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.

Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

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USA Today

Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

Pro Football Focus doesn’t seem to expect much regression for the Bears defense, at least when it comes to run defense.

PFF analyst Mike Renner ranked every team’s ability to stop the ground game, heading into 2019, and Chicago remains on top.

The team retained its entire front seven, top-to-bottom, with the exception of Sam Acho, who spent most of last season on injured reserve anyway.

One of the biggest keys, in Renner’s analysis, is Akiem Hicks, who was among Pro Football Focus’ top performers in the running game.

“The former Saint is proving himself one of the best free agent additions in recent memory,” Renner wrote. “His 13.3 run-stop percentage was the second-highest figure of any interior defender in the NFL last season.”

The Bears allowed the fewest rushing yards and rushing touchdowns of any defense last season, and the 3.8 yards per attempt they gave up was fourth best.

With the whole gang back together for 2019, the team is in a great spot to run it back under Chuck Pagano.    

Projecting what the Bears' 53-man roster will look like

Projecting what the Bears' 53-man roster will look like

The Bears will begin training camp next week without many significant position battles — outside of kicker, of course — which stands as an indicator of how strong a roster Ryan Pace has built. But that doesn’t mean there won't be some intriguing decisions to be made in a month and a half, especially involving depth at some critical positions. 

So here’s a pre-training camp stab at projecting what the Bear’s 53-man roster will look like on the night of Sept. 5:

QUARTERBACKS (2): Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Missing the cut: Tyler Bray

These two guys are locked in, leaving Tyler Bray to likely return to the practice squad for another season. 

RUNNING BACKS (4): Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, David Montgomery, Kerrith Whyte Jr. 
Missing the cut: Ryan Nall

Cohen, Davis and Montgomery are roster locks, leaving Whyte and Nall to compete for, likely, just one spot on the roster. Matt Nagy praised Nall during OTAs, and he could become a versatile option with the ability to play some fullback, but we’ll give the last spot to Whyte given his speed and the Bears’ focus on that trait in the offseason. 

WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley, Marvin Hall
Missing the cut: Javon Wims, Emanuel Hall, Taquan Mizzell, Tanner Gentry, Jordan Williams-Lambert, Thomas Ives

Robinson, Gabriel and Miller are locks, while Patterson’s contract structure ($5 million guaranteed, all in 2019) and Ridley’s draft slot (fourth round) easily get them on the team, too. That leaves Javon Wims, Marvin Hall, Emanuel Hall and a handful of others to compete for what probably is only one more spot on the 53-man roster. There’s not much separating those three heading into training camp, though Emanuel Hall’s sports hernia surgery sidelined him during OTAs, putting him a little behind the curve. Wims is the incumbent here but didn’t get on the field much in 2018, while Marvin Hall played a little with the Atlanta Falcons over the last two years. We’ll give the edge to Marvin Hall for now based on his speed and meager experience, but also with the knowledge that the Bears’ sixth receiver likely won’t be active on game days unless of an injury. 

TIGHT ENDS (5): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell, Dax Raymond
Missing the cut: Ian Bunting, Jesper Horsted, Ellis Richardson

If Burton has to begin training camp on the PUP list, will he be ready for Week 1? Can Shaheen stay healthy for a full season? Those are perhaps the two biggest questions needing answers not only for this unit, but for the Bears’ offense as a whole. Burton’s 11th-hour injury prior to the Bears’ playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles limited how dynamic Nagy’s offense could be, while Shaheen’s preseason injury meant the Bears were ineffective when using 12 personnel during the regular season. The Bears need better depth behind Burton and Shaheen — Braunecker is a reliable special teamer with flexibility to play both the “U” and the “Y” spots, but can more much-needed depth emerge from a converted offensive lineman (Sowell) and a handful of undrafted free agents (Raymond, Bunting, Horsted, Richardson)? We’ll give Sowell (at the “Y” behind Shaheen) and Raymond (at the “U” behind Burton) the spots for now, but both will have to earn their way onto the roster during training camp. 

