Bears

Bates hiring hints at more 'O' changes

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Bates hiring hints at more 'O' changes

He passed on even interviewing for the Bears offensive coordinators job in 2010. Now, Jeremy Bates is working for the Chicago O.C. as quarterbacks coach, getting back together with quarterback Jay Cutler, with whom Bates worked three years while the two were with the Denver Broncos.

The biggest issue with the move, along with the switch from Mike Martz to Mike Tice, is what it will mean for Cutler and the Chicago offense overall. The Bates-Cutler record suggests that the change could be a very, very good one.

Cutler is on his third offensive coordinator in four Bears seasons and third quarterbacks coach as well. The Bears have to hope that this association goes more smoothly than previous ones.

Im very excited to be working with Jeremy Bates again, Cutler told the Bears website Tuesday. We got the right guy for the job.

Cutler didnt have the same to say for Pep Hamilton in 2009 nor even Shane Day in 2010 when Day came in under Mike Martz.

His history with Jay was a big thing, said coach Lovie Smith, who interviewed Bates in Tampa as part of the process. And not just history but a good history, a productive history with him helping Jay as a quarterback.

Bates hiring still leaves the Bears without a passing-game coordinator or offensive line coach. And it suggests some interesting possibilities for where the Bears offense will be going.

New O directions?

Installing Tice as offensive coordinator to replace Martz takes the offense in new directions from the Martz years, which were marked with growing Tice influence in 2010 and 2011. Adding Bates, who is a far more NFL-offense-savvy quarterbacks coach than his immediate predecessors, points to the position coach having input into more than just Cutlers techniques.

Bates comes from working with Mike Shanahan in Denver and Pete Carroll at USC and Seattle. Those are coaches from a West Coast foundation, closer to the balance favored by Tice and Smith.

And the scheme should more than agree with Cutler despite his bad relationship with Ron Turner, a West Coast practitioner, in 2009. The reasons were not all his quarterback coach, but Cutlers release and health were both better under Bates.

Cutlers three-year passer rating under BatesShanahan was 87.1. He has failed to reach that level in any of this three Chicago seasons.

With BatesShanahan, Cutler was sacked a total of 51 times in three Denver seasons. He was sacked 52 times in 2010 alone.

In 2008 Cutler threw for a Denver franchise record 4,526 yards. The Broncos had the second-best offense in the NFL in terms of yards per game (395.8). Cutler completed 762 of 1,220 passing attempts (62.5 percent) for 9,024 yards, 54 touchdowns and 37 interceptions for an 87.1 passer rating in 37 starts in Denver while Bates was there.

The last couple years he had full control of my development and our plays coming in, Cutler told ChicagoBears.com.

Hes a grinder. Hes a guy thats going to work extremely hard to find weaknesses in defenses and hes going to be able to present it to us in a way we can understand and will be able to make plays where we can take advantage of those weaknesses.

Rapid-fire career changes

After the three successful years in Denver, Bates career path took sharp turns.

Bates left the Broncos when Shanahan was fired after the 2008 season. He went to USC under Pete Carroll as quarterbacks coach in 2009 but that lasted just a year. Carroll left to become Seattle Seahawks head coach and took Bates as his offensive coordinator.

But that lasted only a year and Bates was let go over differences of philosophy with Carroll, a curious problem to have after two years with Carroll.

Bates joins the Bears with eight years of coaching experience with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002-03, offensive quality control; 2004, assistant quarterbacks), New York Jets (2005, quarterbacks), Denver Broncos (2006, offensive assistant; 2007 wide receiversquarterbacks; 2008, quarterbacks), USC (2009, assistant head coachquarterbacks) and Seattle Seahawks (2010, offensive coordinator).

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner.