“Coaching, or perhaps a front office NFL job, could be in McCown’s future. In fact, the Bears gave him some feelers when they released him in training camp. But for now, maybe for a few years even, the 33-year-old wants to play. And he wants to play in Chicago.”
“Marshall said the biggest difference between Cutler and Campbell is that Cutler ‘likes to run around a lot,’ while ‘Jason is more of a pocket guy.'”
That is true. But the one difference that became very apparent early in the third quarter of the Texan’s game was the fact that Campbell is much more of a “timing” quarterback. Where Cutler is more likely to hold the ball, look around, see who is open and deliver, recievers were getting the ball from Campbell immediately as they turned out of thier breaks last week.
In many ways, Campbell would have been the perfect quarterback for former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has made a living teaching quarterbacks to do this. As it is, the receivers need to adjust to the new style, something which they did well last week.
“The 49ers will lean on their Tank personnel (one wide receiver, two tight ends, two backs) to establish the run and set up their play-action passing game. Look for schemes that will target the Bears’ eight-man defensive fronts Monday night and test the eye discipline of the secondary.”
I couldn’t agree more. The Texans also successfully drew an eighth Bears defender up into the box by showing run personnel. They then frequently passed out of the formation hoping to get favorable matchups. I expect the 49ers to do the same thing, probably more effectively.
“‘He definitely has emphasized it, just based on how many times (the 49ers) run the ball. Especially coming off Houston last week. Houston was more of a stretch scheme. This week is more of a downhill, smash mouth football.'”
“Had Monday night’s opponent been a passing team, the Bears would have considered activating pass-rusher Cheta Ozougwu. But Amobi Okoye is 37 pounds heavier than Ozougwu and gives the Bears more flexibility against the run.”
In the wake of the news that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had to be treated for an irregular heart beat last week, Kevin Lynch at the San Franscisco Chroniclequotes former NFL head coach Brian Billick on the stress associated with the job:
“‘It will kill you,’ he said. ‘If not, it’s going to shorten your life.’
“However, trying to be less intense has it’s ramifications as well according to Billick.
“‘Part of the problem is, the longer you are in it, to keep your priorities right and hold off the devastating lows when you lose, also means you are keeping an even keel and not enjoying the wins as much as you should,’ he said. ‘You end up in that gray twilight of not enjoying the wins and not showing too much in defeat.'”
“Head coaches do not necessarily need players to like them but do need their respect and trust. The coach has to have the players’ backs. Andy Reid, the coach, certainly does. However, Reid is also in the less friendly role of general manager, signing off on all roster and financial decisions regarding players.”
“This is the major flaw of the coach/general manager model. Although Bill Belichick has been able to achieve sustained success, he has done so with cold and impersonal detachment, often not even responding to player discontent about roles or contracts, further infuriating players and agents. Reid, although a flat-liner with the media, cares deeply about his relationship with his players.”
Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post points out that the NFL owners around the league seem to be taking a more heavy handed role in managing their franchises. I, also, have taken note of this and, like Pompei I think there may be a number of explanations for it. But if I were to pick the one biggest reason, I’d say it is encapulated in this statement:’
“Some of the aging owners such as [Bud] Adams [of the Titans] and Jerry Richardson of the Panthers, who fired his general manager midseason, may be less patient than ever.”
I think a lot of these owners are getting older and they want to win one more before they go. I have, in fact, sensed a certain degree of urgency from the Bears dating back to the Julius Peppers signing, which at the time I considered to be uncharacteristic. I love Virginia McCaskey and I hope she lives a long, long time. But the family must ba acutely aware that she isn’t getting younger.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune talks to Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlynabout last week’s final drive. Since the Bears have gotten much good press for coming through in the clutch there, I thought the comments about the poor Carolina defense were revealing:
“I asked Munnerlyn if the Panthers were sitting in a Cover-2 shell.
“‘I wish it was Cover-2,’ he said. ‘We played a Cover-4 look. They kind of ran double slants on my side and forced me to squeeze No. 2 and … (outside cornerback Josh Norman) can’t play that. You tell a guy to jump that and if he jumps that and Brandon Marshall does a double move, it’s a touchdown. We’ve just got to do better. Even though Coach gave us that call, we’ve got to execute. We tried and we fell short.'”
“‘They were playing one coverage and we just kept hitting them and hitting them and hitting them,’ [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler said. ‘That’s pretty much it.’
“Said Panthers coach Ron Rivera: ‘In the last couple of plays, we tried getting into one of our Cover-2s, and we didn’t get off in time and Cutler completed the throws.'”
“Cutler’s throws might not have been as impressive as his leadership late in the game. More than anything, it is leadership that wins games like this one.
“Asked what was different on the last drive, receiver Brandon Marshall said, ‘Cutler.’
He recalled watching Justin Medlock kick a field goal with 2:27 remaining that put the Panthers up by two points.
“‘I’m sitting here shaking, a little bit of the cold weather, a little bit nervous,’ Marshall said. ‘And (Cutler) just starts smiling. … It just put me at ease right away. The guys feel that vibe and they play off it. So Jay definitely led that whole drive and made us pick up our game.'”
Its nice to hear this and I’d like to believe it. But it would be nice if just once I heard it from someone other than Marshall who is really Cutler’s cheerleader lately.
“On if he feels he could have avoided some of the sacks:
“’I always feel like I can avoid them. Didn’t move as well as I thought I wanted to. I need to take a look at the film and see where the holes were. I kept asking JB (Jeremy Bates) and J-Cam (Jason Campbell) if I was staying in there too long or what the deal is. We just have to take a look at offensive film and talk to the offensive line to see their take on it and fix it on Tuesday.'”
I heard the complait that Cutler was holding the ball too long several times from fans. In my view this frequently was not the case. Cutler was dropping back, his first read wasn’t there and the Panthers defense was on him. They came at him from all sides and there was nowhere to go. That’s a protection and coverage issue not a quarterback issue.
If Cutler had a fault in those plays it was in not pulling the ball down and not protecting it better in giving up two fumbles. It fairly evident that he doesn’t often give up on plays even when he really should.
How good has Marshall been? I’d totally forgotten about this chronic issue he’s had throughout his career. Via Pompei:
“When I asked Brandon Marshall during training camp about how reliable his hands were, given the number of drops he had in his career, he said, “It won’t be a problem.”
“He was right.”
I got pretty tired of reading articles this week about Jay Cutler (both positive and negative). I’m pretty much at the point of skipping them. But as worried as I was and am about Marshall off the field, this one from Pompei praising him was definitely warranted. You just couldn’t ask for anything more from a player through the first half of the season.
Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times thinks the Bears need to develop develop a better screen game. They certainly haven’t run it very well lately.
“The Chicago Bears–that good, or the beneficiary of soft scheduling to start the year?–AC, Fox Point, Wis.
