Bears

Bears Grades: Jay Cutler impressive vs. Lovie Smith’s defense

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Bears Grades: Jay Cutler impressive vs. Lovie Smith’s defense

Jay Cutler again kept the football away from wrong-color laundry and that ultimately was an accomplishment against a defense with a handful of Pro Bowl talent.

Cutler finished with 20-of-27 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown, but more important, no interceptions. The result was a passer rating of 100.2, the eighth time in 14 games that Cutler has posted a rating of 90 or higher after nine NFL seasons with no year above 89. It may have helped that Cutler had a sense of Lovie Smith’s defense from his four Chicago seasons playing for Smith. But knowing and executing are two different things and Cutler did what he did without Alshon Jeffery and with a sick Eddie Royal.

[MORE: Ka'Deem Carey scores two TDs as Bears top Buccaneers]

“I practiced against this defense enough, [so] you kind of just have to have that going into it, and a play caller has to do a good job of putting us into that position,” Cutler said. “I think Adam [Gase, offensive coordinator] did all day long, not getting greedy at all and just saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to be methodical and just kind of, if it’s boring, it’s boring.’ That’s how we have to do it.”

Cutler started the game completing 11 of his first 12 passes. But a measure of the Bears’ offensive futility was reflected in the Bears netting just 72 yards. Still, the Bears stayed “methodical” and were able to drive 63 yards for a tying touchdown when Cutler was spared the ignominy of a second interception by a defensive line in the span of three quarters when defensive end William Gholston’s grab of a tipped screen pass was nullified by a Tampa Bay personal foul.

“I came off [the field] and I was like, ‘Yeah I’m not throwing a screen until 2016, I’m done with screens,’” Cutler said, smiling, mostly. “You got to laugh at that, then you see the flag and you don’t really know what it’s for. Usually you don’t get that break, so to get that turned around, I think we went down and scored after that, that’s a huge break for us.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Cutler was sacked once in the first half, by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, but Cutler appeared hold the football too long with Eddie Royal breaking across the middle with two steps on his defender. The blame will fall on the offensive line but the combination of Cutler not getting rid of the ball and receivers not getting separation out of breaks have combined too often to throw plays off schedule, which is not when Cutler is effective.

But Cutler was effective even without receivers capable of stretching the field (the Bears had only one pass longer than 18 yards).

“Jay has done a great job,” said coach John Fox. “He doesn’t care who’s out there.”

Moon's Grade: A-

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.