State of the Team: Chicago Bears
by Andy Benoit
The 2013 "State of the Team" articles will run daily through the NFL draft. These offer a snapshot look at a team’s roster, with players classified by color based on how they fit their role. My analysis is based on film study, not statistics, although we will try to note when my judgment differs significantly from FO's advanced stats, and explain a little bit why. Starters are in bold, and you will notice that many units are listed with 12 starters rather than just 11. This denotes the extra playing time that nickelbacks and third receivers usually get in today's NFL.
- Jury’s still out
- Just a guy
- Upgrade needed
- No longer on the team
Some players colored pink as "just a guy" are younger low-round picks who just haven't seen much playing time, but keep in mind that 99 percent of the time, there’s a negative reason why such a player has rarely seen the field.
Players colored red as "upgrade needed" are not necessarily bad players. Sometimes, this simply means the player is a decent backup who should not be starting.
Since I generally don't do analysis on special teams, those categorizations are based strictly on FO stats, with any comments written by Aaron Schatz. We're only listing kickers and punters, as most teams go into training camp without specific players set as return specialists.
Click here for an archive of all State of the Team articles.
Once again the Bears find themselves acclimating to a new offensive system. In the spirit of their seemingly annual playbook overhauls, maybe they should have re-signed journeyman backup Jason Campbell. New head coach Marc Trestman was last seen in the NFL as an assistant head coach with the 2004 Dolphins, but his main mark came in the three years before that when he was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in Oakland. The Raiders ran a West Coast offense back then. Trestman figures to reproduce that in Chicago, though likely through a fairly heavy dose of modern spread concepts. In that case, the Bears will have to get better play out of their front five and from every receiving target not named Brandon Marshall.
QB: Jay Cutler, Josh McCown; Lost: Jason Campbell
RB: Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Evan Rodriguez (H-Back); Lost: Kahlil Bell
Talent-wise, Cutler is as good as they come. However, he goes through bouts of sloppy mechanics and recklessness, seemingly spurred by his distrust -– both warranted and unwarranted -– in teammates and play-callers. One guy Cutler can trust is Forte, a methodical but smooth three-down back who has a way of stabilizing this offense. Forte should be a good fit in Trestman’s short-pass oriented system. (Remember in 2002 when a 30-year-old Charlie Garner had 941 receiving yards for the Raiders?) The question with Forte, as well as with Bush (a solid all-around No. 2) is whether he can avoid the minor injuries that have hindered him at times over the past two years. At H-back, when former general manager Jerry Angelo drafted Rodriguez, he said the fourth-rounder could become Chicago’s version of Aaron Hernandez. But through one year, Rodriguez seems on track to become a more dynamic version of Jim Kleinsasser. That’s not a slight, just a commentary on his style of play. He’s more of a short-area contributor, not a multidimensional downfield route runner.
WR: Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffery, Devin Hester
TE: Martellus Bennett, Kyle Adams, Steve Maneri; Lost: Kellen Davis, Matt Spaeth
Statistically, the gap last year between Chicago’s leading receiver, Marshall, and their second-leading receiver, Forte, was the biggest any NFL team had last season. This has to change in 2013. Great as Marshall is, he can’t be the only guy Cutler trusts. Earl Bennett is a decent short-area route runner who would be a good No. 3, but he's stretched as a No.2, and he has to figure out how to stay on the field. Jeffery must become more polished, and Hester must be kept in a more-fitting gadget role. (Trestman has said the veteran will be used almost exclusively in the return game this year.)
At tight end, the signing of Marcellus Bennett excited Bears fans. Indeed, he’s an upgrade over the lethargic and slippery-handed Davis. Just keep in mind that there’s a reason the Cowboys and Giants both let the mercurial tight end leave scot-free.
LT: Jermon Bushrod LG: Matt Slauson C: Roberto Garza RG: Gabe Carimi RT: J'Marcus Webb
Backups: Edwin Willams, Eben Britton, James Brown; Lost: Lance Louis, Chilo Rachal, Chris Spencer
Bushrod is the latest major investment the Bears have wishfully made in an effort to turn around their awful offensive line. The ex-Saint showed admirable improvement last season but, overall, he still must be described as an above-average athlete with below-average pass-blocking acumen. He’s very good when moving forward and very iffy when moving backwards. Which means, in all likelihood, the Bears will have to give him help in a lot of third-and-long situations. Is Bushrod really worth $22.4 million guaranteed?
