15 on 612: Cutler's poor throws, raw Hanie hurt

15 on 612: Cutler's poor throws, raw Hanie hurt

Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011
11:19 p.m.

By Jim Miller

Hard to accept a loss in the NFC Championship game to the Packers when your signal caller goes down to injury. I think everyone should take a breath before you start questioning Jay Cutler's toughness and criticizing his heart.

He has displayed his toughness numerous times over the last two seasons, especially this season while absorbing the most sacks in the league. He sustained a concussion against the Giants earlier in the season and continued to play a whole quarter before the coaches new something was wrong and had to pull him. He labored to make a handoff to Matt Forte on the first series of the third quarter and most likely knew at that point it wasn't going to work.

Early reports indicate an injury to the MCL of Jay's knee. Really, the only thing Bears fans should criticize is why the organization did not sign a more capable backup quarterback in the offseason or just elect to roll with Caleb Hanie over Todd Collins.

While Jay was in the game, he had an opportunity to hit four key throws that I thought could of made a difference in the game - two of those strikes would have been found paint. The first miss was on a 7 (post corner) route to Devin Hester. Jay needed to follow through with his motion on a pretty routine play. It was 3rd-and-7 and would have continued the drive into Green Bay territory.

The second was a shallow crossing route versus man Coverage, where if he hits Hester, he may still be running. Jay shuffled up in the pocket and just needed to reset his feet.

The third miss cost the Bears a touchdown. It was Slot formation where the Bears were trying to work a double post concept off of playaction. It was versus a man-free coverage and instead of leading Hester vertically, Jay should have forced Hester with his throw to come more flat towards the sideline. It is a much easier throw and there is no backside corner to worry about as it was a slot formation.

The last missed opportunity also could have been a paydirt situation for the Bears. It was on the interception by Sam Shields, a 3-by-1 'bunch' set by the Bears where they wanted to hit single WR Johnny Knox on a "Go" route. Receivers are taught to give themselves two yards of real estate to the sideline on fly patterns because it allows them to lean on the defensive back providing a little bit of separation if the ball is thrown outside. Jay just needed to place the ball more to the outside so Johnny had an opportunity to make the catch or, at a minimum, give Johnny an opportunity to break up the play.

I think Lovie's decision to pull Todd Collins for Caleb Hanie speaks for itself. It really was just Caleb's inexperience that cost the Bears on two occasions. The interception by B.J. Raji is the most evident. It was a blitz zone again by the Packers where they drop a pass rusher (Raji) and replace him with another (Tramon Williams) who was the blitzing corner. Caleb just has to see it!

When you're are coming out from under center at the snap of the ball you should be able to see it. Raji is a 338-pound nose tackle who is in your passing lane. Caleb needed to move on in his read or tuck the ball and run at the gap the big nose tackle just voided.

This was also Caleb's first experience to execute a two-minute drive - another area where he will grow. Two minute drives are always very chaotic. The coaches are screaming into the headset, players are screaming for the play so they know where to line up and lock in their assignment - and oh yea - the clock never stops ticking.

For such a young QB to be getting his first live action in the NFC Championship game working such a drill is impressive. Trust me, Caleb will come away from this experience more prepared to work this critical area of the Bears offense in the future. He learned a tremendous amount in the pressure cooker of a situation he found himself in on Sunday.

Overall, Bears fans should feel pretty good about the 2010 season. I know it hurts to get so far and sustain such a loss to the dreaded Packers. However, the Bears improved by leaps and bounds - especially on offense. If growth continues this offseason, the 2011 campaign could be truly special.

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 and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

Trubisky using flashcards to learn Bears offense

USA Today

Trubisky using flashcards to learn Bears offense

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky is preparing for his second season in the NFL, one in which he'll be running an entirely new offense, with a tried-and-true method of learning: flashcards.

“Quarterback play is how fast you can process,” Trubisky told the Chicago Sun-Times. “A lot of that is recollection. That’s exactly what flash cards are.

"You’re trying to learn and memorize, and to try to forget what you did in the past.”

Coach Matt Nagy is attempting to install an offense that took five years to master in Kansas City in his first offseason in Chicago. Its success or failure will circle directly back to how well Trubisky operates within its structure.

