Bears

Brian Hoyer's play produces Cutler trade rumors...and a Bears win

Brian Hoyer's play produces Cutler trade rumors...and a Bears win

When Brian Hoyer signed on with the Bears last offseason, he came in with the full knowledge that he was the understudy to quarterback Jay Cutler. He may still be, but leading the Bears (1-3) back from the abyss with a 17-14 win over the Detroit Lions vaulted Hoyer into some conversations that a couple of months ago may have seemed beyond unlikely.

Against the Lions (1-3) Hoyer completed 28 of 36 passes for 302 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 120.1, the second-highest in his career. He ran his string of 2016 passes without an interception to 97 and in the process played his way into a problem coaches typically crave: being forced to choose between two good players for a position.

Indeed, Cutler-or-Hoyer may be the ultimate embodiment of what GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox sought this past offseason when they built competition at myriad positions. What Fox needed was a leader to pick up the flag and order, “Follow me!” and Hoyer did that against the Lions.

Cutler’s future in Chicago is problematic, whether this week, this season or whenever. And that was open to question even before Hoyer demonstrated that the Bears may have the second coming of Josh McCown sitting on their depth chart.

Rumors started even during Sunday’s game that Cutler was the object of trade talks between the Bears and Miami Dolphins, who have a quarterback problem of their own but who also have Adam Gase as head coach. That would be the same Adam Gase who brought out the best in Cutler last season before the Dolphins hired him away and who lobbied hardest to stay with Cutler in the 2015 offseason.

CSNChicago.com confirmed later Sunday that nothing of the sort was in the works. But the speed with which the chatter arose was suggestive of how fluid the situation is perceived to be.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Fox did not dismiss the possibility of Hoyer winning and keeping the starting job last week when he said, regarding whether Cutler coming back from his thumb injury was a given to remain the starter, that there are no givens for a team in the Bears’ situation.

Fox essentially passed on the opportunity to end the discussion. Again, instead of stating that Cutler would start when healthy, Fox left the door open for Hoyer: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” before opting to enjoy the moment of just his second win in Soldier Field as Bears coach.

And perhaps that decision already has been made, considering that few NFL coaches start into a week with any huge unknowns, particularly at one of the single most important positions in sports.

A quarterback question does have some chance of creating discord in locker rooms. Cutler was voted a co-captain by teammates and he has earned the respect of players. But Fox and coordinator Dowell Loggains will not be making the decision based on who likes Cutler vs. who likes Hoyer.

A mistaken notion is that players can’t lose their jobs because of injury. They don’t; they lose their jobs because their replacement played better than they did, including at the quarterback position. Case studies: Tom Brady for Drew Bledsoe in 2001; Jim Miller for Shane Matthews, also in 2001.

The decision will not turn on purely on tangibles, like arm strength or other talents. It will come down to the “best chance to win” determination, and Sunday afternoon it was difficult to argue against Hoyer.

“He played great,” said wide receiver Eddie Royal, who caught all seven passes Hoyer threw him, for 111 yards and including one for 64 yards and another for four yards and the Bears’ first-quarter touchdown. “Being accurate with the ball, getting it out on time and doing all the little things, converting on third down. Those things are key and he did a great job today.”

“Those things” are absolutely the key, and those are things that make offensive lines’ jobs easier, running backs more effective, sustaining drives – all axiomatic to the style of football Fox demands.

The belief inside Halas Hall is that the Bears erred in not staying with McCown when he demonstrated in 2013 that he was better suited to run Marc Trestman’s offense than Cutler. But management dictated that Cutler resume starting when back from two injuries that season. The decision this time will rest solely with the coaches, who have no vested, ego or financial interest in who starts, beyond best-chance-to-win.

“He’s played great,” said tight end Zach Miller, who has caught 13 passes from Hoyer, three for touchdowns. “His communication is very good. He’s leading in the huddle, taking care of the football, getting the ball out. Everything he can do, he’s doing.”