Inside, Garza can suffice, but there are concerns about the guys flanking him. Outside, Webb should be better on the right than he was on the left, but a change in position does not denote a change in talent. With slow, heavy feet, he will still need help in pass protection. There's not much depth here either; Britton brings position versatility, but he was bad wherever he lined up in Jacksonville last year. That was likely the function of injuries, but those injuries have been the defining mark of his career.
The sad conclusion: despite continued changes, the Bears are liable to still have a lot of the same blocking issues and play-calling restrictions that have hindered them in recent years.
Last season illustrated how the Bears are almost utterly dependent on creating turnovers. This defense was explosive early on when live balls were bouncing around, but it often wasn’t able to line up and simply stop teams down the stretch. Many think of the Bears as a classic Tampa-2 team. Indeed, after firing Tampa-2 aficionado Lovie Smith, they hired long-time Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Tucker, as many know, is another traditional Tampa-2 guy. That said, don’t be surprised if Chicago changes things up a bit in 2013. That’s what they did fairly often and successfully in 2012, using more single-high coverages and even playing some man-to-man with blitzes on certain third downs.
DE: Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton, Shea McClellin, Turk McBride; Lost: Israel Idonije
DT: Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Nate Collins, Andre Fluellen; Lost: Amobi Okoye, Matt Toeaina
The Bears did a great job commanding one-on-one matchups for Peppers last year by moving him all over the defensive front. They were particularly fond of playing him inside in nickel sub-packages. That lent more freedom to how they used first-round pick McClellin (a poor man’s Clay Matthews at this point). It’s a new staff now, but expect the same approach. Even if the Bears were to keep everyone in their traditional spots, this will still be a tough line to handle. In addition to firepower on the edges, Melton is a tremendous one-gap shooter, both with strength and quickness, inside. Paea can be a beast when it comes to shedding blocks. Behind him, Collins shows very intriguing upside with uncommon movement skills for a man with his lanky build.
OLB: Lance Briggs, James Anderson, J.T. Thomas, Jerry Franklin; Lost: Geno Hayes, Nick Roach
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ILB: D.J. Williams, Blake Costanzo; Lost: Brian Urlacher
Age and injuries took a toll on Urlacher, but not enough to make him a liability. Still, the Bears chose to cut bait a year too soon rather than a year too late. That decision was validated by the signing of Williams, a ferocious athlete who can run down the middle in coverage, which is a vital trait in this scheme. But can Williams offer awareness that’s even close to the preternatural zone instincts of Urlacher? Many don’t realize how much those instincts did to hold this unit together. On the outside, Briggs is a bit long in the tooth but doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. He has a great understanding of his responsibilities in the flats. Anderson was a good pickup given his similarities to the speedy Roach.
CB: Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Kelvin Hayden, Zack Bowman; Lost: D.J. Moore
S: Major Wright, Chris Conte, Tom Zbikowski, Craig Steltz, Brandon Hardin
Tillman somehow keeps getting better with age. He’s an ideal corner for this scheme. So is Jennings, whose under-appreciated tackling is nearly as impressive as his play-making prowess. Nickel corner was a major concern ... until Hayden was re-signed. His return means Jennings won’t have to play inside, and Bowman, who hasn’t been able to hold on to a significant job over the years, will only have to play bit snaps. At safety, Wright and Conte are both on the cusp of being classified as green. Their improvements in all phases have allowed this defense to become more diverse. The addition of Zbikowski lends versatility to the secondary. In fact, don’t be surprised if the Bears come up with some new dime blitz packages to take advantage of his downhill prowess.
K: Robbie Gould; P: Adam Podlesh
Gould is above-average on kickoffs with the typical inconsistency on field goals. Podlesh is about as average as it gets.
