Of Jay Cutler and Cam Newton. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • This article from ESPN.com‘s Pat Yasinskas is really about Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. But the whole time I read it, I couldn’t stop thinking about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
  • Its hard not to contrast Cutler’s reaction to his incident on the sidelines with offensive coordinator Mike Tice (total denial) last Monday night with Tice’s. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Asked if he was surprised that Cutler walked away, Tice laughed and said, ‘He probably had enough of me telling him why the play didn’t work.

“‘I get enough of me sometimes, too. I can talk a little bit, as you guys know. The heat of the battle, it’s tough. A lot of things happen on the sideline. A lot of things happen over the course of a game. I was really angry about the fact that we didn’t make that third-and-one. I was in his ear from the time he came off the field to the time he went over and put his helmet down. At a certain point, probably enough’s enough.’”

“Smith rightfully gets top billing as the Bears’ coach, but Tice is the rock star on the staff. And not because he’s Mr. Entertainment or Vince Lombardi, but because he sees the same game we do.”

  • I thought Jensen, who had a lot of experience covering Tice with the Vikings, had an interesting take on the incident:

“Cutler seems resistant to his reality, but he needs to begin to accept it.

“There wasn’t a hint of frustration or anger from Tice on Wednesday as he heaped praise on Cutler.

“‘Jay and I are good,’ Tice said. ‘I really admire his play the other night. I really admire how he’s prepared himself right now. I really admire how he’s bought in.’

“But Tice isn’t anyone’s pushover. So as their relationship moves forward, Cutler had better treat him with respect.”

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune asks a question that most Cutler apologists will parrot:

“Romo carried himself like the pro he is. But he didn’t win.

Anything else you want to know?”

Yeah. Why is it too much to ask that Cutler do both?

In any case, Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times provides some perspective for the average fan who is stuck personally disliking arguably his team’s most talented player:

“At some point — now would be good — we’re going to have to give up on the idea that Cutler can be rehabilitated. Personality transplants are not on the medical horizon. The name is Jay, not Joy, Cutler.”

In other words, “Yeah, he’s a punk. But he’s out punk. Like it or not, that’s the way it is.

That’s fine. As long as everyone also recognizes on some level that its also wrong.

In that respect, I was actually getting ready to write a full post on the Cutler situation and the total denial of most fans I know about the situation when Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune said virtually everything I wanted to say. So I’ll just link to his article and let you watch the video and say it all goes double for me:

  • Many people will look at the final score of the Cowboys game and conclude that the offense was a dominant force. But Devin Hester got it right when he made this comment. Via Jensen:

“‘To me, this was a defensive victory,’ he said. ‘When you come up with five turnovers and 14 points, you pretty much won the game. They had an amazing night.’”

This team has that personality trait and it probably will for a long time. Its the defense that leads them and everything else follows on that. If they don’t make big plays first, they won’t happen on offense. Don’t look for it to be the other way around. They don’t have that kind of character. Haugh does a good job of making that point in his column here.

“‘The way that offensive line is blocking, it’s making it easy for me,’ Cutler said. ‘That was the best rhythm we have had offensively, in and out of the huddle, all year. We’ve just got to take that momentum and keep it rolling.’”

I did my best to concentrate on the offensive line during the game and my impression was that it wasn’t that simple. They got a lot of help and most of the time, Cutler was getting the ball out quickly to Brandon Marshall over the middle. When the tackles were one-on-one, most of the time one or the other struggled. But they did just enough to allow Cutler to get the ball off and occasionally they really did well.

By the way, its getting almost no notice but right guard Lance Lewis is a Pro Bowler. He’s been outstanding. Left guard Chilo Rachal and center Roberto Garza also had solid games with no noticeable gaffs as far as I could tell.

Besides being on the road and on short rest, the Bears also will have to adjust to the Jacksonville heat Sunday. The predicted high is 90 degrees.

The Bears have not played in a game with a kickoff temperature above 76 degrees since Oct. 10, 2010, when they beat the Carolina Panthers 23-6 in Charlotte.

The Bears got off to a fast start in that game — 17 points and 280 all-purpose yards (21.5 yards per play) in the first quarter — but petered out. In the final three quarters, they scored six points and had 168 all-purpose yards (2.9 per play).

“The Bears said they wanted more consistency this season from defensive tackle Henry Melton, who acknowledged that was a goal. At the quarter post of the season, it’s fair to say Melton is delivering. He sacked Tony Romo in the first quarter and has four for the season, just the way he wanted to begin a contract season. He also forced the play on Lance Briggs‘ 74-yard interception return in the third quarter. Teams pay for sacks, and Melton knows it. Could the franchise tag enter the discussion?”

As a serious Melton doubter before the season began, I can say that his play thus far has been a wonderful surprise. He’s been taking favorable match ups inside and capitalizing on them.

