Bears

15 on 6: Sitting Cutler his best protection so far

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15 on 6: Sitting Cutler his best protection so far

Friday, Oct. 8, 2010
4:40 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

Jay Cutler has been rocked 17 times already this season! Seventeen is the number of times Jay Cutler has been sacked in 4 games, or should I say 3 12, he did not make it through the fourth. How many times has he sustained a hit but still got the ball out? Jay has logged 102 pass attempts and been sacked almost a quarter of them and has been hit well over 60 percent of the time. Shutting him down this week is a smart move by the Bears if you want him to make it through the rest of the year. You should never take an opponent lightly in the NFL, but facing Carolina is a good opportunity to allow Jay to get his mind right.

How It Works

You have a baseline test in the NFL for concussions. This was the first year all rookies were given the "Impact Test" in Indianapolis at the annual NFL combine. It enables teams to now chart players trough their career. Recently, numerous former players have suffered from dementia at an early age and thus, the NFL had to react and become more proactive dealing with concussions. Jay Cutler just becomes the most recent statistic of teams not wanting to put a player at risk. At this point, risk would be an understatement when evaluating the Bear's pass protection. Although Jay has not missed a start in 5 years, he has a baseline test from Denver and most likely, the Bears followed up when Jay arrived in Chicago administering one of their own. It is a series of tests to check recallmemory. Team doctors and trainers make you recite a list of words starting with the letters A, B, C, etc...they are then able to check volume of words and differences from your initial list provided from earlier testing. Either Jay did not score well on the test or the doctors ruled him out altogether for their own self preservation. I lean towards the latter as Jay participated in practice on Wednesday. The track record on diagnosed injuries has been less than stellar from the Bears organization and should provide GM Jerry Angelo the ammunition to shake up another department this off-season. If the decision was up to Jay, he would be lining up under center against Carolina this weekend.

On To No. 2--Enter Todd Collins

Stiff neck and all, Todd Collins is better prepared to face Carolina on the road than Caleb Hanie. The Bears have the ability to dial up more plays in key situations with Todd, knowing how he will react from previous experiences on tape during his career. Caleb, through no fault of his own, would be a gamble. No one knows how he would react if things go poorly in Carolina and in particular, if things do not go well early. This is not the time to find out with a known quantity available. Todd has been there and done it. He is better equipped to manage this situation and draw from years of experience. Being named the starter late in the week, will not effect Todd's preparation, but it is imperative for Todd to create a list of pass plays he feels most comfortable executing. It becomes Martz's responsibility when to call them.

List

Base Offense 1st and 2nd down--Write down your top four play-action passes on early downs and deliver to your OC. You can call the same play, but Martz will just window dress it with motion or shifts to disguise.

3rd and medium--It is imperative Martz knows what Todd feels comfortable with early to build offensive confidence on third down. The Bears were 0-for-13 last Sunday on third down. Do not let self doubt destroy your football team. Remove it early with a quality conversion. Another four pass plays should suffice.

Todd has always been a cerebral guy, but the game plan will be reduced. Mike Martz can hold court all he wants regarding the whole playbook being in play this weekend, but its focus must change. Todd enables the Bears to run more volume of plays, but Martz is now under the gun from his fellow coaches to offer more balance. A commitment to the run game will serve as the best elixir to protect the quarterback. There are numerous play-action passes offering seven and eight man protections to complement the run game. Martz must not waver if it does not look encouraging early! The offensive line is thirsting for the commitment and enter the game knowing this is their opportunity to shine. Offensive line coach Mike Tice has already singled them out in meetings, in case they do not read the papers, to challenge them this weekend. The Bears must just manage! Manage the QB spot, manage the run game and manage a victory.

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.

3 things 2020 Bears will need to repeat 2018’s success

3 things 2020 Bears will need to repeat 2018’s success

The first two years of the Matt Nagy era can be boiled down to this: First, a tremendously fun year in which the Bears blew past expectations; and second, a tremendously un-fun year in which the Bears fell short of expectations.

So what will 2020 be closer to: The unbridled joy of 2018 (until the last kick of the wild card round), or the numbing disappointment of 2019 (despite still winning eight games)?

To answer that question, we should start by laying out some expectations for 2020. Broadly: The Bears should compete for a spot in an expanded seven-team playoff field. More narrowly: The Bears’ offense should be, at worst, league-average – about where it was in 2018. And the defense, led by a mauling pass rush, should be one of the best in the NFL even without Eddie Goldman.

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But how do the Bears get 2020 to feel more like 2018 than 2019? Here are three key factors:

The tight end question

Trey Burton did not miss a game in 2018’s regular season, and the Bears’ offense was better because of it. While Burton’s numbers weren’t eye-popping (54 catches, 569 yards, 6 TDs) his steadiness at the “U” tight end spot allowed the Bears’ offense to create mismatches, especially with Tarik Cohen.

Burton never was healthy last year, playing poorly in eight games before landing on injured reserve. The Bears didn’t have quality depth behind Burton, and the “Y” spot was a disaster. The lack of any good tight end play wasn’t the only reason why the Bears’ offense cratered in 2019, but it might’ve been the biggest reason.

The starting point to the Bears’ offense in 2020 is, certainly, figuring out who’s playing quarterback. But the Bears need Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet and Demetrius Harris to be the fixes their tight end room sorely needs. Just average play from those guys will help the Bears’ offense be closer to what it was in 2018 (which, again, was merely good enough), if not better.