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87 comments, Last at 01 May 2013, 6:08pm
#2 by chitown_jim (not verified) // Apr 22, 2013 - 3:40pm
Please elaborate how the 6th most accurate kicker in NFL history has "typical inconsistency" on field goals? I find that statement really interesting because if he really does have inconsistency i'd be curious to find out how he's rate so high in accuracy? That almost doesn't make sense.
#25 by Perfundle // Apr 22, 2013 - 5:21pm
Career 82.7% at home, 88.8% on the road.
82.6% in windy conditions.
Only one field goal attempted (missed) from beyond 40 yards in 20-degree-or-below weather, and a 45% success rate of FGs from beyond 40 yards in 40-degree-or-below weather; no FGs beyond 50 yards were attempted at all.
The home and windy numbers are pretty good, but the point is, most of the field goals are not being attempted at Soldier Field in January.
#27 by JasonG (not verified) // Apr 22, 2013 - 5:46pm
Nice numbers, but no context. Maybe I'm wrong, but 82.6% seems damn good in windy conditions. What is the NFL average?
82.7% at Soldier field. How do others perform at Soldier field (it's not their home field, but still)?
Nearly 90% on the road? That seems excellent. Minny and Detroit have domes, but that's only 2 games a year.
#30 by Aaron Schatz // Apr 22, 2013 - 5:51pm
Robbie Gould's value by FO metrics (based on length of kicks, adjusted for weather):
2008 +4.2 (10)
2009 +4.8 (7)
2010 +0.6 (16)
2011 +7.5 (3)
2012 -4.4 (24)
So he looked more consistent than the usual kicker... for a while. Look at the last three years, and it looks like typical kicker inconsistency.
#44 by Perfundle // Apr 22, 2013 - 8:33pm
As I said, the home and windy numbers are good. The wind one, though, needs a lot more context that no one can provide. What kind of wind speed is needed to qualify? Is that number the average wind speed throughout the entire game or just the start of the game? Did it change direction in the middle of the game? A consistent 15mph gust in one direction is quite different from a wildly varying wind that maxed out at 7mph.
His numbers definitely say above-average to me; I was just providing some context that most of his kicks were not being made in the worst of Chicago weather. And as I mentioned below, his numbers depend heavily on the distance of kicks he is being asked to make. I would think a defensive team like Chicago is much more likely to punt and rely on field position than risk missing field goals, and his relative lack of long kicks seems to support that theory.
#5 by Michael A (not verified) // Apr 22, 2013 - 4:05pm
I believe what he meant, was that Robbie Gould, like most kickers are not consistent...If you look at field goal percentage year and year out it will flunctuate...The best kickers such as Gould lows are either not as low as other or when they are on they are really on...
#19 by Perfundle // Apr 22, 2013 - 5:13pm
It certainly can make sense; not all field goals are created equal. Gould has great accuracy in long field goals, but he doesn't kick many of them, while being decidedly mediocre at medium-long field goals. The average field goal kicker in the last 12 years made 73% of field goals in the 40-49 yard range, and Gould is only at 71%. And despite his 76% accuracy at 50+ yard field goals (compared to the league average of 57%), they only account for 7% of his attempts, compared to the league average of 11%. In fact, after his fourth year, he had a 85.9% success rate despite not having made a single kick from beyond 50 yards.
#6 by Steve in WI // Apr 22, 2013 - 4:06pm
Ah, I've been waiting for this one. A few quibbles:
Honestly, until I see improvement (which I'm optimistically hoping for this year), Cutler might be more of a black than a green. I'm the first one to point out that he's suffered through an awful O-line, a (complete until last year) lack of wide receivers to throw to, and bad playcalling; that said, he makes plenty of his own mistakes too.
I've been thinking of Jeffrey as the #2 and Bennett as the #3, but apparently I'm mistaken. If so, the assessments make sense there - they need a better #2 than Bennett. I think Hester has been pretty bad at receiver, even if you assume he's the 3rd or 4th guy, and I wholeheartedly support the idea that he should be strictly a return guy.
On the line, I think Webb is worse than Carimi, and I'd give Carimi the slightest benefit of the doubt in terms of potential for improvement. Webb is just awful and I hate that he could still be starting games for the Bears this season. Webb's a definite red and Carimi's either red or yellow to me.
