Bears

Bears getting Eddie Royal back adds to Jay Cutler 'trust' factor

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Bears getting Eddie Royal back adds to Jay Cutler 'trust' factor

When Erik Kramer arrived as Bears quarterback in 1994, he had dismal games early against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, the latter being his former team. I asked Kramer why those teams were such problems, given that he obviously knew where their defensive players would be.

“The problem wasn’t that I didn’t know where their guys were going to be,” Kramer said. “It was that I wasn’t sure when OUR guys were going to be.”

The reason was simple. Kramer was coming into a West Coast system under coordinator Ron Turner and was required to execute more of a timing offense, throwing earlier to still-unfamiliar receivers.

Two decades later, Jay Cutler has grappled with the identical problem, although not as much because of scheme or where defenses will be. Instead, Cutler has had to sort out his own guys and the myriad receiver combinations employed. Alshon Jeffery does not run routes the same as Marquess Wilson as Marc Mariani as Josh Bellamy as ... You get the idea.

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“Yeah, it’s tough,” Cutler acknowledged on Thursday. “The good thing about is it’s a really good [receivers] room. Availability is key in this league and a lot of the guys have been up and down, up and down. You can go down the list.”

That list may be stabilizing for the good this week with Jeffery no longer on the injury report and Royal practicing on a limited basis after missing the last five games and six altogether this season with a knee injury.

Not that the Jeffery-Royal pairing equates to success; the Bears are 0-3 in the games when both receivers played.

But Royal was a favorite target of Cutler’s when the two played with the Denver Broncos (2008) and again this year in training camp, where Royal clearly was in phase with Cutler.

“For me, I’ve had enough experience with Jay to know how to expect the ball, where he’s going to go, how he’s going to go, when he’s going to throw,” Royal said. “So I’ve still got that in my mind. You’ve still got to react to it and react to the situation. It’s different for a quarterback, who has to throw it before a receiver comes out of his break.

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“It’s about trust. Sometimes the timing is not always going to be there, so you have to trust that I’ll be at the right spot. If you have to be there at 10 yards, then that’s where the receiver has to be. And that’s where trust and faith come in.”

Cutler’s trust and faith are there with Royal and with Jeffery, with Cutler declaring that if Jeffery is against one-on-one coverage, “it’s going to take a lot to get me off him.”

Even if trust has sometimes been difficult to come by, Cutler has been consistently complimentary toward his inexperienced receiver group. “They’ve done a really good job of being where they’re supposed to be,” said Cutler. “I think it’s a credit to how hard they work, how much they study, and Mike [Groh, receivers coach] making sure that they are prepared each and every week.”

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start by new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

The Bears concluded their second round of OTAs on Thursday with the third and final set of voluntary sessions scheduled for May 29-June 1. Coach Matt Nagy is bringing a new and complicated system to Chicago, so the time spent on the practice field with the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been invaluable.

"We’ve thrown a lot at Mitch in the last 2 ½ months,” Nagy told Dog Days Sports’ Danny Kanell and Steve Torre on Friday. “He’s digested it really well.”

Nagy’s implementing the same system he operated with the Chiefs, an offense that brought the best out of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The former first-overall pick went from potential draft bust to MVP candidate under Andy Reid and Nagy’s watch.

Nagy admitted he and his staff may have been a little too aggressive with the amount of information thrust upon Trubisky so far.  It took five years to master the offense in Kansas City, he said, but the first-year head coach sees a lot of similarities between his current and past quarterbacks.

"These guys are just wired differently,” Nagy said when comparing Trubisky to Smith. “With Mitch, the one thing that you notice each and every day is this kid is so hungry. He wants to be the best. And he’s going to do whatever he needs to do. He’s so focused.”

Smith had the best year of his career in 2017 and much of the credit belongs to Nagy, who served as Smith’s position coach in each season of his tenure in Kansas City. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions during the five regular season games that Nagy took over play-calling duties last year.

Nagy said Trubisky has a similar attention to detail that Smith brought to the Chiefs’ quarterback room.

"Each and every detail that we give him means something. It’s not just something he writes down in a book. He wants to know the why,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s a good person that is in this for the right reason. His teammates absolutely love him. It was the same thing with Alex [Smith] in Kansas City.”

A locker room that believes in its quarterback is a critically important variable for success, one that Nagy already sees exists in Chicago.

"When you have that as a coach and when you have that as being a quarterback, not everybody has that, and when you have that you’re in a good spot.”