Despite its complexity, Trubisky feels more comfortable in Nagy's system than the one Dowell Loggains ran last season.

“It’s more complex, but it’s easier [to execute], as opposed to simpler but more difficult.

"That’s how I would describe it last year. Last year, there were probably less words, but they didn’t necessarily fit together. Or it was just more difficult to process. This year, it’s more complex but it’s easier to execute and memorize and remember because everything builds on something. You start with a base concept, and it gets more and more complicated.”

Trubisky's comments illustrate what makes Nagy a potentially special offensive coach. He's making a normally difficult process seem easy, and that's the kind of environment that will facilitate learning and execution.

“It’s just crazy to see. I feel like that’s how it should be done, because it’s a more advanced offense, but we were able to pick it up so quickly over the summer because of how they taught it. And how everything fits together."

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Danny Trevathan
2. John Timu
3. Joel Iyiegbuniwe

1. Roquan Smith
2. Nick Kwiatkoski
3. Jonathan Anderson

1. How good can Roquan Smith be?

Making sweeping observations from shorts-and-helmets practices in OTAs is often a fool’s errand, but Smith looked the part while running around the practice fields of Halas Hall after being drafted in April. His quickness and instinctiveness stood out — as they did at Georgia — and his football intelligence and work ethic were praised by coaches and teammates. 

“He’s learning well,” Trevathan said. “He’s doing a good job of learning. He’s learning the little things that you need to learn in this defense. Now it’s all about putting on a show and going out there and rocking.”

And that’s what’s going to be fun to watch in Bourbonnais: How does Smith play with the pads on? Chances are, the answer to that question will be “well,” setting the eighth overall pick on a path to being a mainstay of this defense for years to come. 

That’s not to say Smith doesn’t have plenty on which to work during training camp. But he left Georgia as a sort of “safe bet” in the draft, and nothing he’s done to this point has changed the view of him that he’s likely going to be a good one. 

2. Can Danny Trevathan stay healthy?

In terms of size and athleticism, Trevathan and Smith profile similar to NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the inside linebacking tandem that was the spine of the San Francisco 49ers defense during Fangio’s time there. But for Trevathan and Smith to reach that lofty bar — or even to come close to it — Trevathan needs to be more available than he was his first two years with the Bears.

This isn’t questioning Trevathan’s toughness — far from it. That he returned for Week 1 of the 2017 season 10 months after rupturing his patellar tending (an injury that can be a career-ender) was impressive, and that he was immediately productive upon returning was even more extraordinary. But Trevathan missed three games in November due to a strained calf, and coupled with a one-game suspension and the seven games he missed in 2016, the 28-year-old has only played in 21 of 32 games since signing with the Bears. 

Trevathan is confident he can improve his production in 2018, given he wasn’t able to participate in last year’s offseason program practices. He’s entering his third year in Fangio’s defense and feels better prepared after going through OTAs and minicamps this year. It’s just now about him staying on the field to make sure that work pays off.

“I’m more comfortable with this defense, I’m more comfortable with the guys and the calls that we make,” Trevathan said. “I take pride in being correct and working my tail off and making the defense better. And the more that I can be out there — which I plan on being out there a lot — it’s going to help us tremendously.” 

3. How big a role will Nick Kwiatkoski have?

The Bears didn’t draft Smith because they felt like they absolutely needed to upgrade over Kwiatkoski, who’s acquitted himself well in 25 games since being picked in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. But Kwiatkoski has dealt with some injury issues, and for as solid a player as he may be, the Bears’ defense needed (and still needs) more great players. Drafting Smith gave the Bears a shot at adding a great player.

It also leaves Kwiatkoski in the same spot he was in a year ago, when the Bears entered the 2017 season with Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman as their unquestioned starting inside linebackers. Smith still has to earn that starting spot, but the safe bet is he will, relegating Kwiatkoski again to reserve duties.

And that’s a positive for the overall health of this defense, having a player good enough to start ready to play if needed. But it also raises this question: What do the Bears do with Kwiatkoski if he’s one of their four best linebackers, but isn’t one of their two best inside linebackers? 

So for the purposes of watching training camp practices, seeing if Kwiatkoski gets any reps at outside linebacker will be an interesting storyline to follow.