On the defense, I don't have a lot to say other than I'm surprised to see Melton graded as blue. I like him and think he's a solid player, I've just never thought of him as a star.
I'm really surprised to read the assessment that Gould is great on kickoffs but inconsistent on field goals; my perception has been the opposite. The Bears' website mentions that his career field goal percentage places him at 5th all-time, which seems pretty good to me. Last season he was 21 for 25 (two of those were blocked, though) which put him in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the NFL, but percentage wise that was a slightly worse than average season.
#46 by justanothersteve // Apr 22, 2013 - 9:10pm
Melton may be a light blue, but I'd still call him a blue. I'm not as sure about Briggs these days, though he rates at least a green. Zbikowski is just a guy, but he's probably adequate as a backup. Carimi should probably be an orange (yellow). I'd also call Gould green, and I agree with you that he's not inconsistent on FGs. I'd also consider Forte a high green (cyan?). Even if you're a Bears fan and I'm a Packers fan, I think we pretty much agree on the Bears' assessment.
#51 by Jimmy // Apr 23, 2013 - 7:35am
Jeffrey will be no2, with Marshall rehabbing his hip Jeffrey has been the no1 in mini camp. Bennett is going to be the primary slot guy. I am pretty sure that Marshall is going to regularly line up all over the place though.
For my mind Webb is a lot better than the average observer thinks he is. He was as raw as a drafted player can be and should not have seen the field his rookie year. That was three years ago, he was league average last year at LT, yes he can struggle with elite edge rushers but there is a reason that they are elite, everyone struggles with them. He will be a fine RT. It isn't as though the bar for RT play in the NFL is set particularly high.
Melton should be blue, DTs shouldn't be able to get into the backfield but he can.
#87 by jprather17 // May 01, 2013 - 6:08pm
Jacob W. Prather
If Earl Bennett is the number 2 receiver then he did a terrible job. Jeffery had the fourth most receptions on the team all while missing 6 games. He was behind Marshall, Forte, and Bennett. Bennett only missed 4 games and still only had 5 more receptions than Jeffery and had less receiving yards and TD's. In all honest I think the Bears should release Bennett and Weems. Keep Mark Harrison, and Marquess Wilson. Joe Anderson can replace Weems. It would give the Bears more cap room, open up competition for the third receiver on the team, and gets the Bears younger, faster, and more athletic at WR.
#7 by commissionerleaf // Apr 22, 2013 - 4:08pm
Brian Urlacher was on the Bears last year. Brian Cushing was not.
It is amazing how the awful cornerbacks for the Colts Tampa-2 in the mid-to-late-2000s have become the mainstays of the great Bears defense of the early '10's. Underappreciated tackling? From a Polian draftee????
#8 by JasonG (not verified) // Apr 22, 2013 - 4:10pm
Some questions for Andy (or any other expert),
1) Does WC really fit Cutler? His play is much more "let the play develop, then laser it into to any tight space that hopefully appears" guy than "I know where I'm going with, get it out fast" guy. This could be because his receivers were rarely open when and where they were supposed to be, but I've never seen an analysis of Cutler's constant double pumping. Is he woefully indecisive or are his receivers never open? If it's him, how can he be expected to run the WC well? If it's his receivers, well then it's going to be another banner year for BMarsh.
2) Carimi's biggest weakness seems to be pass blocking fast edge rushers. So, even at 6'7", if he moves to guard, can he become an asset (very good run blocker, good pass blocker in tight spaces, not out wide)? I'm just looking for some optimism on the line. Bushrod may only be a slight upgrade, but he's an upgrade. Webb to RT upgrades RT. Carimi/Slauson (or 1st rounder) upgrades G. A bunch of minor upgrades could add up to a large improvement potentially. That and play calling.
3) Shea says he put on 5-7 pounds (was expecting more, but whatever). Should anyone expect 5-7 pounds to markedly improve his suspect run defense so that we might expect a lot more production from last year's first round pick?
4) You really think Peppers is still a star? He had a foot problem I know, but it's not like he was terrorizing anyone last year. If he was eating up two blockers every play, then fine, but I didn't see that.
