Bears

'Martz’ist' elements in Adam Gase offense may be best hope for Jay Cutler

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'Martz’ist' elements in Adam Gase offense may be best hope for Jay Cutler

The word choice was more than a little interesting:

Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase was working with quarterback Jay Cutler, all part of the early going in a relationship that will have major implications for both careers longer-term. The conversations ranged over Gase’s offensive plans and philosophies, the kinds of talks Cutler has had with four previous Bears coordinators after his beginnings with Mike Shanahan in Denver.

One Cutler reaction was noteworthy:

“He's worked with a couple different guys; the good thing is, he's heard a few things that I say,” Gase said last weekend. “He'll look at me and kind of, 'That's a little Martz’ist right there’.”

[MORE BEARS: Bears finish off first look at 2015 rookies]

“Martz’ist” – recalling former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz from 2010-2011 – may be a very good thing for a quarterback still seeking the level of performance he and the NFL expected from a No. 11 pick of the 2006 draft. And it provides an interesting early impression of what Gase may have planned for his quarterbacks and offense.

For all of Martz’s sometimes-out-of-step approaches – seven-step drops, vertical routes, no-help protections, pass-first game plans, strict play calling – Cutler had the most successful stretch of his NFL career under Martz.

The Bears were 10-5 plus 1-1 in the playoffs in Cutler starts in 2010. With the 7-3 start in 2011 before Cutler’s broken thumb against the San Diego Chargers Cutler’s interception rate under Martz was 3.0 percent, nearly identical with his rate in his Pro Bowl 2008 season and all three seasons under Shanahan, and the best of his time in Chicago. For purposes of perspective, no quarterback other than Cincinnati's Andy Dalton got his team into the playoffs with an INT rate higher than Cam Newton's 2.7, and Dalton's Bengals future is tenuous after his 1:6 TD-to-INT ratio in four straight first-round playoff losses.

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Since Cutler apparently did not run screaming from the room at hearing “Martz’ist” notions, one conclusion is that Gase does not plan dropping Cutler seven steps deep and in constantly in harm’s way.

More likely is that Gase will simplify Cutler’s options the way Martz did. Martz’s limitations may have had Cutler chafing but some of that was due to Martz’s unwillingness to move Cutler and the pocket. And Cutler’s decision-making has been more suspect than his talent.

“What were you thinking?”

One of the overarching problems the most recent coaching staff had with Cutler was understanding how the Bears quarterback thought. Decisions ranging from play calls to target selections confirmed one of the opinions held in some quarters of the NFL, that Cutler is simply not an accomplished decision-maker, particularly under pressure. One sure way to negate or subvert talent is to aim it in the wrong direction, and that happened too often over the past couple of seasons, sources explained.

[MORE BEARS: Kevin White faces stiff rookie expectations from Bears, NFL]

Film-room questions such as “What were you seeing on that one?” didn’t always elicit clear answers or ones that made sense in the particular circumstances.

Gase solicited insights from a number of Cutler’s former coaches (who were not universally down on their sometimes-wayward quarterback, sources said), will curtail Cutler’s options by way of audibles, for instance.

Gase had met Cutler earlier in their careers and noticed immediate differences in the quarterback.

“He’s lost weight,” Gase said, laughing. “He looks good. He’s so mature now compared to what he probably was then. When you get married and you got two kids right now, you change over time and between the good and bad things that happen over your career. I think this is his 10th year. I mean, a lot of ups and downs.

“I think he’s ready for a fresh start.”

His fifth, and presumably last (start, not necessarily season), in Chicago.

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.