Which is pretty much what teams like players to feel about their starting quarterback.

Projected lineups for Eddie Jackson’s charity softball game

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USA Today

Projected lineups for Eddie Jackson’s charity softball game

Eddie Jackson is hosting a charity softball game this Saturday, June 15th at Schamburg Boomers stadium at 5:05pm. It’ll be offense vs defense so let’s take an early look at what these lineups might look like for both teams.

Defense

1. Eddie Jackson

Has home run hitting ability in the leadoff spot and a flair for the dramatic. This rising star puts the pressure on the opposing pitcher from the very first pitch. Plus it’s his game, so of course he’s batting first.

2. Kyle Fuller

Tied for the NFL interception lead in 2018, Fuller’s combination of speed, instincts and film study  at the top of the lineup helps set the table for the big bats.

3. Akiem Hicks

As Ed O’Bradovich said at the 100 year celebration this past weekend, Khalil Mack “is a man-eater, but (Akiem Hicks) is the man who makes it happen.” It’s long been said you put your most important hitter in the 3-hole.

4. Khalil Mack

The quintessential cleanup hitter. Who else would you want in this spot?

5. Danny Trevathan

Provides world champion protection behind Mack in the likely event that the opponent tries to pitch around #52.

6. Roquan Smith

Just when an opponent think they’ve gotten thru the heart of the lineup, the 2018 rookie who came up just shy of Brian Urlacher’s franchise tackling mark is there to “break a man,” as he said right after his Bears intro press conference.

7. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix

Sliding this new addition into the 7-hole takes some of the pressure off of him to make an immediate impact, while also trapping pitchers into thinking they might get a break against a guy who has shown big play ability in the past.

8. Bilal Nichols

One of the most underrated players in the entire league is perfectly fine lurking at the bottom of the order. A second cleanup hitter, he’s happy consistently performing and making his teammates better. Everyone in this lineup knows how valuable he is.

9. Leonard Floyd

Still in a bit of a prove it spot, but if he consistently plays the way he’s shown shown flashes of, he could not only be dangerous in this spot, but he could climb up the lineup pretty quickly.

10. Prince Amukamara

Veteran who knows he’s there to do a job and turn the lineup over. His speed and ball skills make him a threat.

11. Buster Skrine

Another newcomer, let’s see what he’s got at the bottom of the order.

Offense

1. Taylor Gabriel   *Anthony Miller

We can all agree there’s no reason for Miller, a guy who dislocated his shoulder multiple times to be swinging a bat amiright?? Miller has the Willie Mayes Hayes swag you want from the leadoff man when healthy tho.

As for ‘Turbo’ Taylor Gabriel, of course you’re putting a guy who’s been clocked at 23 mph at the top of the lineup.

2. Tarik Cohen

Perfect spot for the swiss army knife of the offense. Could lay down a bunt and beat it out, move the runner, or even hit one to the gap and clear the bases.

3. Mitch Trubisky

The obvious spot for the leader of the offense and Akiem Hicks’ pick (outside himself) to win the home run derby part of this event. Let’s just hope he breaks out the punky QB headband and sunglasses look again this weekend.

4. Kyle Long

The most veteran member of the offensive line is there to protect the QB. Whether or not he’s even in the lineup, if anyone goes high and tight on # 10, better believe they’ll answer to #75.

5. Cody Whitehair

Some more muscle in the middle of the order. Has made it clear he’s good with moving around the lineup if the coaches think it’s best for the team.

6. Allen Robinson

Based on what we saw in the playoff game, he could be on his way to putting up big numbers anywhere in the batting order. Definitely a guy you want up late with the game on the line.

7. Charles Leno

Flies under the radar at one of the most important positions in football. If a pitcher thinks he’s in the clear after getting past Robinson, Leno will be there to throw a big block into that thinking.

