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.

Chicago Bears planning a run at free-agent tight end Austin Hooper

Chicago Bears planning a run at free-agent tight end Austin Hooper

The 2020 NFL Combine is revving up off the field as much as it is on the field. Quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends kicked off the workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, but it's what's going on inside the bars and restaurants in Indianapolis that should have Bears fans interested.

According to Jason Leiser of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bears are preparing to make a run at prized free-agent tight end, Austin Hooper. The Falcons playmaker is the top free-agent tight end on the market this year and according to Atlanta's general manager Thomas Dimitroff, he'll be given the opportunity to find out what his market value is.

That number is likely to come close to $10 million per season, which seems like an impossible price to pay for a Bears team that's already up against the salary cap. But with a new CBA on the horizon, everything we thought we know about the salary cap could soon change.

Hooper would instantly provide the Bears with the kind of second-level threat the passing game's been lacking since, well, forever. Or, since Martellus Bennett left town in 2016.

Ryan Pace has to be careful, however. He's swung and missed on two free-agent tight ends since becoming the Bears GM. First, it was Dion Sims in 2017. Then came Trey Burton in 2018. 

Sims lasted just two seasons in Chicago. He totaled 17 catches as a Bear. Burton, who's battled injuries over his first two years in Chicago, had just 14 catches in 2019.

Pace doesn't really have a choice but to pay up at this point. If he hits on Hooper, the misses on Sims and Burton will be quickly forgotten.

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These 3 tight ends improved their stock at the 2020 NFL Combine

These 3 tight ends improved their stock at the 2020 NFL Combine

Bears general manager Ryan Pace said earlier this week that he is going to explore every avenue when it comes to upgrading the team's tight end group. The 2020 NFL Draft will be a great place to look for the pass-catcher Matt Nagy's offense needs at the position, and three prospects elevated their draft stock at the 2020 NFL Combine.

Stephen Sullivan, LSU

Sullivan, the wide receiver-turned-tight end, was one of the most impressive players at the 2020 Senior Bowl, and he continued his rise up the draft board with a strong showing in Indianapolis.

Sullivan, who weighed in at 6-5, 248 pounds, ran a 4.66 40-yard dash, which tied for second-fastest among all tight ends. His 36.5-inch vertical jump is an elite number, too.

He was smooth in the on-field drills and showcased his effortless catching style. 

Sullivan won't be an early-round prospect. He's probably going to slip into Day 3. And if he does, the Bears have to give him a long, hard look. He has a chance to be the biggest sleeper in the draft (regardless of position) who can become an impact playmaker in the NFL.

Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

Hopkins, like Sullivan, ran a 4.66 and looked every bit the part of a move tight end. He was smooth on downfield routes and caught the ball cleanly (for the most part). One of the concerns surrounding Hopkins is his tendency to double-catch. He did a nice job quieting that worry just a bit.

Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

Albert 'O' was the big winner with his blazing 4.49 40-time, which ranks among the 10-best 40-times for a tight end since 1999, per the Mock Draftable database.

'O' is coming off a very disappointing season when he totaled just 26 catches for 306 yards and six touchdowns. But he lost his quarterback from 2018 -- Drew Lock -- and never got into an offensive rhythm in 2019.

It wasn't a perfect day for him, however. He loafed the gauntlet drill and continued the narrative around his game that suggests he doesn't give 100% effort on every down. But it's impossible to ignore his speed at 6-5, 258 pounds.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.