“The defense is for real, without question. All those turnovers (14 interceptions, five returned for touchdowns) are not an accident. We will probably get a better read soon on how much the schedule has helped them because in November they have back-to-back games against Houston and at San Francisco, which have two terrific defenses themselves.”
“‘Gap control is essential, but there’s going to be a free hitter that has to tackle,’ Marinelli said. ‘We usually funnel the ball to a certain area, and guys have to make tackles in space. That’s tough because he can make you miss. And if we’re not hustling, it can be a big play.'”
I thought this quote from D.J. Moore via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times was interesting. He’s got a point.
“[Titans quarterback Matt] Hasselbeck noted that the Bears have been great at generating turnovers but suggested that Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are ‘jumping routes.’
“Not so, Bears cornerback D.J. Moore said.
“‘I don’t think he understands what he’s saying when he says they’re jumping routes because they’re really not,’ Moore said. ‘If you jump routes, you’re going to be sitting on the bench.
“‘That’s pretty much 100 percent. You just play your technique, and if [the quarterback] happens to make a mistake, and I’m playing my technique, then I have a chance to make a play.'”
“The problem that I am seeing across the league is that there are not enough good football people in positions of power. Look at the GMs now — how many have cap backgrounds? There are a lot of smart people in front offices — a lot of team owners and presidents didn’t get where they are without earning it. But you better have some good football people to sort through decisions. Head coaches have their own job to do. They need a strong support structure.”
I’ve heard that Phillips is getting more involved with running the organization. That’s fine and you could argue that its called for given the poor job former GM Jerry Angelo did in terms of administration and management. But I hope Phillips never forgets who the football people are or never makes the mistake of making his decisions based upon anything but their judgment.
As frustrating as Jay Cutler’s almost oblivious attitude and the resulting poor leadership he shows can be, all Bear fans should remember the alternative as highlighted in this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:
“‘The fan base in Cleveland is going to go nuts if they cannot find a quarterback. What you have with Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy is a serviceable No. 2 and a good No. 3. There’s not a starting quarterback on the roster. That’s the first piece that needs to be fixed. They have to get their quarterback.'”
“The 1 percent (N.F.L. owners) are keen to allow only the 3 percent (Green Bay) to own their own team. When will the time of the 97 percent arrive? In New Orleans we, the State of Louisiana and therefore the citizens of Louisiana, give and give to Tom Benson. He cuts deal after deal with the state, taking more and more of our money. By nature of the deals we, the people, basically own the team, but do not have our name(s) over the door. Allowing only the Green Bay Packers to have this arrangement is wrong in so many ways when the fans and citizens pay for the tickets, stadiums and anything else the 1 percent can dream. Asking you to get out the crystal ball– when and where is the lawsuit filed to right this wrong and get the 97 percent in on the action?–Hebert, New Orleans
“Have never heard a clamor for this, to be honest. I wouldn’t hold your breath. But also keep this in mind: the “public owners” of the Green Bay Packers buy shares to give money to the team. There are no dividends paid and they get no say in how the team is run. They are essentially giving the team their money for an honorary title. To think that somehow a team would be run by a committee of citizens is unrealistic.”
Though I have to say that the Saints rooters are incredibly and willfully blind when it comes to the culpability of people like Sean Payton in the bounty scandal (i.e. typical fans), I will give them this: they are stuck with one of the lowest class owners in sports. So, unrealistic as the suggestion might be, I sympathize completely with tenor of this question.
The Bears came out with seven in the box but they were mixing it up well. Occasionally they were bring Major Write up and they did blitz on occasion.
It was fairly obvious that Steve Smith was a major focal point. Tim Jennings got the assignment and he did his best. But Smith isn’t Calvin Johnson and you aren’t going to be able to completely shut him down. At least it kept Jennings around the ball for another pick six at a crucial time.
I give the Bears credit in that in the first half they generally rushed Cam Newton and got pressure on him while, at the same time, doing it with discipline to limit his running. Like Smith, you aren’t ever going to shut this down completely.
I thought the Bears were shutting down the run well pretty well in the first quarter but it opened up in the second for Carolina. That’s because the Carolina receivers are were getting open. Cam Newton simply wasn’t looking at them enough at the time as far as I could tell as he concentrated a lot on Smith. He looked like he came out in the second half and made the adjustment.
We had read that Newton’s accuracy was suffering this year and the first half was no different. He was way off on some throws and started the game throwing behind everyone.
I noticed that Nate Collins got some playing time at nose guard. I can’t say his performance was notable in the first half.
I see that Greg Olson’s blocking hasn’t improved. He completely wiffed on Shea McClellin as he got a sack in the first half.
Not a particularly good game for Chris Conte. He looked like he was playing too much out of control. As pointed out by color man Daryl Johnston, was Chris Conte out of position on a long, long reception in the first half.
I thought the Bears ran a good mix of run/pass. Too bad they didn’t execute better in the first half.
Bears were really running well in the first half. They were mostly attacking the edges though their first half touchdown was up the middle.
On a related note, it looked to me like they ran a lot of double TE.
Talk about protection issues. They had them for most of the game. The offensive line really struggled this game. I thought Chilo Rachal was having a particularly hard time at left guard.
One of the first sacks came with an empty backfield. How you can do that with Forte running wild at the time?
The plan for Carolina was obviously to take away Brandon Marshall and all things considered they did limit him. As we all know would happen should that ever be the case, they covered the other receivers easily. Cutler frequently dropped back, took a look for the pass he was looking for, didn’t find it, then started moving but by then there was nowhere to go.
Once the Panthers realized their corners had the Bears wide receivers well in hand, they started to bring an extra guy up and blitzing. They definitely started keying on Forte.
Cutler didn’t show any obvious signs of his injured ribs being a problem.
It was nice to see Kellen Davis come alive with a good touchdown catch. It was also nice to see Cutler and the offense in general come through with it with the team down.
I thought this was kind of a nondescript performance from announcers Kenny Albert, Johnston, and Tony Siragusa. I thought maybe Johnston and Siragusa were picking on Newton a bit when he gave him a hard time for not jogging over to Lewis Murphy after he recovered his fumble in the endzone.
How did everyone like this exchange in the first half? “What’s going on down there, Tony? Everything’s good down here, Kenny.”
The Bears dropped balls all over the field. Matt Spaeth had a bad one at the end of the first half. Hester had a bad one in the third quarter that basically stalled a drive.
The referees are still carpeting Soldier Field with Bear penalty flags. They were putting themselves in a hole and letting Carolina off the hook with then continually.
I thought the Panthers were over doing it with the pooch kickoffs to keep Hester from running with the ball. They constantly gave the Bears great field position with Hester in a slump. A horrible punt gave the Bears the field position to drive and score their second touchdown. For the Bears, you know things are bad when Robbie Gould is missing 33 yard field goals.
Turnovers. For Carolina they giveth and they taketh away..
