Bears

15 on 6: Cutler taking charge due to run threat

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15 on 6: Cutler taking charge due to run threat

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2010
9:28 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

The one element of Jay Cutler's game that has jumped out at me the last two ball games has been his decisiveness.

The direct correlation in committing to the run game the last four games, I believe, has benefited Jay when play action passes are called. Plenty of play action passes have been dialed up by Mike Martz during the Bears four-game winning streak. If you are averaging roughly 30 run plays in the last four games, the opponent has to respect it.

Then, when play action opportunities arise, it causes a slight hesitation by linebackers and safeties which has cleared up reads for Cutler. The windows to throw the ball into are bigger and the QB has felt confident in what he is seeing to pull the trigger.

Awareness

Cutler has also been decisive in tucking the ball and running as well, which stresses out a defense. Normally the QB is the unaccounted man when it comes to running the football, but Cutler is quickly becoming a running threat defenses have to defend, much like the Bears defense had to account for Michael Vick Sunday.

Cutler has been uncanny in his awareness and ability to feel pressure and find the escape route out of the pocket. Most quarterbacks struggle with this element of the position because it really is a sixth sense of the game. I do not want you to recall the days of Rex Grossman, but he never had this type of feel at the position.

Do not compound the problem

Another area of awareness and good decision making displayed by Cutler on Sunday was not compounding the issues early by the offensive line.

The Bears gave up four sacks in the first half, which makes it is easy for a QB to panic or force a throw due to the pressure. Nobody likes negative plays, especially sacks where your quarterback is taking a shot, but Cutler took his medicine against the Eagles.

It is never the worst thing in the world to punt the football and allow your stellar defense to get back on the field. Cutler weighed the risk against the rewards and trusted the offensive line would sort it out in the second half.

Earlier in the year, Cutler panicked and threw costly interceptions when protection broke down (at New York Giants, vs. Washington). Now he is tucking and running or taking the negative play. He could always take it a step further and just throw the ball away when he knows there is not a fighting chance.

Overall, Cutler has been much better with his decisions in these last four games. He was exceptional today, completing 14 of 21 passes for 247 yards, with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Just clear up the sacks, because the last thing the Bears need is for Cutler to go down with an injury when everything is clicking offensively.

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.

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:

With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.

The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team. 

For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.

Charles Leno dubbed Bears' best-kept secret

Charles Leno dubbed Bears' best-kept secret

Chicago Bears left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. deserves a lot of credit. After starting his career as a seventh-round pick and something of a longshot to ever earn a starting job, he's become an irreplaceable fixture at the most important position along the offensive line.

The four-year, $38 million contract extension he signed last offseason is evidence of that.

Despite his value to the Bears, Leno is still somewhat underrated across league circles. That may be about to change.

Leno was recently named Chicago's best-kept secret.

Leno has consistently improved as a pass protector since he was drafted in the seventh round in 2014 and is now one of the team's top 10 players. If he hit the open market, Leno might be a $60 million player with the way the offensive line market is exploding. Over the next four years, the Bears should save about $20 million on the market price for their starting-caliber left tackle.

Leno has enjoyed steady improvement since his rookie season. His grades from Pro Football Focus reflect that: 53.6 (2014), 56.3 (2015), 71.2 (2016) and 80.4 (2017). 

The Bears' offensive line is poised for a big season in 2018. Leno and Bobby Massie are back as starters at tackle. Rookie second-round pick James Daniels will pair with Kyle Long at guard and third-year pro, Cody Whitehair, will get back to focusing on being the team's starting center.

If Leno's trend of improved play continues, he's a great candidate to go from best-kept secret to league star in 2018.