Bears

Mullin: Great QBs make everyone on field a 'weapon'

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Mullin: Great QBs make everyone on field a 'weapon'

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011
Posted: 3:36 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Continuing an investigation...

A colleaguecompetitor who will remain nameless (so our bosses dont chirp about us fraternizing with enemies (yes, people can compete flat-out and have some good chat along the way) and I shared some thoughts from time to time. Like now.

The subject was this weapons thing and how the Bears havent given Jay Cutler any. Well, we noted that that in 2008, Denver Cutler was the exalted Pro Bowl quarterback with weapons that included receivers Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokely and Tony Scheffler, and running backs Peyton Hillis, Michael Pittman and Selvin Young, all of whom averaged more than 4 yards per carry. The Broncos scored 370 points and finished 8-8 with some input from a bad defense.

That same season, Chicago Kyle OrtonRex Grossman had Rashied Davis, new-receiver Devin Hester, unhealthy Brandon Lloyd (five starts) and old Marty Booker to throw to. The Bears were 9-7 and scored 375 with Josh Beekman starting at left guard and John St. Clair at left tackle.

Weapons are nice. Great quarterbacks make everyone a weapon.

Salty Peppers?

Probably not. But Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, generally regarded as a gentleman and class act on the field, was micd up during the Green Bay game and you can catch him on NFL Networks Sound FX at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Peppers had some conversations with officials as well as players so it should be good listening.

Looking a little deeper...

A lack of investment in the offensive line is cited as the primary source of problems for Cutler, based on the assumption that the bombardment hes been too often under has made him a scared quarterback with declining skills. That doesnt work, for reasons beyond the fact that the Bears invested a first-round draft choice in a tackle, tried to re-sign an aging veteran center for one year at 4 million and then arguably overpaid for a former start as the potential answer.

The bigger reason is that Cutler is without question one of the NFLs toughest quarterbacks. But he is being given something of a pass in part because of the 52 sacks he took last season. Never a good thing, and Cutlers passer ratings in fact improved after mid-season when the offensive line stabilized and playcallinggame-planning changed for the better.

But just for sake of comparison, Aaron Rodgers was sacked 50 times in 2009 and posted a passer rating of 103.2 for the year, best for any of his three full seasons. Cutlers mark last season was 86.3, right about in line with his career level around 84.

When Cutler was sacked 35 times in 2009, he threw 26 interceptions in a forgettable year under Ron Turner, and he had the lowest passer rating (76.8) of his career.

The point is not to serve as an apologist for either the offensive line or the organization. But to simply cite protection issues and a receiver group of modest abilities is to look at a snapshot and miss the overall.

On the plus side...

Cutler is off to a start unlike just about any other in Bears quarterback franchise history, at least for yardage. Through three games Cutler is averaging 286 passing yards per game, vs. the next-highest Bears total for a season, 240 by Erik Kramer in 1995.

On the fence...

The 1-2 start has given Cutler a .500 record (34-34 regular season, 1-1 playoffs) as a starting NFL quarterback...

On the run...

The Green Bay Packers held running back Matt Forte to 82 total yards on Sunday, notable perhaps because for his career, Forte is averaging 100.7 yards through 51 games. Only Walter Payton (111.9) averaged more yards per Bears game for his career... Since coming into the league in 2008, only Chris JohnsonTennessee, Adrian PetersonMinnesota and Maurice Jones-DrewJacksonville have netted more yards, and only Baltimore running back Ray Rice (1,709) has more receiving yards than Fortes 1,727.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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.