“[Tribune columnist David] Haugh argued that Angelo was done in by the lousy performance of backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, who was 0-4 in Cutler’s absence before he was relieved by Josh McCown. He submits that someone had to pay for the failures of Hanie when the Bears stumbled to an 8-8 finish and Angelo was chosen to be that guy over Lovie Smith. It’s a compelling argument.
I believe Angelo’s demise was draft-related. Team president Ted Phillips said, when he announced the move, that there was a talent deficiency on the roster and the gap needed to be closed with division rivals Green Bay and Detroit.”
“That being said, Angelo’s fingerprints are all over this roster and many of the moves he made are still helping the team and will for seasons to come.”
This is all true but it neglects what I think was another major reason – perhaps the major reason – for Angelo’s departure. He was probably the worst general manager in the NFL when it came to administration. It all culminated in the personal embarrassment suffered by ownership over the failed trade with Baltimore in the 2011 NFL draft where Angelo stupidly told two people to do the same job and neither did it thinking the other one did.
There’s a reason why Bears president Philips is now unofficially taking on more of an hands on administrative role with the club. Bears ownership doesn’t want any more personal calls from fellow owners like the Raven’s Steve Biscotti asking them what they think they’re doing.
I was personally glad to read from Biggs that former center Olin Kreutz was at the last game. I always wondered if Kreutz might not make a good coach and I’m glad to see there isn’t an apparent rift with the organization that might prevent him from coming.
Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribunenotes in his film review that both Brandon Marshall and Earl Bennett blocked well down field. Every good fundamental football team I’ve ever seen had this underrated characteristic.
“Cutler and Brandon Marshall completely outdueled Matthew Stafford and [Lions wide receiver Calvin] Johnson. Marshall finished with six receptions for 81 yards and a 7-yard touchdown reception to cap the game’s opening drive. Cutler completed 16 of 31 passes for 150 yards and was sacked five times but did not turn the ball over.”
You could argue that the difference in this game was Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. He shadowed Johnson all over the field. On the other hand the Lions already poor secondary was depleted and they had no one to cover Marshall.
“Not only did the Bears have cornerback Charles Tillman shadow Johnson with Pro Bowl persistence, but Smith tweaked his nickel personnel by adding a package in which Kelvin Hayden replaced D.J. Moore.
The rationale: In certain offensive formations, the Lions lined up Johnson in the slot — a mismatch for Moore. Instead of having Moore play cornerback, where his smallish size invited mismatch opportunities, the Bears used the 6-foot, 195-pound Hayden on the perimeter against the Lions’ smaller receivers.
“‘The different packages made (Stafford) kind of confused, kind of rattled,’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We wanted to mix it up.'”
“Why couldn’t the Bears get some type of return of a low draft pick for Chris Williams considering the shortage of quality linemen to even be backups? If he was not valuable enough to bring a draft choice then there may be others out there who may be an option for the Bears? It needs to be one way or the other. — Ross Scanio, Wheaton
“It’s hard to find a trade partner for a backup offensive lineman who is under contract only through the end of the year. If Williams had another year on his deal, my bet is the Bears would have been able to trade him for a late round draft pick. There clearly was interest in him, judging by the fact that he visited multiple teams and signed with the Rams for more than the NFL minimum. If the Bears thought there was an offensive tackle available better than Williams or Jonathan Scott, who is the player who replaced Williams, they would have signed him.
“Dan, I recall reading that if the Bears let Chris Williams walk after the end of the season they would be rewarded a compensatory selection. Is that correct? Is it worth losing a draft pick by releasing Williams now? — Tim L, San Antonio, Texas
“It is possible that if the Bears retained Williams until the end of the season and then he signed with another team, the Bears would have been awarded a compensatory selection in the 2014 draft, not the 2013 draft. Compensatory selections are determined by a complicated formula that encompasses not only the player or players lost, but also the players the team signs who were unrestricted free agents. Best case scenario is the Bears would have received a 2014 sixth round pick for Williams. More likely is it would have been a seventh rounder, but they might not have been awarded anything if they sign some premium free agents. Given the chance for a compensatory pick and the fact that Williams can play four positions on the line, I thought it would have made more sense to release another player.”
“Has the ghost of Frank Omiyale somehow seeped into Gabe Carimi‘s body? This is two weeks in a row with multiple penalties and sub-par play. If it happens again against Carolina, he has to be replaced by Jonathan Scott, right? — Bob Van Horne, Waco, Texas
Carimi is not going to be replaced anytime soon. Nor should he be. Remember, he was a first-round draft pick that this coaching staff has invested in. He’s going to be on a much longer leash than, say, Chris Spencer was. He also is one of the most talented linemen on the team. But he is basically still a rookie. We should expect some inconsistencies while he learns and grows. He has shown some good things too. Carimi does have to pick it up though.”
Its worth adding that I don’t think Carimi’s knee is completely heeled. His problems aren’t of a recent nature. He hasn’t looked right all year. Basically, I think he’s being left alone at right tackle in part because the team knows they are developing him to be a healthy, experienced lineman with experience next year.
“One pro scouting director said from a coverage perspective, opponents have focused on taking away receiver Steve Smith, who has yet to score a touchdown. They are pressing Smith at the line, rolling coverage toward him and forcing Newton to go through his progressions.
“This is a defensive advantage in two ways. Other than tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers don’t have any receiving options about whom defenses are very concerned. And Newton has not developed the patience and vision to find alternative targets consistently when Smith is covered.”
“Defensive fronts have adjusted to Newton’s sometimes spectacular running ability too.
“Scouts say defensive coordinators are having linemen two-gapping more and they are not trying to get upfield as much. They also are sometimes assigning a linebacker to “spy” Newton.
“Defensive coordinators aren’t trying to force him into making a mistake as much as they are encouraging him to run into the teeth of a disciplined, well populated and prepared front.”
Just one quick note on this. There’s been a lot of talk about who Cam Newton should be compared to lately because former NFL quarterback Warren Moon thinks Newton is too often being compared to black quarterbacks. Too bad because I’m going to do it anyway.
Last year when the Bears played the Panthers it wasn’t Newton’s mobility and athleticism that surprised me. It was his size and strength. Defensive linemen were hitting him in the pocket and literally bouncing off. The last guy I got to see play on a regular basis who could do that was Dante Culpepper. He was built like a linebacker and extremely tough to bring down. Here’s hoping the Bears do a better job on Newton this time around.
“Last year in the Bears’ wild 34-29 victory, that plan included having Jennings, while often not in strictly man-to-man coverage, lining up frequently over Smith. While not exactly divulging what he and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have in the works for Sunday, Smith did say, ‘It should be a lot of fun watching them.'”
“‘We kind of mix up a whole lot of coverages,’ Jennings said. ‘It’s not so matching one-on-ones or anything like that. It’s we want to give him different looks.
“’You’ve got to be able to compete with him, just kind of slow him down at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the timing between him and the quarterback.'”