  • Its also hard to under estimate the importance of Lance Briggs to the defense. And yet I somehow always manage to do it. Fortunately Biggs doesn’t share that fault.
  • I’m not too thrilled seeing Julius Peppers have to sit out a half nor is it good to see Earl Bennett inactive due to injury. The Bears are going to need both of these guys. From McClure.
  • Pompei noticed something in his film study last week that I’d like to see more of:

“[Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had another wrinkle for the Cowboys too. The Bears lined up in a 3-4 defense twice, with Shea McClellin playing stand-up linebacker. Both times, he dropped and covered running back DeMarco Murray."

  • This is unfortunate when you are a fan of a team in need of a left tackle. But its also hardly surprising. From Biggs:

"Some have already suggested the 2013 draft could be solid for offensive linemen, so I asked the national scout that exact question.

"'Within the first two rounds,' he said. 'There are some big-time guards and some good tackles but not premier tackles. There are not premier lefts out there right now unless I have missed out on some juniors. Now, there are some big-time guards and some really good right tackles out there.

"'There could be two to maybe three guards go in the first round, which is pretty out of the norm because usually it is just one. Usually those are back-end first-round guys if they are at that good. There are some good right tackles and there are a couple juniors out there that could be overdrafted (if they forego their senior season) but are there any Joe Thomases out there? Heck no. There is not. Numbers-wise on the offensive line, maybe the first two, two-and-a-half rounds might be strong. After that, it kind of falls off.'"

"One thing that could help is the Bears will face a 4-3 defense after playing three 3-4 fronts in four weeks.

"'It's a total technique change across the board, so it's going to be a little edgy at times and not as clean as it could be when you're playing against an over front or a team you work on every day,' Tice said.

"'If we played against a 3-4 team every day in practice we'd be a little better against it, but each game I felt we got a little bit better.'"

"A year after rushing for 2,000 yards, the Bears have yet to find their groove on the ground. Matt Forte hasn't been fully healthy. The offensive line has been revamped. Don't forget all of the new passing toys that arrived too. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made a concerted effort in training camp to make sure the passing game was installed and operating efficiently. An inordinate amount of time was spent throwing the football in Bourbonnais. That meant less attention to the ground attack, but that should change this week against the Jaguars, who enter 30th in the NFL against the run."

In fairness, the passing game seems to me to be much harder to coordinate (as the Cowboys can attest). Personally, I'd rather see the Bears spending and inordinate amount of time throwing the ball in camp. As a fan, its not easy to see your team get beat. But when you are watching on a Monday night with 24 hours with no sleep, seeing them beat themselves by running the wrong routes would be agony.

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune talks about the brewing feud between ESPN's Steven A. Smith and Marshall:

"'I'm saying if you have old incidents dating from Oct. 31, 2004, to March 11, 2012 -- if you have eight years of a track record of transgressions, I need to see more than a few months of a transformation,' Smith said.

"Marshall apparently responded to Smith's rant with this tweet: "Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news to sell papers or create controversy."

This is what worries me about Marshall. Suggest something critical about his past that is nothing more than the truth and he calls it "yellow journalism". I can't help but think that, no matter what he says or how it looks on the outside, he's still in denial.

  • Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune quotes Cutler on how teams are trying to handle the Bears passing attack.

"'I think week by week, teams are going to try to take ‘B’ [Marshall] away and make those other guys make plays,’ Cutler said Wednesday at Halas Hall. ‘I think that’s going to be the philosophy behind that.

“They’re going to bet that defensively they can cover those other guys and not let ‘B’ beat them. That’s what we’re seeing a lot of. But we have a lot of belief in our guys — Kellen (Davis) and Alshon (Jeffery) and (Devin Hester) and Matt Forte … all those guys we believe can make plays.””

I’m glad Cutler believes in them. Because other than Forte, I surely don’t. Like the Bears opponents, I’ll believe it when I see it.

“With Matt Forte starting to get pretty worn down, would he still demand a good price on the trade market? Trading him would leave the Bears with a solid player in Michael Bush and then the option to take a guy like Marcus Lattimore in the draft. — Joe Devine, Saskatoon, Canada

“I don’t know why the Bears would want to get rid of a player they just signed and a player who clearly helps them win games. But to answer your question, I think the Bears could get something of value in return for Forte. They probably couldn’t make a killing because he is soon to be 27-years old and he has some miles on him. The days of receiving five players and eight draft picks (including three first rounders), as the Cowboys did for Herschel Walker, are over. It’s unusual to see a star running back traded anymore. The Seahawks got Marshawn Lynch for fourth and fifth round picks two years ago, but he wasn’t in Forte’s class at the time of the trade. The Redskins gave up Champ Bailey and a second round pick for Clinton Portis in 2004, but Portis was younger than Forte at the time, and he had been more productive. So what could Forte bring in a trade? I would say if they found the right partner, the Bears probably could get a good starter at another position or a second round draft pick.”

I’m always of the opinion that the fans are under-estimated by people associated with the NFL. I’m a fan of the fans and I think they often see more than the professionals who are too close to what’s going on to see the forest for the trees. But questions like this about Forte seem to pop up in columns every week and I’ll never understand why anyone would want to trade Forte. Forte said during the offseason he thought he was being disrespected by the Bears organization during a contract dispute. But in my view its nothing compared to the disrespect of some fans who see to think the Bears would be better off without him. He’s not appreciated like he should be and that’s a shame.

“I just don’t understand why the Bears don’t at least try Gabe Carimi at LT. OK his ceiling maybe isn’t as high as J’Marcus Webb‘s, but he does not have the low downside either. Carimi went up against a lot better competition in college too and always performed well. Why not put him there and let him deal with those great pass rushing DEs. I have to believe he would perform better then what Webb has showed. Plus doesn’t Mike Tice say he is the best OL they have? If that is the case why isn’t your best OL playing the most important position on the line? — Peter, Wausau, Wis.

“If the Bears move Carimi to left tackle and he is just an average left tackle, which many suspect would be the case, you might have an average left tackle and a below average right tackle. Does that make them better? Carimi can be an above average right tackle. You don’t want to create one problem by solving another. I don’t recall Tice saying Carimi is the best offensive lineman on the team, but Tice clearly is high on Carimi. And even if a player is the best lineman on the team does not mean he could play any position.”

  • Many of us wondered what happened with Al Afalava, a promising young safety for the Bears who had a good rookie year in 2009 but was cut in 2010. Now we know. From McClure:

“Now, Afalava plays special teams for the Titans, and he regrets how things unfolded with the Bears.

“‘I learned that being on the sideline ain’t going to get you a job in the NFL,’ Afalava said Thursday. ‘I didn’t come in prepared my second year.

“‘Before my second year, I went home to Hawaii and put on weight that I wasn’t supposed to. I was close to 240 pounds after playing as rookie at 212. I was just living the life back home. Hawaii has good food.’”

Jacksonville

  • Looks like the Bears defense will get a shot against yet another bad offensive line. The odds are good that, like the Cowboys, their best chance to beat the Bears will be to run the ball. From Pompei.
  • You can couple that with this grim assessment of the Jaguars defense at the quarter pole mark from Ryan O’Halloran at the Florida Times-Union:

“The Jaguars can’t stop the run to force a third-and-long, and when they do, don’t have the pass rush to pressure the quarterback.

“So what are the Jaguars options? They rushed six or more players five times against the Bengals, who blocked it up with extra protection.

“The element of surprise — more zone blitzes, corners and safeties coming off the edges, etc. — should be next up.”

“Although the Jaguars remain 30th in rush defense for the second straight week, linebacker Paul Posluszny sees improvement. The Bengals rushed for 138 yards, but 48 came on a fake punt.

“‘Early on [the struggles] were a huge surprise,’ Posluszny said. ‘Each week, we’re getting better and better. Last week, we were successful and the fake punt skews the number. We’re tackling better and we’re more disciplined. We started out rough and now we’re making that ground up.’

“Not counting the fake punt, the Jaguars allowed only one rush of longer than 12 yards to Cincinnati.”

  • It’s apparently not all bad for the offensive line, as well. Also from O’Halloran:

“Along with center Brad Meester, left tackle Eugene Monroe is the only Jaguars offensive starter to play every snap this year. He’s been consistent in pass protection and occasionally dominant. Monroe has one penalty (a false start) and controlled Minnesota’s Jared Allen in Week 1.

“Helping Monroe’s performance is who he hasn’t faced. Houston moved J.J. Watt from right end to left end to go against reserve right tackle Guy Whimper and Indianapolis moved pass rusher Robert Mathis around so he wouldn’t get a steady diet of Monroe.”

I think you can count on Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli to do the same with Peppers.

  • One match up to look at will be left guard Eben Britton against the Bears defensive tackles. Britton was benched at half time last game. From O’Halloran:

“‘He’s very prideful,’ [Jaguars head coach Mike] Mularkey said. ‘He came in here with a great attitude. A lot of guys would have sulked, but he didn’t do that. He works hard all the time, but you could tell it’s important to him. With another week, he’ll probably be better health-wise.’”

“One bright spot for the Jaguars is that Blaine Gabbert hasn’t been horrible under pressure. He’s middle of the pack with a 62.9 Accuracy Percentage when pressured and has yet to throw an interception. However, he takes a sack on 21.8% of those plays, the 10th-highest rate in the NFL.”

