Jay Cutler ends training camp with first Bears QB TD


Jay Cutler ends training camp with first Bears QB TD

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The final practice of John Fox’s first Bears training camp included fisticuffs, the head coach needing to do an intervention for one of defensive linemen and Jay Cutler spiking the football.

Details on that last item will be withheld out of respect for rules of embargoing competitive information. He may have been “clocking” the football to stop the clock; doing an in-your-face to the defense after pushing across a quarterback sneak; or…something else.

“There was some creativity,” Fox allowed. “Hopefully we didn't get it on some web camera like New England got theirs on. A little bit of an element of surprise.”

It was not the only highlight of a practice that at times appeared to be sluggish, only to erupt into one of a handful of skirmishes or a crowd-pleasing play:

[MORE: Bears finding out who the tough guys are on the team]


Marquess Wilson scored from 60 yards out on a Cutler pass dropped in just out of cornerback Tim Jennings’ reach. Jimmy Clausen was perfect on a touch pass for a score to former Northwestern Wildcat Rashad Lawrence, dropping the ball in just over the dive of cornerback Terrance Mitchell.

Coaches made use of a variety of line drills, including combination run blocking, three-man pass blocking and the customary one-on-one pass protection. In one-on-one pass-protection, one of the most difficult drills for offensive linemen, Jordan Mills had a complete standup stop of rush linebacker Pernell McPhee. Mills also handled a speed rush by Lamarr Houston perfectly, running the linebacker completely past the quarterback.

Charles Leno has struggled at times during the rest of the offseason and hasn’t been able to take a next step and mount a real challenge to Mills at right tackle. Leno was stout in a one-on-one stop of Jared Allen but nearly completely whiffed on a double move by linebacker Kyle Woestmann.

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Linebacker Sam Acho, bumped out of the starting lineup before the Miami game, has come off a stellar performance against the Dolphins (sack, interception) with more impact plays. In one-on-one work, Acho got solid push-back of left tackle Jermon Bushrod with a bull rush after thoroughly beating backup tackle Leno with a similar move. Acho then used an inside counter move to blow by right tackle Michael Ola almost untouched.

Linebacker Shea McClellin, who collected the first camp interception of Cutler, timed a cut to deflect a Cutler pass to running back Daniel Thomas

Cornerback Sherrick McManis, of a breakout performance vs. Miami, is spending more time with the No. 1 defense and did himself a solid with a clean breakup of a Clausen pass intended for tight end Dante Rosario. The top receiver in camp has been Eddie Royal but cornerback Kyle Fuller broke perfectly to undercut Royal on an out pattern and knock away the pass from Cutler.

Ego Ferguson broke through for a simulated sack of Cutler in one team session. Linebacker Jonathan Bostic was beaten deep for a TD by Thomas on a pass from Clausen.

Tight ends and all things “timing” will change in Matt Nagy Bears West Coast offense


Tight ends and all things “timing” will change in Matt Nagy Bears West Coast offense

Second of two parts

Looking ahead to training camp and what everyone will be looking at – it will help to have even a cursory idea of the offensive elements that coach Matt Nagy is incorporating, particularly in the passing game -- because the when, where and how the Bears will be throwing the football is changing. NBC Sports Chicago focuses on a selection of specifics and their origins within that part of the offense that fans will notice, first in Bourbonnais and then in the 2018 season.

Bill Walsh wrote and always insisted that the tight end was the least understood central pillar in his offense. He viewed and used the tight end as a receiver rather than simply an extra offensive lineman, and used the position to exploit matchup problems and open areas of the field created by design.

In a bit of fortuitous timing, the Bears signed and drafted tight ends (Adam Shaheen, Dion Sims) a year in advance of Matt Nagy’s arrival. But how those tight ends project to be used will be substantially changed from their functions last year. The best indication came this offseason when yet another tight end was brought in, one that signaled a critical direction change coming to the Chicago offense.

The Bears invested heavily to land smallish ex-Philadelphia tight end Trey Burton this offseason. He fits a Nagy template.

“He understands this offense and what to do, so there’s not a lot of mistakes,” Nagy said. “When guys see that you’re a player that has experience in this offense and does things the right way, they really gravitate towards that style of leadership. It’s been everything and more with what we thought with Trey.”

In eight of the last nine years Nagy was with Reid, the tight end (Brent Celek in Philadelphia, Travis Kelce in Kansas City) was either the leading or second-leading receiver on the roster.