Its fairly obvious to me, especially in light of the comments from Pompei’s article above this one, that the Bears are going to concentrate hard on Smith this time around. As well they should. This is what I said last year immediately after the game and I still think I was right:
“For some reason I don’t understand the Bears were giving Steve Smith no apparent extra attention. Its fairly obvious that Cam Newton depends heavily on him. I had flash backs to Wes Welker last year.”
I’d better not have that “Welker feeling” again or its going to have been a long afternoon for the Bears.
In any case it will, indeed, be a lot of fun to watch.
“‘It’s such a tough deal, but I also believe God doesn’t give anybody more than they can handle,’ Smith said. ‘What makes a person isn’t necessarily what he’s made of or what he goes through. It’s also the people around him.
“‘As teammates, what we try to do is help him in whatever shape or form. I can’t imagine going through some of the things that he’s going through and then going through them alone.'”
The Dolphins and the Jets renew their annual soap opera this week. Benjamin Hoffman at The New York Timesputs it in perspective:
“The Dolphins and the Jets have engaged in one of those adorable rivalries where they fight like school children, unaware that their squabbles are seen as largely irrelevant by others around them.”
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 Tribuneasks 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-Timesprovides 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 Bennettinactive due to injury. The Bears are going to need both of these guys. From McClure.
“[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.'”
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.
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 Timescome 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 Tomlinfaces 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.'”
“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.'”
Despite the absence of running back Matt Forte I think you should expect the Bears to get off the bus running this week. The Rams apparently would agree. Jim Thomas at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes linebacker James Laurinaitis:
“‘We have a lot of respect for their ability to run it,’ Laurinaitis said. ‘They’re going to come out running the ball. It’s fun to get back to kind of a normal offense this week. This first week (Detroit) it was a lot of spread-out throwing, and then last week (Washington) a lot of college stuff mixed in.'”
Here’s a surprise from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune :
“Typically, teams that are rooted in the Cover-2 scheme like
the Bears do not invest heavily in cornerbacks, choosing to pour money
into the front seven. But one source said the Bears were involved with Cortland Finnegan until talks went above $9 million per season.”
I’ve claimed for a while that the Bears need corners who can play at least adequate man coverage. Apparently they agree.
“(Bears rookie DE Shea) McClellin is a high-(sic) effort guy. He has short arms and lacks explosiveness. There is a ceiling for guys like that. He is going to be like the kid in Washington last year (Ryan Kerrigan). He’ll start off playing hot, and as the year goes by, he’ll wear down and go quiet. That’s what happened to Kerrigan last year. All of a sudden his body is not fresh and all that hustle does not get as much. (McClellin) does not have enough in his body. Hustle guys wear down.”
“‘We talked about putting players in position to make plays,’ said Tice, the Bears’ first-year offensive coordinator. ‘We’ve got to do a better job of that, and we will. At the same time, it’s very important that you win the individual battles, and we didn’t win enough of those.'”
Translation: “Now that the [feces] has hit the fan, after a summer of talking about how it was all going to be OK because I was going to compensate for it with my scheme, I finally have come to the realization that we actually need talent to work with on the offensive line. My apologies to Mike Martz.”
“Everybody says great things about Mike Tice and his great coaching of the offensive line. Since he was hired three seasons ago our offensive line has been anything but great. It seems to me he’s not all that. What gives? Gary M., North Highlands, Calif.
“Trust me when I tell you Tice is an outstanding offensive line tutor. He gets the best out of his blockers. Sometimes, the best he gets out of them isn’t good enough.”
“The Bears aren’t waiting for the light to come on and stay on with [left tackle J’Marcus] Webb. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made that clear when he was asked if his confidence in Webb has waned.
“‘We have seven players who suit up every week and those seven players all get reps with the ones,” Tice said. “And we’re going to try to make sure and make the proper decision of the five guys we’re going to put in there who can protect our quarterback and help us run the ball.’
“Translated, newcomer Jonathan Scott has been getting some work at left tackle with the starters. He was signed Sept. 10 and missed nearly all of training camp with the Lions because of a knee injury. It’s not an ideal situation, but when is it on the Bears’ line?”
“Offensive line coach Tim Holt dissected the tape from the meltdown in Green Bay and came to one simple conclusion about why Webb’s play declined from Week 1.
“‘He just has to use his hands better,’ Holt said. ‘He let (Matthews) get into him a little bit. If he gets his hands on people, he wins.'”
I think the problem goes well beyond that by now. Webb knows to use his hands and I’m sure he’s been coached heavily to do so. That fact that he isn’t doing it indicates that the problem is mental. The physical tools are there and he’s intelligent I’m sure. But He obviously doesn’t have the concentration to play consistently against good opponents for a full three hours ball game.
The Bears have to find another answer. It might not be this year but they’re going to have to do it if they want to comete at the top of the NFL. Becasue Webb’s not going to cut it.
“But [Webb’s] presence underlines a major problem for the Bears: When you
struggle with pass protection, it is difficult to rally from a deficit. The Bears
need to score early and often and play from a lead. [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler is too careless with
the ball and the guys in front of him too shaky to pull off many comebacks.
“The Bears under coach Lovie Smith always have been front-runners, often
because they struggled at quarterback. Smith has a 51-10 record when
leading at halftime and a 13-42 mark when trailing. Since gunslinger Cutler’s
arrival they’re 19-4 and 5-18. Sounds like bad news for the Rams.”
“I am wondering if the answer to the Bears offensive line problem is to just ignore max protection and maybe do just the opposite. If they were in a max-attack-type offense I think Cutler would be able to find the open receiver and/or communicate with Brandon Marshall/Earl Bennett for hot reads. It seems too often when they only had two receivers in patterns Cutler was waiting too long for them to get open. Some of Cutler’s best games were when he has had options to throw to, he can slide or even jump up to get the ball out to the open man. What do you think? Grant M.
“I think what you suggest can be a part of the Bears offense, and it has been to a degree. But the Bears would not be able to make a living playing empty backfield with four or five wide receivers running routes. Part of the beauty of the Bears’ personnel and schemes is the offense is somewhat unpredictable. To beat a good defensive coordinator like Dom Capers, you need to be able to do a number of things well, and do them at times when he isn’t expecting you to do them. Playing the type of personnel groups and formations you suggest would make them highly predictable. It also would be a high risk approach. It would probably result in more big plays, but also more interceptions and more sacks.”
Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Timesis saying that the Rams have a “suspect offensive line”. But I watched them last week and they looked OK to me. Admittedly they were at home but still, Soldier Field isn’t like the Super Dome in New Orleans.
Much of this disapproval of Jay Cutler from the media is new. But not from Pompei as he’s been pretty critical from the beginning. He contiunes that here:
“I must be the minority here, but I didn’t mind at all that Jay Cutler bumped J’Marcus Webb on the sidelines. I want my team leader to be fired up and get in guy’s faces. What bothered me about Cutler is how he crumbled after that, throwing up prayers and seemingly not able to adjust to the Packers defense. This seems to be a bigger indictment of lack of leadership, would you agree? Rik, Chicago
“True leadership isn’t about what you say. It’s about what you do. Show me a quarterback who gets the ball in the end zone, overcomes big odds and steps up in the clutch and I’ll show you a leader.”
