Bears

Bears tough-love quarterback draft makes sense behind Jay Cutler

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Bears tough-love quarterback draft makes sense behind Jay Cutler

No quarterback likes pressure, and only a very select few perform better under it. Jay Cutler may be one of those, if not exactly under the presumed kind of pressure. A logical question arising out of that fact, however, may well make sense as part of Bears draft plans for 2016, a draft ostensibly light on elite, first round quarterbacks but ones who will be available on Days 2 and 3.

Cutler may indeed be one of those individuals who not only responds well to a challenge or threat, but also in fact needs one. He would be in select company in that regard.

It was a routine practice in Green Bay when the Packers year-after-year brought in backups for Brett Favre, as one of them turned out to be Aaron Rodgers.

More recently, consider Tom Brady as a possible object lesson.

[MORE BEARS: NFL Draft could hold QB nuggets for Bears]

Brady is in the discussion as one of the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Yet, during his epic run as New England Patriots starter, the Pats drafted his “replacement” over and over again:

YEAR QUARTERBACK ROUND
2002 Rohan Davey fourth
2003 Kliff Kingsbury sixth
2005 Matt Cassel seventh
2008 Kevin O’Connell third
2010 Zac Robinson  seventh
2011 Ryan Mallett  third
2014 Jimmy Garoppolo second

Probably just coincidence here, but in three of those years in which New England drafted a quarterback (2003, 2011, 2014), including the last one when they took a quarterback on Day 2 (2014), Brady responded with a Super Bowl ring.

“I think the Patriots use a high draft choice every year to light a fire under Tom Brady,” said ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, apparently tongue-in-cheek, on WSCR, adding with emphasis, “and it works.”

Clearly neither Brady nor Favre ever needed a lot of fire-lighting; for Brady, being passed over in the 2000 NFL Draft until the sixth round, when he was the backup drafted to understudy Drew Bledsoe, provided enough of that.

[MORE BEARS: How franchise tag squeezes the Bears and Alshon Jeffery]

Switching back to Cutler: The Bears quarterback has played some of his most self- and team-destructive football when he’s been given a hug:

2009 - Bears trade two No. 1’s to Denver, Cutler gets a contract bump, leads the NFL with career-worst 26 INTs.

2012 - New general manager Phil Emery first uses “franchise QB” to describe No. 6; Cutler posts second-worst passer rating of career, worse QBR than Josh Freeman, Christian Ponder, others.

2014 - Emery gives Cutler a seven-year, $126.7 million contract; Cutler goes 5-10 as starter, ties league-worst 18 INTs.

Then in come general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox, who directly withhold any endorsement of Cutler as their starting quarterback for 2015. Even then-offensive coordinator Adam Gase is on the phone during February with former coaches getting a read on Cutler.

Result: Cutler posts career-best passer rating (92.3), third-best QBR of his 10-year career and second-best INT percentage of his career. And he earned plaudits from a coach who knows quarterbacks:

“I think you file things and you put it back there but you always like to figure it out on your own,” Fox said of the Cutler relationship during remarks at last week's NFL Scouting Combine.

“And he was probably one of the brightest spots, I think, about our first year in Chicago and getting to know our players, which we know a lot better now than we did at this time a year ago. So I saw way more about his mental toughness. I saw way more about how he can absorb an offense and execute it under pressure. I think that speaks volumes for how successful he was on third downs, which is a tough down for a quarterback in the NFL. But I was very, very pleased with what I saw and what we have to work with going forward.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Pace has indicated his preference for drafting quarterbacks, and the Bears actually have stocked up behind Cutler. But it has been nothing like what the Patriots have done behind Brady, and therein lies the lesson.

The Bears drafted David Fales in the sixth round (2014), Nathan Enderle in the fifth (2011) and Dan LeFevour in the sixth (2010) — not what would be described as “serious” additions, and none of them panned out, although Cutler did have his two best combined seasons (2010-11, 17-6 win-loss record) in those years that the Bears took LeFevour and Enderle.

By comparison, when the Bears invested a fourth-round pick in a quarterback in 2005 (Kyle Orton) behind their starter (Rex Grossman), the Bears went to the playoffs that year and the Super Bowl the next.

Just a thought.

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.