Bears

15 on 6: Cutler must expect physical game for WR's

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15 on 6: Cutler must expect physical game for WR's

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010
11:39 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

There are great defensive matchups for both sides as the Bears (6-3) prepare to take on the Dolphins (5-4) on the road. I will focus on Jay Cutler's matchups as the Miami Dolphins have, what I believe to be, a very talented secondary.

The Bears must make this their most physical game to date. Miami is a physical team, and desire to turn every game they play into a slugfest. This will have a big impact relating to the Bears WR's who must get off the ball vs. press coverage.

Devin Hester and the rest of the wideouts must deal with Sean Smith who is a legit 6'3" and 214 lbs. and can run. Vontea Davis is no slouch either, at 5'11 and 205 lbs. Plus, Miami recently added former Green Bay Packer Al Harris - a rangy veteran at 6'3" 190 lbs., but is tremendous in bump and run coverage. I did not see him play last week and do not know his health status, but I certainly remember lining up against him. He was solid then, but I can't necessarily say he is that same player today coming off his injury.

These matchups boil down to release techniques, as corners with long arms want to slow down speedy WR's. They get up in a receivers face and do not want them to get going. At the snap of the ball, they use their long arms to hold up WR's creating a more equal playing field when dealing with foot speed.

Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake and Jay need to demand they win at the LOS (Line of Scrimmage). As we all know, the Bears wideouts are very young. This is where they must go back to training camp and tap into all those one-on-one sessions with a big corner like Charles Tillman or Zack Bowman.

The Washington game would be another reference where I thought the Bears receivers saw a lot of bump-and-run looks. Remember the interception by DeAngelo Hall on the slant route to Johnny Knox? They have to win those battles for Jay and the Bears to have success in the passing game.

The run game should be fine with Mike Martz's renewed commitment to balance. The Dolphins give up four yards a rush and the Bears have an opportunity to pop some big runs if Martz can dial up the right run against the right blitz. It's more about how Mike gets a feel for Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's tenancies during the game.

It would be hard for the Dolphins to throw in something totally new on such a short week. They will call what they do well and stick with their basic blitz packages. The same can be said for the Bears offensively since there is just not enough time to work in exotic material and feel confident with the execution.

Keep calling movement plays

We all witnessed Michael Vick Monday night, and while Jay is not Mike, he has become increasingly dangerous with his legs the past two weeks. Dashes, bootlegs, waggles and playaction half rolls with seven-man protection are all great play calls to move the pocket. They also put Jay in position to be a threat to run, and he has thrown the ball extremely well on the move, at times, even better than straight dropback plays.

Lastly, Jay cannot get frustrated! As much as Jay wants receivers to win these matchups, he has to be ready to move on in his reads.

Do Not Beg them to get open! Jay's read may dictate a certain wideout must win, but coverage may delay the timing.

This should be a tight game in Miami.

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.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.