Bears injury woes mount after loss to Eagles but Jay Cutler expected to avoid surgery

Bears injury woes mount after loss to Eagles but Jay Cutler expected to avoid surgery

Jay Cutler’s thumb injury, a ligament problem that was suffered in the loss to the Houston Texans, is expected to keep the quarterback out for as much as a month. Beyond that...

In the meantime the Bears need to make a change at inside linebacker to cover for the loss of Danny Trevathan, undergoing surgery for a thumb injury of his own that coach John Fox said will not be season-ending. And Lamarr Houston’s knee injury is still being described as serious, although the team is waiting on a more complete evaluation of his MRI before making the call on the outside linebacker’s season. Eddie Goldman’s ankle injury becomes another ominous unknown, with Goldman developing into one of the NFL’s top young nose tackles before his injury in a goal-line situation Monday night in the 29-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The short term is expected to include moving Matt Barkley from practice squad to the regular roster, although Fox and the Bears remain conservative with predicting outcomes, except that Cutler is not expected to play next Sunday in Dallas.

“Not really,” Fox said. “We'll just take it day to day and Brian Hoyer stepped in, and I thought did a pretty good job. We'll evaluate that tomorrow and split up practice as need be.”

Where matters become most intriguing is going forward to the point of a Cutler return.

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The situation vaults Hoyer into the starting lineup, installing a quarterback with a better career winning record than Cutler. And with the organization not committed financially or any other way to Cutler beyond this season, the prospects for both the short and long terms become more than a little intriguing.

By way of background: Overshadowed in the incident where then-coordinator Aaron Kromer in 2014 vented his frustrations with Cutler to a national reporter, was the fact that Kromer and Marc Trestman wanted to stay with Josh McCown when Cutler returned from an injury stint. McCown, not Cutler, was running the offense as drawn up.

The Bears are open to the prospect of moving on from Cutler in 2017, but the chronic issue with that position is that quality options are rare. Hoyer was signed this offseason as part of the win-now foundation of veterans, Hoyer representing a veteran fall-back if Cutler went down, rather than turn to a young pipeline prospect.

To not view this as a de facto audition for Hoyer would be to ignore the obvious, even if Hoyer is obviously not a long-term solution. Hoyer as a place-holder for a young quarterback is one organizational scenario, albeit one with a tinge of desperation. The Bears have neglected the quarterback pipeline for too many years, picking three backup defensive players (linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, defensive backs Deon Bush and Deiondre’ Hall) in the fourth round this draft while Dak Prescott was still on the board. The Bears will see Prescott first hand when they visit Dallas and the Cowboys next Sunday night. GM Ryan Pace hasn’t taken a quarterback with any of his 15 selections over the past two drafts.

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.”