True enough. But I think if you want to be a really good leader, it goes beyond that. Many people defend Cutler’s actions by saying something to the effect of “Sometimes you have to kick a few butts to get things done.” But is that what the Bears needed as a team at that point?
I would contend that a true team leader would have seen a struggling offense and, instead of yelling “Do better!” would have gotten everyone together, settled them down and guided them by telling them what to do. Instead, Cutler showed his frustration and made things worse. Instead of acting the part of a calming influence, a leader who had things under control and had confidence that the team would come back and do better, Cutler showed his lack of confidence in his teammates and cranked up fears of failure even higher.
Most of the time “leadership” requires the ability to step outside of yourself and give the group what they need to succeed rather than selfishly thinking of your own. Cutler will never be a true leader, no matter how well he performs on the field, because he’ll always lack the ability to do that. He’s far too self-centered.
What is constantly a shock to me no matter how often I see it, is how savagely Cutler is attacked whenever possible, not by fans and media, but by his peers and ex-peers. In his article on how to motivate people and whether being tough is always the way to go about it, I think Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune provides an answer to the question by quoting Bob Sutton, a Stanford University professor and author of “The No (A-word) Rule” and “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”:
“‘If you (act like a jerk) you’ve got to be really competent,’ Sutton said. ‘If you consistently leave people feeling demeaned and de-energized, that’s the point where enemies are lying in wait.'”
Or, as Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribunesuccinctly put it as he compared Cutler to Douglas Neidermeyer in the movie Animal House:
“Neidermeyer’s epilog in the movie was ‘killed by his own troops in Vietnam.'”
“Cutler’s defenders will point out, accurately, that he has not benefited from
system stability, Pro Bowl wide receivers and consistent pass protection —
especially consistent pass protection.
“But he isn’t the only quarterback who needs to spend some time in the
whirlpool on Mondays.
“Since 2009, [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers has been sacked six times more than Cutler in
regular-season games. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 11 more, and his
rate of one sack per 12.2 dropbacks is higher than Cutler’s rate of 12.4.
“That has not prevented Roethlisberger from making it to a Pro Bowl and a
Super Bowl in that time span.”
Sometimes I think its a shame that even after acquiring Jay Cutler, the Bears’ quarterback situation is still a national joke. But… might as well role with it. From Sports Views:
“The whole idea is to get the defense moving laterally so the offensive linemen can throw cut blocks that drop big defensive linemen on their faces. Think Gilbert Brown in Super Bowl XXXII.”
“‘You have to be smart,’ [defensive line coach Mike] Trgovac said. ‘I faced this scheme several years in a row in Atlanta when I was at Carolina. They just look for that one guy to cut, that one weak link.
“‘That’s what we worked real hard on, make sure everybody stays in their gap. The more you fly off the ball the easier it is for them to cut you.'”
“One front office man said his team is fine with 5-10 corners as long as the player has long arms. Having long arms enable a cornerback to play taller than he is. ‘They can reach for balls downfield, reach for balls coming back and compete better for contested balls,’ [Seahawks general manager John] Schneider said.
“Long arms help a corner in press coverage too. It’s difficult for a short-armed corner to get a good jam and then turn and run because he has to get too close to the receiver.”
I know that Cam Newton is not Jay Cutler. But I think that having a Steve Smith around on the Bears might do him and the team a lot of good. From Joseph Person at the Charlotte Observer.
“That said, Sunday’s biggest headline from Foxboro was the ankle injury to Aaron Hernandez. The third-year tight end is out at least six weeks.”
“Take a look at this statistic from ESPN: “The Patriots used two tight ends on just 20 of 77 offensive plays (Sunday), averaging 3.0 yards per play with two tight ends on the field. The Patriots used two or more tight ends on all 66 plays in Week 1 against the Titans, averaging 5.9 yards per play. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Patriots lead the N.F.L. with 80.1 percent of their offensive plays (926 of 1149) involving at least two tight ends.”
“The Patriots can find a way to win without Hernandez, but it will require rewriting most of their playbook.”
“Kellen Winslow can give the Patriots some of the things Aaron Hernandez gives them, but not all of the things. Front office men who have evaluated Winslow recently say he has lost some speed and can’t get downfield the way he used to, or the way Hernandez can. But Winslow still has the ability to separate in a short area, as Hernandez does. If his knee holds up, Winslow can give Bill Belichick another chess piece.”
“If any OL coach says he needs more contact to coach better, I call b.s. Offensive linemen can go out in shorts. It all starts with mental prep — knowing who to block — and technique and footwork. It’s so funny though — you get three OL coaches and you can hear three different reasons for why their line is struggling, and usually, only one of them is right.”
“Indy’s final drive [last week] provided a perfect snapshot for where their rookie quarterback [Andrew Luck] is.”
“What was most revealing on the drive was when [Adam] Vinatieri trotted on the field. There were still 12 seconds left. And his field-goal attempt was a 53-yarder. If it had been, say, Peyton Manning under center – or any star veteran quarterback – the Colts almost certainly would have ran one, maybe two more plays near the sidelines in hopes of getting Vinatieri a few yards closer. But with no timeouts left, Coach Chuck Pagano decided not to push his Luck. That’s fine, it worked out. But let’s all realize that the Colts seem to believe their young quarterback still has a long way to go.”
“Colts’ ‘Suck For Luck’ Strategy Enters Second Season”
As someone who doesn’t usually get as upset as he used to when the Bears lose, my first thought as I laughed at this video was “Who does this guy think he’s screaming at.” Then I looked at the number of hits and I realized that its about 20,000 people. Someone must like it.
“Stephen A. Smith Thinking Son Is Finally Ready For The Sex Argument”
In light of the Buccaneers decision to maul the Giants as they were trying to run out the clock with a kneel down, The Sports Pickle gives us the NFL’s 25 most unwritten rules. This one was one of my favorites:
“5. Take as much HGH as you possibly can before the NFL starts testing for it.”
I thought this point from the Friday Buzz feature at The National Football Post was interesting:
“If Jon Gruden comes back to the NFL as many suspect, there might not be a long line of established personnel men wanting to work with him. Gruden frustrated people he worked with. He sometimes would set up workouts with players without consulting the front office and operated independently. His negativity also wore on co-workers.”
I always thought Jon Gruden was one of the best head coaches the NFL has seen in recent years. This comment explains a lot about why he’s no longer coaching. One of the worst faults you can have as the leader of a large organization of people is failure to communicate. You leave people in the dark in terms of what’s going on and they resent it. Even when it’s things you don’t think everyone needs to know, leave co-workers in the dark and they begin to wonder what else of a more important nature you didn’t tell them.
