now put together their two best offensive performances the last two weeks. The Bears come away from this game with a lot of confidence to gear them up for postseason play.

Credit the offensive line with excellent pass protection allowing Jay to throw the ball down the field. The footing was poor for both teams, causing problems for the defenses who have combined for the most sacks over the last seven weeks. The Jets have 20 while the Bears have tallied 21 going into Sunday's contest.

Explosive players like Julius Peppers or DEOLB Calvin Pace for the Jets could not get the grip turning the corner on offensive tackles. The lack of footing slowed down their initial get-off which allowed both quarterbacks to find production in the passing game.

This game clearly shows what Jay Cutler is capable of when he has time to throw the football. The beauty of all three of Jay's touchdown passes was where he placed the ball, only his receiver could come down with the ball.

While Jay stats do not reflect how well he really played - he finished 13 of 25 for 215 yards along with the 3 TD's - I tallied four drops and two others he threw away, and two of the drops were going to be 20-yard gainers apiece. But I think Jay comes away from this game with a ton of confidence.

There is a lot of sorting out of a defense when you play against Rex Ryan. Jay never looked panicked or flustered with what he was being presented. He attacked the Jets aggressively with deep throws where he was extremely accurate with the football. Outside back-shoulder touchdown throws to Devin Hester and Johnny Knox displayed how ball placement leads to big plays and, for the Bears today, big scores.

If Jay continues to display command of this offense and his throws lead the Bears past Green Bay, a Super Bowl will definitely be in their near future. That was playoff-caliber football Jay executed Sunday vs. the Jets, which couldn't come at a better time.

Who needs Terrell Owens to get our popcorn ready? Bears fans should be excited.

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 and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?

Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Quenton Nelson works out at Notre Dame’s pro day. If he’s still on the board at 8, should the Bears take him? Plus the panel talks about the Cubs outfield heading into 2018 and if it’s time to shut down both Jonathan Toews and Lauri Markkanen.

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

USA Today

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quenton Nelson hasn’t met with the Bears yet during this pre-draft process, and doesn’t have a local visit scheduled with them. But maybe that’s not too surprising.

Harry Hiestand has better intel on him than anyone else after coaching him for the past four years at Notre Dame, after all. 

“Coach Hiestand, he’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said. “He knows everything about me.”

Could part of that intel provided by Hiestand be that Nelson has the ability to eventually play tackle?

Nelson might be the closest to a “sure thing” prospect in this year’s draft, with his reams of dominant film and off-the-charts work ethic projecting him as an All-Pro for years to come. But that he plays guard is a stumbling block, given interior positions generally don’t hold as much value as tackles in the NFL.

So here’s a potential scenario for the Bears: They draft Nelson at No. 8 — which is still "high" for a guard — and plug him at left guard in 2018. They then, under the careful watch of Hiestand, slide him to tackle in 2019. 

“I’m pretty convinced that Q could do whatever he sets his mind to,” Mike McGlinchey, a first-round tackle in his own right who's Nelson’s ex-Irish teammate and workout buddy, said. “If that’s what teams want him to play, I’m sure he’ll take that head on and perform to the best of his ability.” 

Nelson, to his credit, is confident he could make the switch to tackle (he was recruited by Hiestand as a tackle, and began his college career backing up Zack Martin at tackle). He said the only team that’s asked him about it so far is the Cincinnati Bengals, though it’s unlikely he’ll still be on the board when they pick at No. 21. 

But maybe the thought of guards being significantly less valuable than tackles is slowly becoming antiquated in today’s NFL. Four of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen, by total contract value, are interior linemen. Three of the top 10 offensive linemen with the most guaranteed money are guards, led by Andrew Norwell, who inked a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month with $30 million guaranteed at signing. Only one offensive lineman — Nate Solder, who just signed with the New York Giants — is guaranteed more money. 

Following the money, if teams are willing to splash down loads of cash for the best guards in the league, a team may be willing to spend a top-10 pick on a guard who could immediately be among the best at his position in the NFL. Or the calculation for whatever team drafts him may be this: Would you rather have him as a perennial All-Pro guard or "merely" a solid-to-good tackle? 

Regardless of where he ends up playing, though, Nelson is one of those supremely-talented players who takes the right approach to his craft — in other words, one of those guys you just want to get in your building. And while Nelson said he’d love to play for his hometown New York Giants — who could be interested in him with the No. 2 pick — he said getting to link back up with Hiestand would be an incredible opportunity, too. 

“That would be amazing to play for him,” Nelson said. “He’s the one that made me into the player I am today. I wouldn’t be here without him or be in any conversations in the draft without him, so it would mean a lot to play for him again.”