#15 by JasonG (not verified) // Apr 22, 2013 - 4:44pm
I know he ran the WC in Denver, but I seem to only hear about his move-the-pocket, throw-a-bomb proficiency. I never hear about how his quick-diagnosis, get-it-out proficiency. That's what I was alluding to.
#18 by Karl Cuba // Apr 22, 2013 - 5:11pm
His release is lightning fast and his ability to throw from multiple points will help. Quick (or correct) diagnosis? The jury's still out on that one.
The west coast offense is set up around the quarterback's mechanics which could go either of two ways. Either Cutler will be forced to operate with more focus on his technique and a more disciplined Cutler will thrive, or his mechanics will be as haphazard as usual and the offense will continue to be inconsistent.
#38 by speedegg // Apr 22, 2013 - 6:21pm
Cutler is good about slinging the ball when he can see his receiver. Heard criticism of Cutler is a "See-it, Throw-it" QB. He doesn't do too good on timing and anticipation throws, where he throws before the receiver is out of his break, so he might struggle a bit in the new system. Of course, not sure if part of that was he didn't trust any receiver except Marshall, his O-line was bad, and Forte got injured.
Funny thing, the other "See-it, Throw-it" QB was Donovan McNabb.
#21 by Dean // Apr 22, 2013 - 5:17pm
I didn't like Carmini on draft day because he's stiff. He plays too high. That's hurting him on the outside, but I can also see it making it very difficult for him to get leverage against DTs. The old cliche of "low man wins" is a cliche for a reason. Moving him to guard, I suspect, will expose the same weaknesses in a different way. It's something coaching could fix, but that hasn't happened.
#31 by JasonG (not verified) // Apr 22, 2013 - 5:51pm
Also, wanted to mention that indications are Carimi was never able to get his knee injury 100% last year. Maybe full health will makes a significant difference. One more year development. New coaches. Etc. I guess we will see. Here's hoping.
#10 by RickD // Apr 22, 2013 - 4:18pm
Can we discuss how the QB rated 27th in DYAR and DVOA last season is listed as "good"?
Cutler is adequate at best. Stop blaming the line. Fundamentally, he's not a very smart guy. He can throw the ball pretty well, but he's a terrible decision-maker.
#14 by JasonG (not verified) // Apr 22, 2013 - 4:41pm
I can definitely see where you are coming from and have felt this way myself, but ultimately disagree. Cutler's certainly a very smart guy. Every coordinator has said so, impressed with his digestion of their playbooks. In the heat of the game, yes he can make some head-scratching decisions. I can't recall more than a time or two he has just throw it away. And dangerous throws are pretty common, too. I already mentioned all his double-pumping in a previous post. I'm just not willing to write him off yet. His o-line, WR and coordinators can not be dismissed as part of the problem. Hester and Knox were both a) rarely in the right place and b) never protected their QB when passes weren't perfect. They definitely cost Cutler plenty of yardage and interceptions. Watch instead him work Marshall, Bennett and even Jeffrey. They are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. And Cutler gets it to them smoothly. And if not, they help him by first catching the damn ball and also at least minimizing the damage (incomplete instead on INT) when the throw isn't perfect. I'm giving Cutler one more year of benefit of the doubt. And, I'll just throw this out there, Cutler is one tough SOB and his teammates respond to that. His production has been adequate at best for a couple years, so I give you that, but again that's not on him alone. 10 other needs to do their jobs as well. Talent/skill/toughness-wise, he's definitely well above average, so I think green is perfectly fair.
#24 by Rivers McCown // Apr 22, 2013 - 5:20pm
I can see both sides of this having watched a lot of NFC North for the book this year. There are some sides of Cutler that are undervalued, and some that are overvalued. The tl;dr version is that he's not a very good anticipation passer, and if you aren't an anticipation passer, you're not going to be able to throw guys open very often.
That's part of the reason why when I did Four Downs NFCN, I listed receiver and tight end ahead of offensive line. Cutler can't cover up a disaster on the line, but he's fairly good at buying time. Expecting him to make a lot of use of Earl Bennett and Kellen Davis in man coverage was not optimal.