Gruden undoubtedly was a control freak who was used to getting his own way as a head coach. He was king of his domain. But when he was put in a situation where input from a large group of front office people was required, he failed to make the proper adjustments. Even for a coach as talented as Gruden, that’s death.
“Last year, however, Rodgers seemed to solve something. He had eight touchdowns and one interception in a two-game sweep. Not a good trend for the Bears entering the teams’ meeting Thursday night at Lambeau Field.”
“‘They’ve played one game. They’ve played one real football game,’ McCarthy said. ‘They’ve showed very little in the preseason. So that’s really part of playing the first three or four games of the season.
“‘There’ll be some unscouted looks for sure; there’ll be some things that we haven’t seen the Bears do. I feel safe in saying that.”‘
Bear quarterback Jay Cutlerseems prepared to take advantage of that. From Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“When Cutler was asked — almost reflexively during Packer Week — about the need for the Bears to control the ball and win time of possession against Aaron Rodgers, his response was deafening to those who still have ‘We come off the bus running’ ringing in their ears: ‘We’re in the point-scoring business,’ Cutler said. ‘Time of possession isn’t really something that’s on our mind.'”
Lots of confidence after one game. We shall see.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribunediscusses one of the key things to watch Thurday night against the Packers. In the past they’ve stifled the Bears at the line of scrimmage with tight coverage. If Brandon Marshall can’t get off the line, no one can. Keep an eye on Alshon Jeffrey. If he doesn’t have trouble, either, the Bears may have solved the problem.
“‘If we’re nine out of 15 to him, I’ll take that,’ Cutler continued. ‘But 15 times a game? That’s not going to happen. It’s just not. There’s going to be teams that take him away and we’ll have to go to other guys, and we’ll have to run the ball.'”
“Here’s the thing, as fans, I think everyone complained about our ability to audible … if we’re going to have the ability to do that, the stadium has to be relatively quiet for everyone to hear and be on the same page,” Cutler said. “Some people I hear today are a little bit perturbed about the way I said it, but so be it. We need it to be relatively quiet in the end zone and I think real Bears fans will understand that.”
“Cutler will have no choice but to contend with crowd noise Thursday night as the Bears travel to Green Bay to take on the rival Packers. The more than 70,000 expected at Lambeau Field certainly won’t shut up when the Bears are on offense.”
“’He’s going to take a while to be up to full speed,’ Tice said last week. ‘The endurance in his leg is going to come with game time. We’re going to certainly be very careful if it appears that he’s getting tried. We have other guys who can spell him. But I’m anxious to see Carimi play. He came on real well at the end of preseason, really was run-blocking well. His pass protection has gotten better, so I’m excited to see how he matures.’
“We’ll see what Tice has to say later this week but Carimi likely passed the test.
“‘I think he was just worrying too much,’ Carimi said. ‘That is what he does. You always have to have a plan out there, right? I don’t think he meant it like I wasn’t ready or anything like that. Well, it sounded like it did.'”
I could be wrong but I really thought Carimi was a step slow Sunday. We’ll see how he does against the Packers.
“Were you surprised by the use and performance of the Bears TE Evan Rodriguez? @URlyle, from Twitter
“Yes I was. I thought he was a fancy-Dan receiver, not a gritty, tough guy blocker. He made real contributions as a fullback, and also played well on special teams. He is now listed as a fullback on the depth chart, but I think he’s going to end up being more than a fullback. It will be interesting to see how his role evolves.”
“It was a veteran move to bait [Indianapolis quarterback Andrew] Luck into a throw on the final interception covering one-time Bears practice squad wide receiver Kris Adams. Jennings let Adams go by him in Cover 2 with Major Wright lending help over the top. Just as Adams went by Jennings, Luck committed to him. When the ball was released, Jennings turned it on and recovered to make the play. It was a savvy move, one Luck will learn from.”
“Inside of the numbers, the Packers are creating a one-on-one matchup with Jones versus Urlacher. The safeties will read the quarterback and “overlap” on any throw to the middle of the field. However, with both Wright and Conte occupied by vertical concepts outside of the numbers, Urlacher has to match to Jones and defend the inside post. This is his play to make in a tough spot against speed at receiver.”
Pompei gives the scouting report on Cedric Benson:
“Benson has fumbled 12 times over the last two seasons, which is a big reason why he is a former Bengal. Opponents should go for the football from behind when he carries.”
Adam Schefter at ESPN says that Packers wide receiver Greg Jenningsis 50-50 to play Thursday.
Pompei is a 49ers believer. After watching them against the Packers, so am I. I had no idea they’d come back in and be that good this season. I’m guessing they can keep it up but injuries are alwasy the great equalizer when it comes to things like this.
“Mike Vick is a coach killer. … Mark my words — this will be his last year in Philadelphia.”
Were the replacement referees really worse than the regular refs? A look inside the numbers might surprise you. From Chase Stuart at The New York Times.
Like betting on football games real time during the game? There’s an app for that. From Joshua Brustein at The New York Times:
“Live ScoreCaster, a free app that recently hit the iTunes store, simulates each N.F.L. and major college football game 50,000 times after each play, then predicts the likelihood that each team will win, projecting the final score in real time.”
“(Bears QB Jay) Cutler made the throws he needed to make after a slow start. Indy is just not good enough — they have a long ways to go. The Bears are in good position heading to Green Bay. The Packers are going to be worn out by San Francisco — that is a physically imposing team.”
“‘We looked at the draft and we do every year in our planning process,’ Emery said. ‘We come up with our own mocks. We do that based on our own research, talking to colleagues, listening, being a good scout, keeping our ear low to the ground, eyes open, ears open, not saying a whole lot, finding out where players are going to fall, putting that together. So in the conclusion, looking at that and versus the average numbers of players at their positions, historically I would say that this is a good draft for wideouts, I would say that this is a good draft for defensive ends and defensive tackles. I’d say it’s a good draft for projecting offensive tackles to guards. There’s a good number of offensive tackles that you can project inside.’”
As noted by Biggs above, Phil Emery went out of his way to mention that he believes that there are a number of tackles that project to be NFL guards in the draft. So even though the Bears currently have a glut at guard, they may not be done adding to the roster at this position. Pompei mentions that this could signal a position shift for Chris Williams from guard to tackle.
“Guys can get flagged for certain things,” he said. “We’ll go through a process where we might … we call them tilts and flips. We’ll tilt a player on the board, we’ll turn his card going south a little bit if they’re in that risk area. Usually we move those players to the right of the column. The players that are clean are to the left. We’ll flip them all the way over if the risk is too high, if their medical grade puts them in a situation where we feel the risk is too high, meaning we would not pick them. If they’re tilted, we’re going to have a lot of discussion before we would move forward with that player.”
“You understand why the Bears made some moves in their front office when you break down how badly they’ve drafted. They get some leeway due to the trade that landed them Jay Cutler, but if you ignore the pickup of Matt Forte and selection of Henry Melton, then what do you have? Their late round picking is especially disappointing, with their five seventh round selections in 2008 (none of whom who ever saw the field on offense or defense) highlighting this. Phil Emery won’t have to do much to offer improvement on what came before him.”
Rich Exner and Bill Lubinger at the Cleveland Plain Dealerlist teams in order of the number of All-Pros they have drafted over the last ten years. Surprisingly the Bears are middle of the pack.
Pro Football Weekly has posted a unique draft value board that’s worth taking a look at. Its based upon what NFL sources have been telling them about the players. There are some surprises, especially in the offensive line category where highly touted tackles Jonathan Martin and Mike Adams are rated much lower than most people I’ve seen have them.
“These NFL teams, no disrespect to any of them, but they’re just cramming for a test that they’re not prepared for. That’s why they now have the [East-West] Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl and the pro days and the combine and all of this within three months. They’re just cramming for a test they’re not prepared for. They’re worrying about a thousand guys. There’s free agency at the same time. So it’s not a coincidence that teams miss on draft picks so often. I know our draft picks 100 times better than these teams do. Because I’m only worried about a handful of guys. These teams are worrying about 1,000. And they’re worrying about hundreds of free agents too. You can’t possibly be in tune with all these guys. I realized a long time ago, it’s not all about the talent in the NFL. It’s about working hard and being coachable and doing the right things. This time of year, teams will get so caught up in physique and size and speed. But honestly, if you’re in this NFL business and you can’t watch a guy play football for four years and interview them and talk to their college coaches and figure out if they’re going to be a good player, then you’ve got the wrong guys on your staff. That’s my belief. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I know a lot of these GMs. And they have a difficult job. But they can fall into the trap of overanalyzing.”
“As explained by Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay last month, the increase from 80 to 90 will result in a decrease from 90 to 80 players after the third preseason game and a drop from 80 to 53 after the final preseason game, which will flood the market with 864 players less than a week before the first game of the season.”
Heaven help Mickey Loomisif this is true. The team has strongly denied it. From John Barr at ESPN.
“YOUTH NOT SERVED The Carolina Panthers did not play a single prime-time game last season. Fans who wanted to see the rookie sensation Cam Newton had to buy a satellite dish or head to a tavern to find the one television dedicated to the Panthers game, which was usually surrounded by two inveterate gamblers and a strange woman in a Steve Beuerlein throwback jersey.
“The N.F.L. has made a similar miscalculation this year. If the Colts draft Andrew Luck, most fans will have to wait until Nov. 8 to see him play on a Thursday night, and they will be forced to endure the opposing Jaguars. Assuming the Redskins draft Robert Griffin III (just try to stop them), fans will have to rely on highlight clips or their cousin’s dish package until Washington hosts the Giants on Monday night, Dec. 3.”
Deion Sanderslive Tweeted filing a police report against his kids’ mother. No really. From Buzz Feed.
MEL’S ANALYSIS: This night lacks the kind of depth that we may have seen in recent nights, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have a clear cut number one here. All the scouts agree, she is the total package. The only downside may be her history of holding out, but I firmly believe that when you and your friends discuss this draft a year from now, she will be the name most often mentioned.
One Final Thought
I knew there was something bothering me about the way that the Bears have handled their off season. Lance Briggsdescribed it as a “miracle” but I have hard a hard time generating that kind of enthusiasm.
Scouts talk about improving your football team by bringing in potential starters to compete with the current players. The loser provides depth.
The Bears have not done a good job of building their team in this way in the offseason. I can forgive them for Jason Campbell – after last year it was evident that they needed a veteran QB. But other than Brandon Marshall, the guys they’ve brought in have been back ups who won’t compete to start at their respective positions.
The Bears are providing depth by supplying guys who are just that and only that – depth. Here’s hoping they hit on enough players in the draft tomorrow to provide the kind of immediate top down competition that leads to excellence rather than settling for mediocrity with the guys they already have.
“He’s become such an icon at middle linebacker that people forget Urlacher played a sort of hybrid safety in Rocky Long‘s system at New Mexico, and that he actually got his initial reps at outside linebacker. Suffice to say, the move to the middle worked out. Urlacher is still playing at a high level but will be 34 this spring, and Chicago would be wise to add some depth at linebacker in the upcoming draft. I think they can wait a few rounds, however; I’d like to see them find a wideout (preferably with some size), another solid offensive lineman and a corner first.”
“Is Michael Floyd‘s draft stock tumbling due to his lack of participation at the senior bowl? What does he need to do at the combine to solidify himself as a mid-first round type guy?
“Mel Kiper (1:17 PM):
“No, I don’t think that’s something that will make him plummet. I think he’s the kind of guy that had a good year, a productive year. He caught some passes. You want to see him show some more aggressiveness. You want him to be the guy that wants to take over the game. He’s in the top 25 on the Big Board. He’s a mid to later first round pick.”
I think Kiper hit this one right on the nose. Really great NFL receivers have a look in their eye and often seem to make tough catches by sheer will. Floyd could be elite but there were times when you wondered if he had the “want to” necessary to make it big.
“An under the radar player who is expected to be a very hot free agent is 49ers receiver Josh Morgan. Teams are buzzing about the possibility of acquiring Morgan, who is considered a very good talent who should be available at a lesser price than the receivers on the top rung. The 49ers have been enthralled with Morgan for four years, but he never really had a breakout because of health issues and offensive ineptitude in previous seasons. A broken leg limited him to five games in 2011. But front office men see Morgan as someone with decent size, speed, toughness and playmaking ability.”
The Bears could consider Morgan. But his height is 6’ even. It isn’t everything but I really think they acquire someone bigger.
Khaled Elsayed at Pro Football Focustalks NFC North. He highlights the improvement of Henry Melton and the drop off of Isreal Idonije.
From my favorite feature, Pro Football Weekly’s Audibles. These are anonymous comments from coaches, scouts and front office people around the league:
“(Bears offensive coordinator) Mike Tice is an excellent coach. The Bears will be a lot better on offense next year. He played a long time in the league. He understands the big picture. He is a very underrated coach.”
Ron Turner was a good coach, too. But, like Turner, Tice isn’t a guy who is going to use X’s and O’s to overcome deficiencies in the roster. He’s not going to be able to get many good match ups from a group that lacks talent. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.
“Jeff Fisher‘s dream job was with the Bears. It’s where he played. It’s a serious football town. They play his brand of football — a tough, physical style. He would have been a great hire (in Chicago).”
I would have loved to have Fisher here. But you couldn’t justifiably fire Smith. The current problem with the team isn’t due to his coaching. I think Fisher would have wanted too much control over personnel as well.
I spent a good part of my morning catching up on the Audibles. So there are a lot of them in the post. And another one:
“When I look at the way Leslie Frazier is running the Vikings, I think of Tony Dungy. I would think Tony might have had something to do with the hires they just made (at defensive coordinator). The problem with that (Tampa-2) defense — if you don’t have six or seven Pro Bowlers on the field, it is not going to work. … When you don’t disguise your coverages, it’s like taking candy from a baby.”