8. Trey Burton / Adam Shaheen

When healthy, they provide some pop towards the bottom of the lineup. Let’s have Anthony Miller ready as the designated runner if these guys can get on base.

9. Bobby Massie

The ultimate team guy as he showed by signing a team friendly deal to stay in Chicago much earlier in the offseason than he had to.

10. James Daniels

As the new man in the middle on the offensive line, the burden falls on him to turn the lineup over and set the table for the speedy top of the order.

11. Mike Davis

Good spot to start for this new addition. Could easily see him towards the top of the lineup if he produces the way Matt Nagy & company thinks he can.

The defense has been ahead of the offense for pretty much the entire Pace/Nagy regime. But if Matt Nagy is involved, there’s sure to be no shortage of hidden ball tricks, squeezes and other trick plays with awesome names, so I might have to give a slight edge to the offense in this game.

The Bears are on summer break for the next 5 weeks. So what exactly will they be up to?

The Bears are on summer break for the next 5 weeks. So what exactly will they be up to?

For the second time in 2019, a field goal attempt sent the Bears on vacation.  

This time it was off the feet of Eddy Pineiro and Elliot Fry, both hitting kicks that wrapped up the team’s three days of veteran minicamp. Don’t tell them there weren’t stakes, either.

“They both nailed two 40-yard’ers down the middle so our guys got out of gassers, which was nice,” said Matt Nagy. “So if you heard any cheering, that’s why. Our guys think I’m nice and that if they would’ve missed it, they weren’t going to run anyway. But they were going to run.” 

And now, the Bears go on vacation for the next five weeks -- as mandated by the NFL -- before heading down to Bourbonnais in late July to start the highly-anticipated Year 2. 

What happens next depends on who you ask. For the Bears’ outside corners, coincidence or not, it’s off to bask in the arid heat of southwestern summers. 

“I like to go down to Arizona, where I’m from, and train at my high school,” Prince Amukamara said. “I’m probably not going to do any traveling, but I’ll train and probably get my mind off it a little bit.” 

“I like to get away somewhere a little bit quieter,” Kyle Fuller added. “I go to Arizona ... I play a lot of golf. That’s really it.” 

If you can believe it, Fuller won’t be the only professional football player hitting the links during his down time. For wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who just recently picked it up, the next month or will be all about tinkering his swing. 

“I'm going to do a lot of golfing this little break,” Gabriel said. “I'm decent, I'm not that good, not just yet. Just two months in, give me a little time.” 

The sense around Halas Hall (and realistically most of the NFL’s other halls) is that the next five weeks will act more as a mental break than a physical one. For example: defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano requested that his unit watch just one hour of film per day. After two weeks of practices in which, on more than one occasion, Nagy had to tell the team to dial back the intensity, the goal is now to find whatever mindset is needed before The Grind starts. For some, that means radio silence. 

“Right now I'm about to go into my shell and I'm going to be hard to reach and hard to talk to,” said Akiem Hicks. “The only person that gets through is Mom.” 

Not everyone will go MIA, though. Trey Burton will stick around Lake Forest while he continues to rehab and get treatment for a sports hernia surgery he underwent this offseason. Mitch Trubisky has no plans to take it easy, either. 

“I’m not thinking about going home, I’m thinking about getting out here to practice in a little bit,” he said. “This is what I love to do, this is what we look forward to do.

“For me, you get to relax and take care of your body for a little bit, but I’m always thinking about football.”

For others, it means soaking up the much-needed time around loved ones that can prove to be elusive for 8 months of the NFL year. Eddie Jackson goes home to Florida to train with “the guys I started with, from when I was little.” Matt Nagy eschews his Bears visor for his Dad Hat, which presumably is also a visor. 

“I personally think it’s important that I make sure I’m still a good dad, a good husband, and during the season you don’t get any of that,” Nagy said. “And that’s your obligation. We’ll be going some places with my family and I’ll put football aside for a little bit, because that’ll make me better if I do that, and better in the season.”