#26 by Aaron Brooks G… // Apr 22, 2013 - 5:22pm
Only if you want to discuss how DYAR and DVOA do a poor job of separating out a QB's contributions from those of his offensive line and receivers.
Because we can totally have another irrational Manning vs. Brady debate.
#28 by theslothook // Apr 22, 2013 - 5:49pm
I can totally see where the dislike for cutler is. He makes sloppy mistakes and spotty decisions. You know who else did that once the team's talent got worse? Rivers did. And brees did in 2010 when all his rbs got injured. At least the latter two have wide receivers though. One of these days - we have to do a study on qbs that get scarred from terrible offensive lines. As bad as the chargers o line is, the bears o line is even worse. Couple that with the fact that besides brandon marshall - I don't think any of these receivers are any good. We've learned cutler isn't good enough to carry this team's offense, but honestly, there are like 2 qbs in the nfl that can at this point.
#42 by theslothook // Apr 22, 2013 - 6:53pm
I was actually referring to his 2010 season. I thought his 2012 season was fine. The team was worse so his numbers suffered. Overall, he was as effective as ever this year.
THe point about brees and rivers and cutler is that numbers have to be put in the proper context. No offense, but both RickD and Nat both seem to love dvoa and dyar for receivers and qbs even tho both tell us nothing about which way causation is running. Again, run a regression on qb dvoa/dyar with passing dvoa and dyar and you end up with an R2 of near .98.
#47 by Perfundle // Apr 22, 2013 - 9:17pm
"Again, run a regression on qb dvoa/dyar with passing dvoa and dyar and you end up with an R2 of near .98."
I got a R^2 of 0.9676 for the DVOA comparison, pretty close to your number, but interestingly, Brees' data point was by far the biggest outlier. The linear fit says that a QB with his DVOA should've headed a passing offense with a 32.8% DVOA, instead of the actual 24.7%. I have no idea what that even means, because I don't know how QB DVOA and passing DVOA differ, but there you go.
#68 by RickD // Apr 23, 2013 - 7:31pm
Logic disconnect here.
I said Brees had a "poor season" even though he was 3rd in DVOA. Why? Because I really dislike 18 INTs. Brees usually does much better than that.
"No offense, but both RickD and Nat both seem to love dvoa and dyar for receivers and qbs even tho both tell us nothing about which way causation is running. "
Offense? Your accusation is far from timely.
Responding to a comment in which I criticize the 3rd rated QB with the assertion that I "love DVOA and DYAR for receivers and qbs" is positively self-refuting!
FWIW, DVOA/DYAR are far better for QBs than they are for WRs and RBs. Maybe it's the number of relevant snaps (i.e., all of them for QBs in the passing game). But it just seems to me that the QB column aligns more generally with my impression of QB play than it does for WRs or RBs.
#69 by theslothook // Apr 23, 2013 - 7:38pm
I wasn't really basing it off just that comment. It's something I've noticed, though I really would not like to scour prior posts to prove it. I think my general premise is to say that we have no real statistical way to separate qbs from circumstance. If we did, we wouldn't get weird responses like we have. I point to specific examples - like brees' 2010 season or the ridiculous dichotomy between cutler in denver and cutler with chicago. This, btw, also extends to kyle orton who saw a similar bump in his statistics solely from a scenery change.
To me, saying so and so is better off dvoa is really no different than saying so and so's pass offense better, therefore their qb MUST be the reason. When Brady gets moss and welker - his numbers go up. When Manning had wayne and harrison - his numbers went up.
#59 by nat // Apr 23, 2013 - 12:47pm
I, too, am wondering about the Cutler green rating. He hasn't had a season that many people would consider "good" by DYAR/DVOA standards since 2008, and was good for just two years out of seven.
Is this just Andy being in love with pure arm strength again? Or does Cutler have other skills - any at all - that mark him as more than a run-of-the-mill QB?
#62 by Nathan // Apr 23, 2013 - 4:14pm
Cutler is a mystery but his talent goes beyond arm strength. That's the most obvious skill he has but he's also tough, mobile, has a quick release, can thread the ball into tight windows, can improvise, throws from multiple arm positions, off his back foot (does this way too much, like Stafford). Anyway, when people look at Cutler and salivate about what he could be it's more than just his arm strength. He's a maddening QB to root for (I'm not a Bears fan, but I've always kind of liked Cutler simply for not playing the media's game) but he is fantastically talented and shows flashes of brilliance. I've seen him absolutely take over games before making throw after throw that 90% of the guys in the league just could not make, and I don't just mean arm strength. There was a game 2-3 years ago (I've tried to look it up a couple times on Replay but I can never quite remember who it was against) where he just devastated the other team and every single impressive throw he made was difficult in some way, either there was a guy in his face and he rifled a shot off his back foot, or scrambled away from pressure and threw on the run, or just absolutely threaded a needle with spectacular touch and accuracy. It was one of the most impressive QB performances I've ever seen. It wasn't like he threw for 6TDs, it just seemed like every single throw he made was difficult in a different way and nothing the defense did mattered, he was beating them just by being such a pure, brilliant thrower.
#63 by Steve in WI // Apr 23, 2013 - 4:50pm
Are you thinking of the game against the Eagles in 2011? I remember that game well for a handful of really ridiculous throws that Cutler made; I do not remember if he was really impressive the whole game or not, but I know that the Bears won and that at the time the Eagles were pretty highly respected.
#65 by Nathan // Apr 23, 2013 - 5:05pm
I actually remember it being against the Giants but I know that's not right because I've looked for it before and it doesn't exist... I think it could have been the Vikings. It was definately an NFC team... I root for the Eagles in the NFC so I'm pretty sure I would have remembered if it was that game. I also think it was 2009 or 2010. I think it was nationally televised as well.
It could have been either this game or this game or this game.
I do remember we were talking in either the weekly thread or Audibles how it was Cutler's most impressive game as a Bear and maybe his best game as a pro.
#66 by Karl Cuba // Apr 23, 2013 - 6:17pm
I think you could be talking about a Lions game in Suh's rookie year. I think that would put him under Mike Martz and without an offensive line against a decent Lions D led by a ferocious pass rush. I'm sure I remember a game like that, every throw was made after evading the rush or scrambling away from a berserk Lion.
#67 by Aaron Brooks G… // Apr 23, 2013 - 6:32pm
I think it was the 2nd CHI-DET game in 2011. In the first game, Detroit's rush got there, but he still completed a maddening amount of passes with ridiculous degrees of difficulty.
In the second game, he was just fast enough to beat the rush, and Detroit couldn't stop him
#74 by Independent George // Apr 24, 2013 - 10:53am
Honestly, what you're describing really fits all of those games. I distinctly remember two games against Detroit where he kept completing passes despite being hit within three seconds of every single snap. In the Giants game, he got sacked 10 times and I believe left the game at halftime.
I know I sound like a Cutler apologist, but I've watched him regularly throw through tight windows to receivers who can't get open, while being sodomized because his OL can't block. I'm a Giants fan in Chicago, and don't have any real emotional attachment to Cutler or the Bears, so it always amuses me when Bears fans dump on what's easily their best QB in living memory.
Cutler makes more than his share of mental mistakes, but his upside is at least as good as Flacco, Romo, or Eli. The problem is that he's been dealing with the Bears offense for so long that I think he's some really, really bad habits imprinted into his psyche. Every time he drops back, he looks like he's ready to run for his life if his first read is covered, even if (miraculously) the blocking is actually holding up. He's better than people give him credit for, but there's a real possibility that he's damaged goods at this point.
#78 by Steve in WI // Apr 24, 2013 - 12:22pm
I'm a Bears fan and I grew up in the Chicago area. I don't think there's anything particularly ignorant about the Bears' fan base compared to the rest of the NFL, but there is definitely a loud minority of fans who have ridiculous opinions. I remember hearing people saying after the 2010 NFC championship game that the Bears should get rid of Cutler and let Caleb Hanie be their starter.
#75 by nat // Apr 24, 2013 - 11:07am
Strange. Wasn't he 9/19, 123 yards, 0 TDs, 68.5 rating, -6 DYAR in that game? (Nov 13, 2011) The Bears won on the strength of multiple return TDs and other turnovers.
