Bears

Phil Simms: Jay Cutler will be Bears QB in 2016 'for many reasons'

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Phil Simms: Jay Cutler will be Bears QB in 2016 'for many reasons'

About this time last year, former NFL quarterback Phil Simms was agreeing with the benching of Jay Cutler by an embattled Bears coaching staff and questioning whether things would ever click for Cutler as an NFL quarterback.

“Why would we think all of a sudden somebody’s going to get a hold of Jay and change who he is?” Simms said then via SiriusXM radio. “I don’t see that happening.”

Now Simms, an analyst for CBS broadcasting, in fact DOES see it happening for Cutler.

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“He will be the quarterback, in my opinion, [in Chicago] next year, for many reasons,” Simms said on Tuesday during a conference call with NFL.com. “His play, what are you going to do? Draft somebody and try to start over and see if that works out with John Fox? He's done a tremendous job with the football team.”

Ironically, Simms, who directed the New York Giants to a win in Super Bowl XXI, has been among those holding a generally positive take on Cutler. “He’s mean,” Simms said. “He’s an angry guy. And I think angry is a big part of being a quarterback in the NFL.”

So is being with the right coach at just the right time, and the confluence of Cutler’s career and coordinator Adam Gase has been the tipping point. Gase has not sought to remake Cutler so much as cut back on Cutler’s decision-making and let the quarterback just play quarterback.

“The biggest reason: Adam Gase – the offense he's going to run, how he teaches it, it fits Jay Cutler. In other words, it's not we're just going to keep dropping back and, ‘Jay, you read the defense and make this decision.’

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“It reminds me a little more of the Mike Shanahan offense in Denver where he was going to put an emphasis on running the football, doing different things and keeping the defense off balance. Not just making the quarterback be a decision-maker every time he drops back there and make it tough.

“Physically, I’ve been very impressed with the way he's played. I think I've seen just about every game, and his decision-making has been very, very good, not taking near the chances throwing the football that I saw him take last year.”

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner. 

The Way We Hear It: Khalil Mack will probably play after all

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USA Today

The Way We Hear It: Khalil Mack will probably play after all

The Bears are back in Chicago and Tom Brady and the Patriots are in town! With a week of practice wrapping up today, here's what's been happening in the lead up to Sunday's Bears-Pats matchup: