Bears

15 on 6: Cutler's consistency crucial for Bears

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15 on 6: Cutler's consistency crucial for Bears

Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010
6:23 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

Jay Cutler now has two very solid performances the last couple of weeks, and the Bears need this recent trend to continue as tough opponents await in the near future.

Specifically the New England Patriots next week at Soldier field. Before looking ahead, lets dive into Sunday's game in Detroit, as Jay subtly may have won a minor battle with Mike Martz in having more flexibility at the line of scrimmage.

Check Down Charlie

Nobody should have a problem with Jay checking down the ball to the running backs. It was the difference in the game and led to key first downs that extended drives on third down.

Chester Taylor was targeted five times and Matt Forte three times on the day, but no check down on the day was bigger than Jay finding Brandon Manumaleuna in the flat for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter.

These check downs speak volumes about Jay getting through his progression, or foregoing his progression due to the pass rush to find his open outlet. There were four sacks on the day given up by the offensive line, all of which were physical mistakes by the tight ends and offensive lineman, not mental mistakes which were the root of the problem earlier in the season.

When Jay started to sense the offensive line was a little overmatched by the Lions defensive line, checkdowns were the key. He anticipated and felt the pressure, then quickly found his dump off. His growth in this area has been staggering after the bye week, along with tucking and running with the ball.

Keep the pressure on the defense! That is good football and heady quarterback play by Jay.

L O S

Everyone has anguished over the Bears not audibling at the line of scrimmage, which actually contributed to some of the sack issues earlier in the year when Jay could not check out of a bad play versus a certain defense. We witnessed some flexibility against the Lions as Jay utilized the "No Look Pass" against Detroit.

The "No Look Pass" is the quarterback and receiver communicating non-verbally at the line. Run plays were called in the huddle, but Jay communicated to the receivers at the line of scrimmage with either a signal - like grabbing his facemask or just making eye contact - giving them the heads up of the "No Look" situation.

As a QB, you execute it when numbers are against you and the defense stacks the box to stop the run. This took place early and often for the Bears as their commitment to running the football continues to be impressive.

Early in the second quarter, Jay hit Earl Bennett on a "No Look" pass when Earl was in the slot and Detroit tried to fudge their defense by playing the WLB half way in the box, yet walking out somewhat on Earl in the slot. The receiver just takes two steps off the line and the QB hits him on the move quickly with a one-step drop.

Stand up and throw it! Those can be gashing type of plays and they were today for the Bears. Johnny Knox and Jay gashed Detroit in the second half with a 20-yarder in another no-look situation. Jay also utilized it against the blitz, which is encouraging.

There must have been a lot of back and forth between Jay and Mike Martz during the week in order for Mike to relent and trust Jay and the Bears' young receivers.

Another offensive performance that is encouraging and proves these Bears are capable of more, which they are going to need as they start a critical home stretch against quality AFC opponents.

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.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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USA TODAY

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot. 

Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

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Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin are joined by NBC Sports Philadelphia Eagles reporter Dave Zangaro to offer an encouraging connection between Carson Wentz’s growth and that of Mitchell Trubisky.

Check out the entire podcast here: