Bears

15 on 6: Eliminating turnovers a high priority

15 on 6: Eliminating turnovers a high priority

Friday, Sept. 17, 2010
9:09 AM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

No Bears fan is going to enjoy a return home from Dallas if the Bears turn over the football four more times against the Cowboys. No statistic is more relevant to wins and losses than turnover ratio.

"It's a turnover game, and the turnover ratio is always big on who wins the game," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. It certainly will not be a victorious return flight and if it is, go out and buy one ticket for Powerball, Mega Millions and stop in on your grandmother's weekly Bingo match at the local VFW because it will be a special year for the Bears if it happens.

Ball security

It is a tough habit to break, but two hands on the ball is the mantra in the pocket. Jay Cutler had one of these costly turnovers when shuffling up in the pocket versus the Lions. A lot of QBs drop back with two hands on the ball, but they separate from the ball with their left hand (right arm thrower) once they hit the top of their drop. The separation gets worse when they move, shuffle or invariably escape the pocket to make a play. The irony is what is the better play: 1. holding onto the football and take the loss, or 2. slide with bad mechanics and cough it up to your opponent. Pretty easy decision from any head coach of what he would prefer. Drill work and constant emphasis during film study of practice or game with coach and player are key to breaking this habit. It can be done, as I myself, rid myself of a costly bad habit.

Can Cutler hold up?

I had an interesting conversation yesterday on my Sirius NFL Radio show with former NFL general manager Pat Kirwin. He had crunched the numbers. Cutler was sacked 10 times in the preseason or once every 4.7 attempts. He was sacked four times in the opener and on average, getting hit on one of every six throws. If you calculate pass attempts in a Mike Martz system for the year, it will come in at more than 500 attempts. At that pace, Cutler could go down close to 80 times. Protection has to be paramount from here on out for the Bears to even sniff postseason play. Without Jay, the season is lost. Martz may have to compromise down-the-field throws to run-after-catch throws until the offensive line can offer premium protection.

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.

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

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USA Today

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

Chicago Bears left tackle Charle Leno, Jr. has outplayed expectations after joining the team as a seventh-round pick in 2014. General manager Ryan Pace rewarded Leno for his play with a four-year, $38 million extension last offseason, committing to the former Boise State product as the Bears' blindside protector for the immediate future.

Leno joined his teammates at the team's annual Bears Care Gala on Saturday and said new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is going to make him and his linemates better.

"We love Harry, let's just get that out of the way," Leno told 670 the Score's Mark Grote. "Harry is a great coach. I saw what he did for guys that he coached in college and the guys that were before us here in Chicago. He's getting us better."

Hiestand's efforts at Notre Dame produced four first-round picks: Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. He brings a no-nonsense coaching style back to Chicago, where he last served under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. 

STANKEVITZ: In Harry Hiestand, Matt Nagy hits a home run on his first swing at Bears' coaching staff

Leno enjoyed the best season of his career in 2017. His 80.4 grade from Pro Football Focus was the best of all Bears linemen and his highest overall mark over the last four years. He finished 15th among all tackles graded by PFF last season.

Regardless, Leno still has to impress his new coach just like every other offensive lineman on the roster. The Bears haven't added any competition for Leno, but his fate as the team's long-term answer at left tackle could be decided by Hiestand.

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”