Bears

15 on 6: Cutler starting to shine in Martz's offense

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15 on 6: Cutler starting to shine in Martz's offense

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011
Posted: 9:30 p.m.
By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

I think it is only appropriate to start this year's blog commenting on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks of 2001. As you may or may not know, I was with the Bears during that time and was stunned like all of us. I never thought I would witness our country being attacked in my lifetime. We had a bye week before playing Atlanta on the road.

We tried to practice that week, but it was worthless. I remember coaches and players were just looking at each other out on the practice field thinking, "What are we doing here." We wanted to be glued to the television like everyone else for any new information. Coach Dick Jauron pretty much cut every practice short that week, knowing what was more important. I think everyone at the Bears facility went home that weekend with some form of soul searching on their mind.

Everyone must have dug deep because I remember coming back and every one was inspired to play football. Almost like WWI or WWII, where volunteers helped the military in any capacity they could, I think we were just inspired to do our part. Maybe give the country a four hour window to take their minds away from some serious pain. Start the healing process somewhat. I know it did for me. It was a very emotional time for everybody in this country because it affected everybody. It still does today. The tragic events have altered the way we live and affected our freedom that we cherish so dearly. May those who perished Rest in Peace and God Bless.

Many have wondered, how it would affect the performances of the games today? Although it's still emotional, I think a lot of players reflected and took a moment to pause to pay their respects well before the game started. I know that's what I did before we lined up to play Atlanta after the bye week. We were focused to give the fans a show and win the game. But I was never more proud when, before the game, the Military men and woman rolled out the American Flag. It was the full length of the field. It was the loudest I had ever heard the "National Anthem" performed. Ever! There was not one person in the whole Georgia Dome who did not participate. It still gives me goose bumps and was truly awesome!

Defense Dominates the Day

I worried about the Bears ability to score points coming into the 2011 Lockout season. The organization traded away their "Redzone" TD maker in TE Greg Olsen to the Panthers. Plus, with the new "Kickoff rule", it remains to be seen how it will punish the Bears. A lot of money has been invested into the return units and a simple rule affects about 30 of their scoring. It means that production has to be made up elsewhere. I still am trying to sort out myself where the production comes from within this roster. Here are my thoughts:

Kellen Davis - Is big, strong, and fast. He's not the best route runner but could be an option. Jay Cutler missed him today on a TE throwback screen that would have been a walk to the endzone.

Roy Williams - His size suggests he is a "Redzone" target, but he's not in shape, drops too many balls, and pulled a groin today which could keep him out awhile. Tony Romo never developed a rapport with him and I don't think Jay has yet.

Marion Barber - We have to see how the line settles in for Barber to be a "Goal Line" option pounding it up in there. Plus he's out with a calf injury.

Long screen passes for TD's like today, will not be the norm. The Bear's were 12 in the "Redzone." They only got down there twice and had to settle for FG's when they crossed the 50 on three occasions. It's pride, the offense doesn't want to rely on the defense to score. There will be games this year where the Bears' offense will have to come through consistently. It could be asked to do it as early as next week versus the Saints. Why not now?

I thought Cutler had an outstanding game. He looks more confident in year two of Martz's offense. He looked comfortable going through his reads quickly and was terrific in locating check down receivers when the pocket collapsed. He missed the TE throwback to Davis which would have made it a three touchdown day. I also thought he motivated his teammates. Jay was giving high fives and pats of encouragement. He was having fun winning, which is what it's all about.

Check in during the week as I'll get into what Jay needs to do to be ready for the Saints.

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 free agency in his future, Robbie Gould says he 'will always be a Bear'

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USA TODAY

With free agency in his future, Robbie Gould says he 'will always be a Bear'

Robbie Gould will always be popular among Bears fans, but his name is popping up a bit more frequently after Cody Parkey’s tipped/missed decisive field goal in the playoffs.

Gould, who was with the Bears for 11 seasons, was on the Prostyle Podcast with fellow former Bear Earl Bennett. Bennett asked Gould about a number of hot topics, including Gould’s view on Parkey’s miss and what’s in Gould’s future as a free agent this offseason.

For starters, Gould said he harbors no ill will about his exit from Chicago and still lives in the city.

“I’m not mad about it at all,” Gould said. “At the end of the day, football is a business. Unfortunately as a player you don’t get to say when your type is up at a place. More often than not the organization is your employer, just like other businesses. They get to tell you where, when, how, why and for what reason. As a player you have the opportunity to say yes or no and you have to make those decisions. They made a decision to go in a different direction. I’m happy that they got back to the winning ways this year.”

Gould attended the playoff loss to the Eagles with his kids. Bennett asked Gould if he believed he would have made the crucial kick. Naturally, Gould wasn’t about to step on another kicker and played it safe in his answer.

“We’re talking about a hypothetical,” Gould said. “I wasn’t out there. I didn’t get a chance to kick it. Obviously I feel for Cody Parkey and what he went through on Sunday. I have a lot of respect for him, not only as a person, but also as a kicker. We’ll never know.”

Gould went on to recall his missed potential game-winning kicks in his career. He rattled off five different kicks and some details on all of them, which shows how scarring missing a game-winning field goal is for a kicker.

Then, the big question: would Gould rejoin the Bears? It sounds like the Bears are going to move on from Parkey, both for his on-field performance and the ensuing Today Show appearance, which didn’t seem to endear him to coach Matt Nagy.

