Bears

Miller: Bears facing an identity crisis

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Miller: Bears facing an identity crisis

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
Posted: 8:25 p.m.

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

The Bears have some serious offensive issues tocorrect heading into this weekends divisional matchup against the Green BayPackers. An offensive identity is the biggest concern. By Week 3 in theNFL, you normally know who you are and who you want to be offensively. Shockingly, in year two of Mike Martzssystem, the Bears again cannot identify who they are and are pretending to besomething they are not. If the Bears want to reign victorious; they must run thefootball, protect QB Jay Cutler, have offensive line cohesion and wide receivers must make plays. Bear Down Bear fans because its not lookinggood.You would have thought Mike Martz would have taken theblueprint from last year and built from it! After the bye week last year, the Bears found their identity in Week 8 through a run game that brought balance and preserved Cutlerfrom purchasing a headstone and early burial at Soldier Field. Unfortunately, every Sunday seemed like Cincode Mayo for opposing defenses to enjoy an afternoon Siesta with Jay posing asthe Piata. Only Mike Martz can explain his fascination throwing thefootball every down, but Lovie has stated very clearly what the Bears'blueprint for success needs to be. There must be balance. Yes, Cutlers talents are numerous andcertainly need to be featured in some games, but with solid defense and goodspecial teams the Bears would finish the season 8-8 with those two componentsalone. Why Martz continues to battlethis mission statement is not good for the team and quite frankly, its notgood for Cutlers career.

Sadly, this weekends game is one where Jay needs to throwthe football. Green Bays secondary has been lit up forover 400 yards in consecutive outings and needs to be tested again, but Martzhas lost this option. The plethora ofblitzes DC Dom Capers likes to run have not been executed well and left themvulnerable to big plays it's essentially designed to stop.The 3-4 Blitz Zone is normally a well choreographed defense,but I believe, it has been affected by the lockout. The same defense run by thePittsburgh Steelers had the same issues losing to Baltimore in Week 1. It's an assignment drivendefense where each non- blitzer drops to a certain spot in coverage. The reason it's called a Blitz Zone defenseis because you are calling zone coverage where a defensive player is in placeto defend deep even though you are Blitzing!
Blitzes normally coincide with man to man coverage, which is why theBlitz Zone has been all the rage and why 26 of 32 NFL teams now use someversion of it. The scheme is actually very conservative but it does have an array ofdifferent looks and blitzes, which can be confusing to any OL. Both the Steelers and Packers are ultimately running the same scheme, which is: Blitz Zone cover 3 or Blitz Zone cover 2 amajority of the time. After witnessing the Bears offensive line incorrectly pointout their pass protection assignments versus the Saints last week, this willhave to be a very simple game plan for the Bears, who now have injuries to deal with on their offensive frontline. Gabe Carimi might be a rookie, but at least he knew his assignment andnow he's out. The Bears' offense canonly handle base runs, base pass protections and if they fall behind and haveto throw, they should just put it on Jay by calling a 5 man pass pro. Let Jay worry about the blitzes to:1. Throw the ball away to protect himself.
2. Throw hot to Wrs, who need to expose a GB secondary out of position.

3. Scramble for yardage (Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau hated mobile QB's, given Cam Newtons big day. Jay is capable)

I also hope Jay uses the snap count to his advantage to getclues from the Green Baydefense. A lot of double cadence andquick count needs to be called in the huddle by Jay for nothing more than whatmight become self preservation.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

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USA TODAY

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Danny Trevathan
2. John Timu
3. Joel Iyiegbuniwe

1. Roquan Smith
2. Nick Kwiatkoski
3. Jonathan Anderson

1. How good can Roquan Smith be?

Making sweeping observations from shorts-and-helmets practices in OTAs is often a fool’s errand, but Smith looked the part while running around the practice fields of Halas Hall after being drafted in April. His quickness and instinctiveness stood out — as they did at Georgia — and his football intelligence and work ethic were praised by coaches and teammates. 

“He’s learning well,” Trevathan said. “He’s doing a good job of learning. He’s learning the little things that you need to learn in this defense. Now it’s all about putting on a show and going out there and rocking.”