In the last 37 years, since Emery Moorehead (No. 2, 1985), the Bears have been led in receptions by a tight end just once (Greg Olsen, 2009) or had a tight end No. 2 in catches just three other times (Olsen, 2008, Martellus Bennett 2014-15).

Receiver additions Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson notwithstanding, the role of the tight end in a Bears offense is about to change. Dramatically. And it started literally before Nagy even arrived in Chicago.

“Our first conversation when [Nagy and Pace] were on the plane heading to Chicago the day that I was hired, we discussed that ‘U’ position, the position that we know in Kansas City and we use in Kansas City as kind of the wide receiver/tight end,” Nagy said. “And you play the slot position you can move around, do different things — it’s what we did with Kelce.”

New meaning for “timing” in pass game

Trubisky’s mobility creates a greater threat in action passes and within run-pass options, if only because Trubisky can and will take off with purpose, even as Nagy, Helfrich and QB coach Dave Ragone drill one phrase into the quarterback’s brain: “Get down!”

“We don’t do that all the time but that’s kind of your ‘ball control,’” Nagy said. “There is a mentality that might be a little different in how we’re trying to be aggressive, too. In the classic West Coast there were still times where they were looking to be aggressive and we want that mindset.”

More than that, however, is the threat that play-calling versatility posed by Nagy’s offense. What jumps out is the play-calling balance on first downs:


2017 first downs


Run/pass ratio (%)

Bears        Chiefs

59/41        51.1/48.9 


Yards per carry

Bears        Chiefs

4.1             4.6


Completion %

Bears        Chiefs

59.3          68.2


The Chiefs had the advantage of a more accurate quarterback (Alex Smith) than the Bears (Trubisky). Coaches are stressing accuracy along with ball security, and improving Trubisky’s accuracy is axiomatic for success in Nagy’s scheme, which is based on the West Coast foundation of high completion percentage and minimizing risk of negative plays in the passing game.

Notably, in true West Coast tradition, with the Reid/Nagy offenses forcing defenses to spread horizontally the Chiefs rushed for a half-yard more than the Bears on first downs.

More notably perhaps, the Chiefs exploited those higher-percentage positive first-down plays, which meant shorter yardage needs on second downs, with more passing, not less. And when the Chiefs did run, they were just as successful per carry.


2017 second downs


Run/pass ratio (%)

Bears        Chiefs

48/52        40.8/59.2 


Yards per carry

Bears        Chiefs

4.0             4.6


Completion %

Bears        Chiefs

62.6          72.7


West Coast systems typically operate with more drag routes, quick slants and square-in’s, requiring receivers to run precise routes and have the ability to create separation quickly as Trubisky sets up quickly and looks to throw on time.

The “on time” component is critical, because it the timing of breaks and routes are connected to footwork – Trubisky’s – in that the ball is expected to be coming out when he hits the third or fifth step of his drop. The quarterback is not going to sit waiting for a receiver to come open, as in some other programs.

“It's a wide open attack and it's a great offense because there are so many options within it,” Trubisky said. “We know our job and it all comes down to execution for us. There are so many options I can't even begin to say where it starts but Coach Nagy has brought in a great plan.

“I think the system fits the players we have. In particular I feel like it really fits my skill set with the RPO's, the quick game, stretching the ball down the field and then with the running backs we have just pounding it inside and continuously trying to establish the run game each and every game. I just feel like we've got a lot of options, can be really dynamic and on top of that how we understand it and how the coaches have taught it to us since day one is just going to allow us to play faster and execute the plays at a higher rate.”

Bears among 50 most valuable sports teams in the world

USA Today

Bears among 50 most valuable sports teams in the world

The Chicago Bears haven't enjoyed many wins over the last several years, but that hasn't done anything to hurt the franchise's bottom line.

According to a recent report by Forbes, the Bears rank 17th among the 50 most valuable sports teams in the world for 2018. The franchise is valued at $2.85 billion.

17. Chicago Bears

Value: $2.85 billion

1-year change: 6%

Operating income: $114 million

Owner: McCaskey family

Chicago is seventh among NFL teams in the top-17, with Dallas, New England, New York (Giants), Washingon, San Francisco and Los Angeles (Rams) all having higher valuations.

It's no surprise the Bears are this valuable, even without a winning product. They play in one of the greatest sports cities on the planet. And just imagine what will happen to the club's price tag if Mitch Trubisky and the new-look roster actually start winning games.