Gould said the 49ers have exclusive rights to negotiate with him until the middle of March. He is focusing on spending time with his family in the meantime. Earlier in the interview he talked about the 49ers and their future as if he would be a part of it, but went politically correct when asked about Chicago.

“I love Chicago,” Gould said. “I live here. I still live here. Whether you go to the grocery store or whether you go to the restaurant, that’s the question everyone is asking me. I get it, right? I understand it, but Cody is their kicker right now. He’s the guy on their roster. He’s the guy that I think can rebound and have a great season and do some big things for the Bears down the road. For me, Chicago will always be home. I love the Bear fans. I love this city. I’ll always be a Bear, no matter what team I’m on or where I’m going or whatever happens. One day I’ll probably retire a Bear and you know it’s one of those things, free agency is much out of your control.”

 

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For the Bears, the 2018 rookie class is yet another cornerstone of the Nagy/Pace era

For the Bears, the 2018 rookie class is yet another cornerstone of the Nagy/Pace era

Depending on who you ask, one might be surprised to hear that on the NFL's best defense -- one with 4 All-Pros -- the leading tackler was rookie Roquan Smith. 

Smith, who was the Bears' first-round pick in 2018 and whose contract-holdout was the hot topic of preseason, led the team in both combined (120) and solo (89) tackles. While there's a dark corner of Bears fans who weren't happy with Smith's 2018 (and kind of aren't happy about anything ever), the 8th overall pick out of Georgia's first season was subjectively a success. 

"You know, you talk to Roquan and you can just feel him, no different than any player, just feeling comfortable in the defense," GM Ryan Pace said. "So now he's not thinking as much, he's just playing with his instincts, and he's playing fast. And you guys know Roquan. Those are his greatest strengths - his instincts and his speed. So the sky's the limit for him."

"It's just exciting to see him grow. And I think you saw a glimpse of what he's going to be, especially in the later part of the season." 

Smith may be the headliner, but don't let that undercut how productive the rest of the group was. James Daniels, Anthony Miller, and Bilal Nichols each had their moments throughout the year, showing off what looks like back-to-back stellar draft classes in Pace/Nagy era. In fact, Smith, Daniels and Nichols all made ESPN's All-Rookie team. 

"I like [the group] a lot," Matt Nagy added. "The guys that we brought in, we were talking about it a few weeks ago -- you never know how many you're going to hit on. And so and I don't know if we even truly know right now, but from what we've seen we feel really confident with that group, see a lot of high ceiling with these guys." 

Daniels, taken in the 2nd round out of Iowa, appeared in 16 games this season and was a starter in the final 10. He didn't allow a single sack all season, and according to Pro Football Focus, only allowed 20 total pressures on his 432 pass-blocking attempts. His work against Rams' All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald may be one of the more impressive performances from any Bears player on the roster all year. 

"That was one of the biggest challenges that he’s ever going to have," Nagy said the morning after the Bears' 15-6 win. "I thought his technique was really good last night. He never lunged too much, he stayed balanced. One of James’ biggest strengths is if he happens to lose a little leverage he can recover, but for the most part he was very consistent. And man, for being such a young kid, very calm, composed and that was one of the big things we talked about as a team was to stay calm and composed and next play mentality, he did that."

For Miller, who came out of Memphis with a whole bunch of Antonio Brown comparisons, being stashed behind Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton didn't stop the rookie from scoring seven touchdowns, the most for a Bears' rookie since 1983. For the year, Miller hauled in 33 receptions for 423 yards, averaging out at 12.8 yards per reception. If you don't count Kevin White and his four receptions, Miller's 12.8 YPR was good for 3rd best on the team. He also showed a commendable amount of toughness, battling through most of the season with a left shoulder that popped out on multiple occasions and will eventually need surgery. It's also worth noting that Miller is already well-liked inside of Halas Hall - it's not a coincidence that he was one of the first people Allen Robinson named when asked why someone would want to join the Bears in free agency. 

As for Nichols, the rookie out of Delaware started six games and appeared in 14 and played well next to Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman. He put up three sacks, two forced fumbles and 28 tackles, five of which were for a loss. Like Smith and Daniels, Nichols was consistently lauded for having a maturity beyond his age. 

"We’ve got some mature rookies," linemate Akiem Hicks said. "I noticed that from OTAs and off the top of my head, Roquan Smith and Bilal Nichols, just knowing their role and their place and trying to meet every expectation of themselves and from their peers and coaching staff and just knowing that there’s a lot to lose whenever you step on the field. They take advantage of it and so as a veteran player you look at that and you say, ‘We’ve got a great nucleus here, something that can propel us forward into the playoffs and so look at us now.'" 

The other three members of the 2018 class had quieter opening acts, though reasons to be optimistic remain. Javon Wimms put on a clinic in preseason and may be one of the more exciting Breakout Season candidates come next August. Kylie Fitts appeared in six games this season and fits well with what you need in a linebacker in 2019. Joel Iyiegbuniwe was a strong contributor to special teams over 16 games. 

The list of the players drafted during Pace's tenure now includes (but isn't limited to): Mitch Trubisky, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen, Smith, Daniels, Miller, and Nichols. In other words, their starting QB, safety, running back, inside linebacker, offensive guard and defensive tackle. So what's behind such successful drafts? 

"I think that it's just a credit to these guys, Ryan and his guys," Nagy added. "They put in a lot of hard work and we collaborate together. And when you do that and you get guys that believe in everything, that's what happens."

"If we could go back and do it again, I'd do it again."

Hard to blame him.