And that’s what’s going to be fun to watch in Bourbonnais: How does Smith play with the pads on? Chances are, the answer to that question will be “well,” setting the eighth overall pick on a path to being a mainstay of this defense for years to come. 

That’s not to say Smith doesn’t have plenty on which to work during training camp. But he left Georgia as a sort of “safe bet” in the draft, and nothing he’s done to this point has changed the view of him that he’s likely going to be a good one. 

2. Can Danny Trevathan stay healthy?

In terms of size and athleticism, Trevathan and Smith profile similar to NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the inside linebacking tandem that was the spine of the San Francisco 49ers defense during Fangio’s time there. But for Trevathan and Smith to reach that lofty bar — or even to come close to it — Trevathan needs to be more available than he was his first two years with the Bears.

This isn’t questioning Trevathan’s toughness — far from it. That he returned for Week 1 of the 2017 season 10 months after rupturing his patellar tending (an injury that can be a career-ender) was impressive, and that he was immediately productive upon returning was even more extraordinary. But Trevathan missed three games in November due to a strained calf, and coupled with a one-game suspension and the seven games he missed in 2016, the 28-year-old has only played in 21 of 32 games since signing with the Bears. 

Trevathan is confident he can improve his production in 2018, given he wasn’t able to participate in last year’s offseason program practices. He’s entering his third year in Fangio’s defense and feels better prepared after going through OTAs and minicamps this year. It’s just now about him staying on the field to make sure that work pays off.

“I’m more comfortable with this defense, I’m more comfortable with the guys and the calls that we make,” Trevathan said. “I take pride in being correct and working my tail off and making the defense better. And the more that I can be out there — which I plan on being out there a lot — it’s going to help us tremendously.” 

3. How big a role will Nick Kwiatkoski have?

The Bears didn’t draft Smith because they felt like they absolutely needed to upgrade over Kwiatkoski, who’s acquitted himself well in 25 games since being picked in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. But Kwiatkoski has dealt with some injury issues, and for as solid a player as he may be, the Bears’ defense needed (and still needs) more great players. Drafting Smith gave the Bears a shot at adding a great player.

It also leaves Kwiatkoski in the same spot he was in a year ago, when the Bears entered the 2017 season with Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman as their unquestioned starting inside linebackers. Smith still has to earn that starting spot, but the safe bet is he will, relegating Kwiatkoski again to reserve duties.

And that’s a positive for the overall health of this defense, having a player good enough to start ready to play if needed. But it also raises this question: What do the Bears do with Kwiatkoski if he’s one of their four best linebackers, but isn’t one of their two best inside linebackers? 

So for the purposes of watching training camp practices, seeing if Kwiatkoski gets any reps at outside linebacker will be an interesting storyline to follow. 

Bears shutout in poll of NFL's best starters under 25

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USA Today

Bears shutout in poll of NFL's best starters under 25

Maybe this is what happens when a team is coming off a 5-11 season and has won only 14 games over three years. Maybe it's just another example of the Chicago Bears being overlooked and underrated. Regardless of the 'why,' a recent poll of NFL experts has provided more fuel for the Bears in 2018.

ESPN's Field Yates asked 43 insiders and former players for their list of the top under-25-year-old starters in the NFL and not a single Chicago Bear made the cut.

No Jordan Howard. No Mitchell Trubisky. No Allen Robinson.

Not a single Bear.

The most shocking omission is Howard, who finished second in the NFL in rushing in 2016 and sixth last year despite facing defenses that focused their entire game plan on stopping him every single week. At only 23 years old, he's clearly one of the top young running backs in the NFL and warranted a spot on this list. 

Instead, the Rams' Todd Gurley, Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott and Giants rookie Saquon Barkley got the nod.

Howard has more rushing yards than Gurley over the last two seasons and trails Elliott by only 179. Barkley has yet to take a snap in the NFL.

The Bears were recently named the most underrated team in the league heading into 2018 and this is just another piece of evidence justifying that claim. A winning season will change the national perception of players like Howard, who with another year of high-end production should find himself at or near the top of many of these lists next offseason.