  • Maney continues with this interesting tid bit to look for:

“Gabbert will likely target slot corner DJ Moore, who’s given up 18 catches on 24 targets this season, two of them going for scores. Of 108 passes this season, Gabbert has thrown just eight longer than 20 yards in the air and 17 at intermediate distance (between 10 and 20 yards). Of those 25 passes over 10 yards in the air, just three have gone to the left side of the field and he didn’t attempt a single pass there against the Bengals. In fact, on passes beyond the line of scrimmage, he’s thrown just 18% to the left side of the field, compared to roughly 32% to the right and 50% to the middle of the field. He’ll want to throw left more often and stay away from the right side against the Bears, where [cornerback Tim] Jennings spends an overwhelming majority of snaps.”

  • Who will cover Marshall seems to be a major question in Jacksonville this week. As it should be. My advise is that whoever it is should get significant help. Form Gene Frenette at the Florida Times-Union.

Elsewhere

  • I got a lot of flack about a game comment I put up last week. I said that I thought Tony Romo‘s accuracy and touch are impressive. Bears fans thought that a QB who threw five interceptions shouldn’t be getting those kinds of compliments. So I was glad to see Andy Benoit at The New York Times come to Romo’s defense as well and do it in a much more thorough way than I could:

“So what about the five interceptions? Three, maybe four of them weren’t Romo’s fault. On the first pick, Dez Bryant ran the wrong route. On the second pick, Kevin Ogletree had a perfectly thrown ball bounce off his chest. The third pick probably should have been ruled a fumble, because the ball squeezed out of Romo’s hands after he was corralled by Henry Melton. Romo tried to escape the pocket on that play, but Melton had spectacular closing speed. Nevertheless, Melton shouldn’t have been able to break down Dallas’s protection so quickly. The fourth interception may have been Romo’s fault, though the intended receiver, Miles Austin, ran a very poor route, failing to cross the face of cornerback D.J. Moore.

I might add that, bad decision though it might have been, this pass was a laser beam that was right on target. Benoit continues:

As for the fifth interception….that was Romo’s fault, but in a lot of ways, it was his most impressive play of the night. The Cowboys were trailing by 24 late. Their only chance at a win was via a sports version of a miracle. So Romo went for it and threw into coverage. How many quarterbacks in that situation would have checked down to avoid risking a five-turnover game? Romo showed selflessness and character on that play. He showed those same traits in the postgame interviews, too, when he protected his teammates and accepted the unwarranted blame for his team’s sloppy showing.

This isn’t to say that Romo shouldn’t be scrutinized. He has played extremely well this season but hasn’t gotten much help from his supporting cast. It’s fair to point out, though, that receivers who play with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning never seem to get way off their quarterback’s page. You don’t see Brady’s targets drop passes in bunches. So why are Romo’s teammates so inconsistent at times?

There isn’t a single right answer to this question. But this is the question sportswriters should be exploring. It’s not as easy or fun as exploring why “Tony Romo stinks,” but it’s a lot smarter and fairer.”

  • Ben Stockwell at Pro Football Focus more or less tells it like it is as he reviews the Cowboys-Bears game film:

“At this point Cowboy fans, coaches and players must simply be tearing their hair out. In spite of consistency in personnel at key positions, the hallmark of this offense continues to be miscommunications and disconnects between players. At some point you have to wonder when this will be picked up on as a recurring problem to the extent that it costs someone their job.”

I’ve got to figure that if things keep going like this, there will be changes at the end of the year in Dallas.

  • Dan Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, highlights the new trend in the NFL – the “rat race offense”.
  • The Bears aren’t the only ones with an aging defense. And the one in Pittsburgh may not be aging as gracefully as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin faces some tough choices. From Alex Marvez at FOX Sports:

“‘It is a natural evolution of this business,’ Tomlin told FOXSports.com when the subject was broached after Wednesday’s practice. ‘Any of us that are in (the NFL) have to accept it on one level or another whether it’s coaches or players. That’s the mentality I have regarding it.’”

“‘We’re not trying to strike a balance (with age). We’re going with the guys who are capable of playing. We’ve got some veteran guys who are still good players. As long as they remain that, they’ll continue to play. We’ve got some young guys with some promise who are working. When they’re good enough to play, they’ll be in there.’”

  • Michael Vick swears this one’s just for sparring. From Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
  • The Sports Pickle asks “Which NFL quarterback should be benched?” My answer:

Mark Sanchez — he needs to be benched so he can clear his head and be ready to start again when Tim Tebow gets benched.”

One Final Thought

“As he trudges through the snow on his way to the Champaign County YMCA, where he would stay that night for $2, his shoes fall apart.

“‘I’ll never forget that feeling where the sole comes off your shoe, snow seeps in, your socks gets full of that cold, wet moisture,” he said. “But it was the greatest thing that happened to me. It gave me perspective. Those are the life-defining moments. They hard-wire you. When you meet challenges in life later on, you say, ‘This is nothing.’”

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