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Charles Leno, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Rashaad Coward, Ted Larsen, Alex Bars
Missing the cut: Cornelius Lucas, Joe Lowery, T.J. Clemmings, Blake Blackmar, Marquez Tucker, Jordan McCray, Sam Mustipher

The Bears moved Sowell to tight end thanks, in part, to their confidence in the development of Coward — a converted defensive lineman — to take over as their swing tackle in 2019. He’s still under construction as an NFL offensive lineman and will have to beat out a handful of challengers, including a five-year NFL reserve in Lucas, but Coward has the edge for a roster spot. The interior reserves are less clear, though: Larsen was brought back in free agency but only has $90,000 guaranteed on his one-year deal, while Bars played for O-line coach Harry Hiestand in college but is coming off an ACL/MCL injury that led to him going undrafted in April. Any of the other reserves could make a push, or the Bears could look to add interior depth on cut-down weekend. For now, though, Larsen, Bars and Coward make the most sense to slide behind the same starting five the Bears had to end 2018. 

DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Nick Williams
Missing the cut: Abdullah Anderson, Jalen Dalton, Daryle Banfield, Jonathan Harris

This is the Bears’ deepest unit, with the only battle to see who will make the roster and wind up inactive on game days, as Williams was for all but two games in 2018. 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, Chuck Harris
Cut: Kylie Fitts, Mathieu Betts, James Vaughters

Irving flashed during 2017’s and 2018’s preseasons, and might need to do so again to secure his spot on the Bears’ 2019 roster. But consider this an open battle for reserve roles behind Mack/Floyd/Lynch: Irving has the inside track to one spot but will have to earn it; while whoever flashes the most from the Harris/Fitts/Betts/Vaughters group should get another. We’ll go with Harris here — maybe Mack can take his fellow Buffalo alum under his wing during training camp. 

INSIDE LINEBACKER (4): Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Cut: Josh Woods, Jameer Thurman, Kevin Pierre-Louis

Woods might be as close to the bubble as anyone on defense, and could force his way on to the roster with a strong preseason and a commitment to special teams. But with Kwiatkoski a reliable backup and he and Iyiegbuniwe being core special teamers, it’s hard to see Woods beating out any of those four for a spot right now. 

CORNERBACK (6): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver II, Duke Shelley, Sherrick McManis
Cut: Stephen Denmark, John Franklin III, Michael Joseph, Josh Simmons, Clifton Duck, Jonathon Mincy

There should be a strong competition among the reserve outside corners on this roster, with Toliver having the best shot but needing to fend off the raw athleticism of Denmark and Franklin as well as the talent of Joseph, who stuck on the practice squad last year after going undrafted out of Division III Dubuque. Shelley flashed during OTAs and minicamp during the spring and looks likely to wind up on the 53-man roster. While McManis worked at safety some during the spring, we’ll include him among the cornerbacks for now. 

SAFETY (4): Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson
Cut: Doyin Jibowu

Barring injury and a more permanent move to safety for McManis, there’s little that’ll change in this unit between now and Week 1.

SPECIALISTS (3): Greg Joseph (PK), Pat O’Donnell (P), Patrick Scales (LS)
Cut: Elliott Fry, Eddy Pineiro, John Wirtel

Surprise! While the battle between Fry and Pineiro will dominate the headlines in Bourbonnais, the “winner” isn’t guaranteed to be the Bears’ Week 1 kicker. So not only are those two competing against each other, they’re competing against the field, too. In this scenario, the Cleveland Browns keep fifth-round pick Austin Seibert and cut Joseph, who made 17 of 20 field goals (with a long of 51 yards) for them in 2018. The Bears could try to swing a trade for Baltimore’s Kaare Vedvik here, too. The larger point, though, is this: Pace may have to look outside the organization for his Week 1 kicker, and there will be some talent — like Joseph — available if he does.