15 on 6: Cutler has a tough challenge vs. Saints


15 on 6: Cutler has a tough challenge vs. Saints

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011
Posted: 10:31 a.m.
By Jim Miller

It's never easy facing a team that just got rocked the week prior. That's exactly what happened to the New Orleans Saints defense in their opener against the Green Bay Packers. The Saints defense gave up 42 points. It is not something defensive coordinator Gregg Williams places at the top of his resume when trying to get another head coaching job.

Williams has always been extremely aggressive with multiple looks and blitzes to destroy your pass protections. His goal is to hurt you. Remember his quote before the 2009 Championship game against the Vikings: "Remember my shots." It drew the ire of many that he would say something so brazen when facing Brett Favre, but it's football and he wants every quarterback to remember. He did it to me when I was with the Bears and played a Williams-coached team in the Washington Redskins. I never got hit more consistently than in that game, which we won on the road.

The point is, first and foremost, Jay Cutler has to be tough. He has proven his toughness over and over again even though some questioned it in the NFC Championship game one year ago. Cutler heads to New Orleans knowing he's going to get tagged. It's just a fact of life playing a perturbed Saint defense and Williams.

The Saints will make their corrections and will be much better in Week 2. They will also be prepared for the Bears' screen and draw game utilized Week 1 against the Falcons. A slow running back screen resulted in a 53-yard touchdown to Matt Forte and a wide receiver screen to Devin Hester set up another Bears touchdown. Screens and draws are called to take the heat off the quarterback and slow a defense down. Keep them honest, so to speak. But despite all the screens and draws called by offensive coordinator Mike Martz, Cutler was still sacked five times. Williams is not about to allow Cutler to hit a one-yard pass and have it go the distance for a score. Instead, he will play bump and run coverage forcing Cutler to be accurate passing and throwing down the field.


Cutler was successful late last year against blitzes with no-look passes and signaling routes to his receivers. It is something he successfully politicked to Martz. Remember, Martz is not a big audible guy. He just calls a play for what he expects to see. The issue is, what if he's wrong?

As a quarterback, you would like the ability to put the offense in a better positive play against what you're presented defensively. A happy medium was reached for both with the no look passes allowing Cutler to manipulate bad looks defensively. He must be on point when he takes advantage of these opportunities against the Saints. He can save his body from the aforementioned "remember my shots." It will also stop any leaks in the dyke concerning his offensive line. The Bears' tackles are young. They are not experienced enough to understand all the looks Williams will expose to them. I have a feeling these young Bears tackles are about to get an indoctrination in overload blitzes over the C-gap where offensive tackles are susceptible.

Green Bay executed a "No Huddle" offense early against the Saints. It was very effective in minimizing blitzes and also wore the Saints out. The problem is, it's always difficult to execute a "No Huddle" offense on the road. Communication is always difficult due to crowd noise and the "Dome Patrol" crowd will be in full force at the Louisiana Superdome. I would like the Bears to utilize this option, but Lovie Smith may want to rely on his defense which continues to get turnovers. Coaching wise, Smith will worry about going to the Saints' home and having unforced errors due to communication issues, which are avoidable by simply not putting that option on the table. Remember, the Bears' young offensive tackles have enough to worry about. It is understandable for Smith to put it on Cutler's experience to manage blitzes with the no-look passes. Smith also understands ball control is imperative against the Saints. Huddling takes more time off the clock and minimizes offensive opportunities for Drew Brees.

If Cutler is tough, hits down field throws, manages looks and gets some support from the run game to keep Brees off the field, the Bears will return victors. Easier for me to write than to execute.

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.

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace is having what many believe is his best offseason since taking the job in 2015, but after three seasons and only 14 wins, he needs a big year in 2018 to justify the confidence ownership has in him. 

According to a recent breakdown of all 32 general managers, Pace ranks among the worst decision-makers in the league.

No. 23: Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears

There’s only so much you can accomplish in one spring. The problem is that Pace let himself accumulate so many needs to begin with. He needs Trubisky and Nagy to springboard a fourth-year turnaround. 

The rankings didn't include six new GM hires, which makes Pace's positioning even more troubling.

Even though the Bears haven't seen wins on the field, Pace has done a solid job through three draft classes and appears to have the right coaching staff in place. His first hire, John Fox, was a calculated move by a rookie general manager to have an experienced football guy to lean on. Now, several offseasons later, the team is starting to take on his identity.

Despite all the talent Pace has added through the draft and the slow but steady transformation of the team's overall culture, it's a win-now business and if his blueprint doesn't start producing more wins than losses, it will be hard to justify more time and patience for his plan to develop.

Is Danny Trevathan's Bears' future in doubt after NFL Draft? 'It depends on how you look at it'

Is Danny Trevathan's Bears' future in doubt after NFL Draft? 'It depends on how you look at it'

The NFL Draft is a necessary evil if you’re a veteran player, especially if your team just drafted two players at the position you play and your contract doesn’t provide much job security beyond the upcoming season. 

That’s the spot Danny Trevathan is in now. The Bears nabbed Roquan Smith with the eighth overall pick in April's NFL Draft, then used their fourth-round selection on Joel Iyiegbuniwe. Both players are inside linebackers; the Bears could net $6.4 million in cap savings if they release Trevathan following the 2018 season. 

Trevathan, though, isn’t approaching 2018 like the writing is on the wall for it to be his final year in Chicago. 

“It depends on how you look at it,” Trevathan said. “For me, it is what it is, (Smith’s) a good player and he’s going to help us out on defense. You just want to go ahead and do your job and keep working. He’s a good player, just like we’ve all got some good players out here. But he’s … we got the right guy to fit our defense. He’s working his tail off and he fits in with our linebacker group.”

That Trevathan answered a question about the decision to draft Smith, specifically, in that manner isn’t surprising. The 28-year-old is one of the most respected leaders in the Bears locker room, the kind of guy who sets the tone for the rest of the defense (in other words: Exactly what you want out of a veteran inside linebacker). Trevathan offered plenty of praise for Smith not only as a player, but for how he’s approached his first few practices wearing a Bears helmet. 

“He's quick, instinctive, learns well,” Trevathan said. “He's just out here trying to get better. That's what I like about him. He's calling the call sheets out. He's learning the plays. That's what you want in him. You want him to come out here and be humble. You want him to work hard. I see that in his eyes, coming out here. It's a lot of lights on him. It's a lot of attention on him. But he's finding himself out here, coming out here and trying to make some plays.”

The reality, though, is that Smith may not be the one to take Trevathan’s job, if it comes to that. The best-case outlook for Iyiegbuniwe would appear to be that the Bears found a fourth-round steal who can pair with Smith as Vic Fangio’s long-term inside linebacking tandem. If “Iggy” proves to be that guy, then Trevathan could indeed find his place in Chicago in jeopardy. 

And, too, even if Iyiegbuniwe doesn’t quickly develop into a starting-caliber player, the Bears could still decide to cut ties with Trevathan if Smith proves to be elite. 

The best way for Trevathan to make sure he’s still here in a year, though, is to play a full 16-game season — something he hasn’t done since 2013, and he's missed 11 games since signing a four-year deal in 2016. 

But when Trevathan is on the field, his speed and physicality are a critical component to the Bears’ success. That won't change in 2018, at the least. 

"(He has) that veteran experience," coach Matt Nagy said. "We went against Danny when I was in Kansas City and he was at Denver so we always knew what kind of player he was. He has the demeanor to him, a focus, he's very serious when he's out there on the field and he'll have a great mentorship, he'll be a great mentor for Roquan."