Preps Talk

Tice: No 'Brandon Ratio' but


Tice: No 'Brandon Ratio' but

When Mike Tice was Minnesota Vikings head coach a decade ago, the Randy Ratio was in operation. At least 40 percent of passes thrown were going to go toward Randy Moss.

We certainly had a number of plays offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and I talked about this many targets for Randy, Tice told on Wednesday. We knew what that was and we stayed at it.

According to one count the Vikings were 4-1 in 2002 when they hit the Ratio point, 1-10 when quarterback Daunte Culpepper didnt.

The Bears are 7-1 to this point of 2012 with a Brandon Ratio that has slightly more than 37 percent of Jay Cutler passes intended for Marshall. That is not necessarily by design. However

There is no Brandon Ratio, Tice said. I do know this that on third downs were going to have some opportunities that are going to go his way. He does such a great job on third downs.

Tice was not revealing any game plan with his declaration that the league already was not amply aware. Marshall is the NFLs leading receiver on third-downs, with 19 catches and an average of 15.6 yards per third-down reception. Four of his seven touchdowns have come on third downs.

Marshall not the problem

Cutler has targeted Marshall 86 times this season (90 per numbers). The next-closest is among wide receivers is Earl Bennett at 32, then 28 for Matt Forte. Devin Hester has been targeted 23 times.

Notably, rookie Alshon Jeffery also has been targeted 23 times and hes missed the last three games plus the fourth quarter of the Jacksonville game with his broken hand, after playing his way into the starting lineup in part because he caught 14 of those 23. Cutler was throwing to him because he trusted him.

If Cutler is locking onto one receiver excessively, he can be the cause of a one-dimensional offense. But if Hester is getting open just 23 times in eight games, then something is wrong with No. 23. If Bennett is only getting open 32 times in his six games, then Cutler can be excused for going to No. 15 and his own private Brandon Ratio.

Trust factor

Receivers are tasked with earning a quarterbacks trust. Even if Cutler is looking too much for Marshall teams with 100-catch receivers rarely win Super Bowls the bigger challenge is to Bennett, Hester and Jeffery when he returns is to establish themselves with a quarterback whose trust is easily shaken.

The number of passes to one of the elite receivers in the NFL and clearly the best ever in a Bears uniform is not the problem. Getting the ball to a superstar does not fit neatly in any notion of problem.

But Cutler and Marshall won exactly zero in their two seasons starting together with Marshall catching 102 and 104 passes. They did not have a winning season either year.

When Tice operated with the Randy Ratio with Moss, the Vikings were 5-11 in 2001 with Moss catching 82 with 10 touchdowns and Cris Carter 75. They went 6-10 on 2002 with Moss 106 and seven TDs. Moss 111 catches and 17 touchdowns in 2003 were good for 9-7 but not for postseason.

Our receivers are playing hard, blocking their butts off, Tice said. But our passing game is going to go through Brandon.

90 Days to Kickoff: Warren


90 Days to Kickoff: Warren preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Warren Township

Head coach: Bryan McNulty

Assistant coaches: Jim Voutiritsas, Brandon Schild, Justin Van Schaik, Tayler Erbach and Mark Mika

How they fared in 2017: 7-4 (5-2 North Suburban Conference). Warren Township made the IHSA 8A playoff field. The Blue Devils defeated Bolingbrook then lost to Maine South in second round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule

Aug. 24 vs Barrington

Aug. 31 @ Glenbard North

Sept. 7 vs Waukegan

Sept. 14 vs Libertyville

Sept. 21 @ Lake Forest

Sept. 28 @ Zion-Benton

Oct. 5 vs Lake Zurich

Oct. 12 vs Stevenson

Oct. 19 @ Mundelein

Biggest storyline: Can The Blue Devils make it back-to-back postseason appearances and challenge for the North Suburban Conference title?

Names to watch this season: DL Zack Pelland, DT Willis Singleton and RB Martin Walker

Biggest holes to fill: The Blue Devils will need to find a new pass/catch tandem to replace graduated QB Ian Schilling and a strong group in the skills department, led by WR Micah Jones (Notre Dame).  

EDGY's Early Take: The Blue Devils had a nice 2017 season. After starting seven sophomores on the varsity level a year ago, head coach Bryan McNulty has the rare combination of youth and experience this fall. The defense will be a definite strength going into the season. The offense will rely on the running game, which features four starting offensive linemen back in the fold along with senior RB Martin Walker. If the passing game can come along, this team can once again challenge in the North Suburban Conference race and also in the overall 8A picture. 

Why Mitch Trubisky's biggest weakness won't preclude him from success in 2018

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Why Mitch Trubisky's biggest weakness won't preclude him from success in 2018

As the Bears set their foundation for training camp during OTAs this month, one part of that is beginning to identify each player’s strengths and weaknesses on which to build in Bourbonnais. 

Designing an offense to Mitch Trubisky’s strengths was one of the reasons why Ryan Pace hired Matt Nagy, who then hired Mark Helfrich to be his offensive coordinator. Easy is the wrong word — but it wouldn’t have made sense for the Bears to not build an offense around their second-picked quarterback. 

But as Nagy and Helfrich are installing that offense during OTAs and, next month, veteran minicamp, they’re also learning what Trubisky’s weaknesses are. And the one Helfrich pointed to, in a way, is a positive. 

“Experience,” Helfrich said. “I think it’s 100 percent experience and just reps, and that’s kind of what I was talking about was knowing why something happened. As a quarterback, he might take the perfect drop and be looking at the right guy in your progression, and that guy runs the wrong route or the left guard busts or something. The defense does something different or wrong, even. And trusting that is just a matter of putting rep on top of rep on top of rep and being confident.”

It'd be a concern if the Bears thought Trubisky lacked the necessary talent to be great, or had a lacking work ethic or bad attitude. Experience isn't something he can control, in a way. 

This isn’t anything new for Trubisky. His lack of experience at North Carolina — he only started 13 games there — was the biggest ding to his draft stock a year ago; while he started a dozen games for the Bears in 2017, the offense was simple and conservative, designed to minimize risk for Trubisky (and, to be fair, a sub-optimal group of weapons around him). 

But even if Trubisky started all 16 games in an innovative, aggressive offense last year, he’d still be experiencing plenty of things for the first time. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made this point back in September that still resonates now with regard to Trubisky:

“I think it takes a few years until you can really get that title of understanding being great or even good, because you see so many looks,” Roethlisberger said. “In Year 2 and 3, you’re still seeing looks and can act like a rookie.”

So the challenge for Nagy and Helfrich is to build an offense that accentuates Trubisky’s strengths while managing his lack of experience. For what it’s worth, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles succeeded in those efforts last year with Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, respectively. 

For Helfrich, though, one of Trubisky’s strengths — his leadership qualities — are already helping mitigate his need for more experience. 

“He’s still in the mode of learning and doing things out here,” Helfrich said. “We might have run one play 10 times against 10 different defenses, you know? And so his response to every one of those 10 things is brand new. And so, you see his reaction to some of those is good. Some of those things you want to improve upon and then keep your chest up and lead because we need that.”