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.

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Before Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey met with the media on Wednesday, Allen Robinson was curious what his position coach would say about him in public. 

“I just told him, I don’t know you,” Furrey quipped. “Who’s Allen Robinson?”

Furrey, of course, knows who Robinson is. But the point behind that joke is that Furrey, the Bears’ court wide receivers coach in four years, is still getting to know all of his receivers — let alone the one who hasn’t participated in a practice yet. For all the positivity that's easy to find around Halas Hall these days, the Bears' biggest offseason acquisition hasn't taken a rep yet. 

The good news for the Bears, of course, is that Robinson’s past play speaks for itself. He combined for 153 catches, 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, and has been adamant he’ll return to that high level of play when he’s cleared to practice. The Bears were confident enough in Robinson’s medicals to guarantee him a little over $25 million in March, per Spotrac, about a month before they let Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints largely over medical concerns (Meredith’s torn ACL was viewed as more serious than Robinson’s, in short). 

So the getting-to-know-you phase for Furrey and Robinson is largely taking place off the field in the meeting rooms of Halas Hall. 

“What a great young man,” Furrey said. “He’s come in here, obviously, rehabbing and doing all those things. But he’s alert, he comes to meetings, he’s ready to go. Really, really smart, you can tell that from the beginning and he’s a professional.”

What Furrey, in particular, likes about Robinson is that he’s an “alpha,” but is far more than all talk and no action. 

“And a lot of times that alpha talks a lot and they don’t really put it out there,” Furrey said. “He kind of has that alpha quietness to him. He understands what’s going on, you can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level. Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.”

The expectation all along has been for Robinson to be cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. So while coach Matt Nagy said last week Robinson is “ahead of the game,” that may not mean he takes part in the final round of OTAs next week or veteran minicamp the first week of June. 

But while Robinson can’t prove himself to his new coaches on the field yet, he’s doing the right things off the field to make a positive first impression. 

“He knows you gotta come in early, he knows you gotta be the last one to leave, he knows you gotta study,” Furrey said. “It doesn’t matter five years in, six years in, you gotta take notes. It doesn’t matter if you hear it 10 times, you just gotta keep taking notes. He’s been really good at that, and I’ve been really impressed with that. I’ve been able to get on the field with him a little bit, just kind of throwing some balls to him, and I didn’t know he was that big. But obviously we’re excited for it to happen out there.” 

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Mitch Trubisky has been set up for a huge season in 2018 with all the firepower the Chicago Bears added on offense. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will give the second-year quarterback a variety of explosive targets to generate points in bunches.

None of the headline-grabbing moves will matter, however, if the offensive line doesn't do its job. 

According to Numberfire.com, the Bears' starting five could be the offense's Achilles heel. They were ranked 21st in the NFL and described as poor in pass protection.

Last year, the Bears ranked 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate. These issues were especially apparent after Trubisky took over. In the games that [Kyle] Long played, their sack rate was 8.2%. It was actually 7.2% in the games that he missed. They struggled even when Long was healthy.

The Bears added Iowa's James Daniels in the second round of April's draft and he's expected to start at guard alongside Long. Cody Whitehair will resume his role as the starting center, with Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie at offensive tackle.

If Long comes back healthy and Daniels lives up to his draft cost, they should be a good run-blocking team from the jump. But Long has played just 18 games the past two years and is entering his age-30 season, so that's far from a lock. On top of that, the pass blocking was suspect last year and remains a mystery entering 2018.

The biggest addition to the offensive line is Harry Hiestand, the accomplished position coach who returns to Chicago after once serving in the same role under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. He most recently coached at Notre Dame and helped develop multiple first-round picks. He's going to have a huge impact.

The good news for the Bears is they weren't the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFC North. The Vikings came in at No. 25. The Packers checked-in at No. 13, while the Lions were 16th.