We’re pretty fortunate in Chicago in that Lovie Smith came to this conclusion at least two years ago. The Bears have done much more in the way of disguising coverages ever since. Frazier is eventually going to have to make this adjustment.
“Jim Mora (Sr.) had it right. Michael Vick is a coach killer. The Eagles made a mistake signing him long-term. I can tell you right now — he was a machine the first half of 2010, and then he … started turning the ball over. You cannot win a Super Bowl with a guy that is that inconsistent. They said he was hurt. I’m not sure they didn’t bench him after he started 3-8 going back to last year (counting Vick’s two season-ending losses a year ago). If I’m Andy Reid, I’m looking hard at Matt Flynn right now.”
“The most underrated cog in Green Bay is (QB coach) Tom Clements. He is the one who has worked with (Aaron) Rodgers and (Matt) Flynn the most closely. The head coach calls the plays. Sure, Joe Philbin was a part of it, but I will be interested to see how much he can get done on his own (in Miami). (GM) Jeff Ireland has been involved with the hiring of two coaches — Tony Sparano and Philbin. Neither would have been on my short list, but we’ll see how it works this time around. They have two years to get it done, and then it’s clean-out time.”
I also have my doubts about the Philbin hire. Philbin’s really an offensive line coach. Its clear to me that Mike McCarthy is the guy running that offense and he’s the guy coaching the quarterbacks. What you are actually doing is hiring someone who you hope has learned something from him. But if you think you are getting a guy who was heavily involved in the way the offense runs, I think you may be fooling yourself.
“Come the beginning of April, every wart on every draft prospect is going to get bigger and bigger. There will be a group of guys that find flaws on every player and will focus on them and concentrate on them instead of the positive traits. They will be talking about how Andrew Luck does not have John Elway‘s arm. It was like Cam Newton last year. Everyone was ripping the kid until the final three days before the draft when it became clear that (Panthers GM) Marty (Hurney) really was going to take him. “
“Jim Irsay is taking on the persona of Jerry Jones. He wants to be the acting GM. He’s doing interviews. He wants to be the face of the franchise. That’s a big part of the reason (Bill) Polian is gone. It’s the Jim Irsay show now.”
There are a lot of days that I’m thankful that the McCaskey’s own the Bears. I read things like this and today becomes one of them. The family takes a lot of heat. But generally speaking they stay out of the way and let people do their jobs.
“So, the team needs to add at least two cornerbacks to the mix and probably three. If they can upgrade over what Jennings has given them the last two seasons, that would be a plus, especially when they run into the Green Bay Packers twice next season.”
“Former NFL scout Dave Razzano recently ranked his top general manager candidates in The Razz Report, and he listed Licht as No. 7.
“Wrote Razzano, ‘Both organized and thorough in his approach, the personable Licht has worked under some of the league’s more prominent names like Jimmy Johnson, Andy Reid and now Belichick, where he plays a big part in keeping the Pats on top of the AFC standings. Licht has played a strong role with three different teams now and will likely find himself on several GM short lists in the near future. His eye for talent and overall personnel skills are why Bill Belichick brought him back to New England after a short stint with the Arizona Cardinals.’”
“Here’s how former Tribune In the Wake of the News sports columnist Michael Holley described Emery in his book War Room:
“’He worked at the Naval Academy for seven years, so he’s not a career military man, although he does sound like one: His voice is clear and commanding. … He’s got an iPad in front of him with his notes as well as reports from the scouts. His recall is impressive. … You get the feeling the iPad isn’t always necessary due to his ability to give historical playbacks from memory.’”
“If the Bears hire Emery, he will have to be a good learner too. He doesn’t have much experience with the salary cap and contracts, pro personnel or sitting in an office.
“’That was the knock on Thomas Dimitroff, Jerry Reese, Ted Thompson, Trent Baalke and a number of guys who have become successful general managers,’ Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli said. ‘He runs the scouting staff, and that is quite a responsibility.’”
“But if the Bears franchise him not for the purpose of negotiations, but instead as their final decision on how to compensate him in 2012, there could be trouble.
“Forte [told ESPN Radio 1000]: “A lot of teams franchise guys so that they can get a deal done or negotiate a deal. It just depends on what the motive of that is.
“The franchise tag for running backs this offseason is expected to be a little less than $8 million. If it seems clear the Bears plan to pay him that salary, with no credible offer for an extension beyond the 2012 season, Forte implied he might not be in training camp on time.
“’I wouldn’t say holdout,’ he said, ‘but people probably wouldn’t know where I was.’”
Think the Bears are taking too much time to hire a general manager? You’ll want to see what Mike Silver at Yahoo sports has to say about the Raiders’ “search”. Apparently you’re not doing it right no matter how you handle it.
Omar Kelly at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbinis the choice for head coach in Miami. Philbin Is an interesting choice. The Dolphins are looking for a proficient pass-oriented offense like the Packers. But one wonders how much head coach Mike McCarthy had to do with designing that offense and getting it to run. Philbin’s background is with the offensive line. That’s usually not the kind of person a big time passing offense comes from.
McCarthy might be a Packer but his comments to the Associated Pressindicate that he most certainly is not dumb. Much has been said about Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers not being quite as sharp as usual throwing to receivers who were dropping balls all over the field last weekend in their loss to the Giants. But McCarthy put his finger right on one of the major problems that went largely unappreciated:
“‘The tackling just was not there all year,’ McCarthy said in press conference to end the season, via the Associated Press. ‘Without getting into the specific statistics, we did not tackle well enough as a football team, from start to finish. It’s something that’s emphasized every single day in practice and something that [defensive coordinator] Dom [Capers] and I talked a lot about today.’”
“Success has its challenges, and one is replacing the inevitable brain drain that occurs as opponents try to replicate. This month, the Packers have lost a top front office talent in [Reggie] McKenzie and one of their top coaches in Philbin. The pressure is on the Packers to continue to develop qualified successors.”
“‘If you hit them in the mouth and you stand up to them, that’s the way you play it,’ Williams told the Baltimore Sun. ‘I think when you’re as good as they are, you get used to people kind of being intimidated. And I think when you show them that you’re not, it automatically makes them have to change the way they’re used to playing, and that automatically gives us an advantage.’”
“He’s right. Olsen caught three passes for 113 yards with a 58-yard touchdown in the 35-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round. It was his second-to-last game in a Bears uniform as he was traded to the Carolina Panthers on the eve of training camp.”
“Trading Olsen didn’t help the Bears’ passing attack in 2011 but the moves made did augment the running game. It’s time to find a way for the tight ends to start helping the quarterback by doing more than chip blocking from time to time.”
If Greg Olsen wants to invite comparisons to the New England tight ends, he’s making a serious mistake. Teams are showing once again that the tight end can be a great weapon in the passing game. But you need more than Olsen, a glorified wide receiver who can be covered by a nickel back. I doubt the Bears regret a thing.