MORE: Where Cole Kmet stands as Bears get to know their rookies

And if the tight end room is a disaster again? It might not matter who starts at quarterback.

Good luck and/or good depth

The 2018 Bears were incredibly lucky in dodging significant injuries early on. Adam Shaheen began the year on IR but returned in November; Kyle Long went on IR after Week 8 and came back Week 17. Depth pieces like Sam Acho and Dion Sims were lost, sure, but the Bears did well to make their absences footnotes to the season.

Even when slot corner Bryce Callahan was injured in Week 14, veteran special teamer Sherrick McManis did incredibly well in his place. Eddie Jackson’s season-ending injury in Week 15 was the most costly, as the Bears missed him in that wild card game against Foles and the Eagles.

But overall, the Bears were both lucky in terms of staying healthy and good in terms of replacing those injured guys in 2018.

The Bears saw some depth shine in 2019 – specifically defensive lineman Nick Williams and inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski – but even still, the defense struggled to dominate without Hicks on the field. And the aforementioned tight end position was a disaster without a healthy Burton. Long never was right, and the offensive line without him (or veteran backup Ted Larsen) never was either. Taylor Gabriel’s off-and-on availability due to multiple concussions hampered the offense, too.

2020 inevitably will be a year of attrition not only for the Bears, but for the entire NFL. In addition to avoiding football injuries before and during the season, teams will have to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks in their facilities. Training and personal responsibility can go a long way in avoiding injuries and illness, but it’ll take a lot of luck, too, for teams to stay mostly healthy.

MORE: Fragility of 2020 season constantly on Bears players' minds

The teams with the best depth will have the best chance of making the playoffs. Will the Bears be among that group? Maybe. But a shortage of draft picks in recent years might be costly. We’ll see.

Betting on pressure

The Bears had one of the best defenses of the last decade in 2018 because of, first and foremost, outstanding coverage from its secondary. The ability of Fuller/Jackson/Callahan/Adrian Amos/Prince Amukamara to disguise their coverages confused most opposing offenses, who by the way also had to deal with Hicks pushing the pocket and Mack marauding off the edge. Hicks and Goldman opened up gaps for Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith to snuff out any attempt at establishing the run. It was a perfect formula.

The 2019 Bears’ defense took a step back not only because Vic Fangio (and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell) left for Denver, but because of player attrition, too. Last year’s defense was good, but not great.

The formula for the 2020 Bears’ defense won’t be the same as it was in 2018, though. The signing of Robert Quinn, coupled with jettisoning Leonard Floyd, hints at a defense predicated on a dominant pass rush. Holes in the secondary were addressed on the cheap, be it with Jaylon Johnson or Tashaun Gipson.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A trio of Mack/Hicks/Quinn seems impossible to contain. If the Bears’ defense re-emerges as one of the best in the NFL, it’ll be because those three guys lead the way in putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  

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Mitch Trubisky, of course, was dubbed Bears' biggest liability in 2020

Mitch Trubisky, of course, was dubbed Bears' biggest liability in 2020

Mitch Trubisky's tenure in Chicago since being the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft hasn't been great. It hasn't been terrible, either. It's been a blend of good and bad which has led to an incomplete picture of who he is as a quarterback entering his fourth year in the league. It's the main reason why the Bears traded for Nick Foles; Trubisky can't be trusted (yet) to be the unquestioned starter for a team that on paper has playoff potential.

The fact that Trubisky can't be trusted contributes to the narrative that he's the team's biggest liability. Even if he wins the Bears' quarterback competition, will he really have the unconditional confidence of his coaches and teammates? Will Bears fans have the kind of faith in Trubisky that fans of other contenders have in their quarterbacks? Probably not. There's no reason why they should. Trubisky hasn't been consistent enough through nearly three seasons as a starter to deserve that level of trust.

According to a recent breakdown of every team's biggest liability, it was Trubisky, of course, who took the title for the Bears.

If new Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles can beat out Mitchell Trubisky and play well in 2020, the Bears might be a playoff team. If he cannot, Chicago might be looking at a lost season.

While the Bears roster is very talented, Trubisky has been anything but a steady presence under center. He has struggled to push the ball down the field—he averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt in 2019—and has limited what head coach Matt Nagy is able—or perhaps, willing—to do on offense.

Chicago ranked 29th in passing yardage last year and declined Trubisky's fifth-year option this offseason.

If the Bears are again one-dimensional, they're going to find it difficult to be relevant in the tough NFC North.

I ran a poll on Twitter that asked Bears fans who they prefer as the starting quarterback with just over one month to go before the season kicks off. The results were predictably close, but the nod went to Foles (56%). It feels safe to assume a big reason why fans hope Foles ends up QB1 is because of his proven track record in big moments. Even if he's a boring player with a limited regular-season ceiling, he has ice in his veins during the game's biggest moments. He's steady. He's consistent. He's pretty much the anti-Trubisky.

Is it fair to say Trubisky is a liability? Of course, it is. If he fails, the Bears will be set back for several seasons. Even if Foles salvages the team's short-term outlook, the long-term success of the franchise depends on Trubisky living up to his scouting report and becoming a franchise quarterback. And there just isn't enough evidence to prove he's capable of doing that.

If we don't know by now whether Trubisky can turn the corner and be a top-tier starting quarterback in the NFL, it's probably safe to say he can't. 

 

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