Or do you mean some other game, perhaps in another year? He was much better in the first Detroit game of that year, for example.
#77 by Independent George // Apr 24, 2013 - 11:59am
It was the first game that year - the MNF game where he was getting destroyed. The Quick Reads from that game describes it well:
When we invent BVOA (Blocking-adjusted Value Over Average), Jay Cutler will be its patron saint. It was remarkable watching him survive on Monday night, let alone thrive, evading one Lions lineman after another and picking up first downs. Cutler was like the hero in a zombie movie, fighting valiantly and alone against wave after wave of relentless attackers, until finally he was overwhelmed and Ndamukong Suh ate his brain, which drew the requisite 15-yard penalty.
ETA: man, the comments in page are gold.
My initial theory on last night's game was that the Bears' plan was to specifically instruct the offensive linemen to let Detroit defenders through, where they would undoubtedly rough Cutler and allow Chicago to move down the field 15 yards at a time. Brilliant!
Calling the Bear's O-Line (I'm looking at you Frank Omiyale) turnstiles is an insult to turnstiles, they at least hit you in the nuts as you got through.
I don't watch much Bears or Lions, but gosh that was some terrible O-line play! It seemed like every passing play, the sequence of events was:
1) Cutler takes the snap
2) Cutler dodges, ducks, or levitates above an unblocked Suh
3) Cutler runs away from another Detroit D-lineman who won a battle on the opposite side
4) Cutler hurls a desperate pass, on target a surprising percentage of the time, while in the grasp of two more pursuing Lions defenders.
5) Suh comes up and body slams Cutler five seconds after the play is over.
#81 by Nathan // Apr 24, 2013 - 2:18pm
I think it was this game. Vikings / Bears on MNF from 2011. I'm watching it on replay now, Cutler's first three throws are all just jaw dropping, the first is an absolute laser through the secondary, the second is a 60 yard bomb, and the third is a RB screen which should have been blown up (Jared Allen recognizes it and bails on his rush) but wasn't because of a perfect teardrop touch pass that floats like 2 inches over his hands and drops right into Forte's lap. Then Forte cuts a run back and Cutler leads him around the edge and cuts Jared Allen.
#82 by nat // Apr 24, 2013 - 2:24pm
Remarking on that first game makes more sense... Which is why I was confused when the earlier posters seemed so certain that it was the second 2011 Chi-Det game that showcased Cutler's skills more.
Still, they lost and scored just 13 points in that first game. Maybe Cutler's particular skills don't actually have a lot of value in terms of scoring points and winning games, even when they come to the fore. That's what his DYAR/DVOA history suggests anyway.
#84 by Jimmy // Apr 24, 2013 - 5:16pm
If the receivers don't catch the ball there isn't a lot the qb can do about it. Many, many egregious drops, even more so considering the plays Cutler was making despite constant pressure and getting beaten black and blue.
#13 by JasonG (not verified) // Apr 22, 2013 - 4:26pm
FWIW, I am very excited for the Emery/Trestman era. Where did the dynamic Forte go? I'm sure Trestman will get him in space more. Zero production from TE/FB and near zero for Bush. I expect all that to improve drastically as well. Would be really nice if both Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffrey can stay in the line-up for the majority of the year. If WR corps is mostly set throughout the year, it could be a very productive unit.
On the other hand, many aren't paying much attention to the defense. Tillman and Jennings had career years and are getting older. I'm fairly sure those to aren't going to the Pro-Bowl again this season. Peppers and Briggs, older as well. Conte is fast but so tiny. A big hit is going to break him in half. Major Wright (all Bears safeties for the past decade actually) can't seem to avoid injury either. This is all to say, you can't just assume the D will be at the level it was at last year (especially that crazy takeaway binge). I expect a decline on that side, hopefully not too significant though. Then again, if the offense is more competent, the D has a better chance to stay healthy and productive.
I don't see Hester returning to former glory. He used to be the fastest guy on the field. That has nothing to do with "being in the offense's meetings". He's simply not as dynamic as he once was no matter if his ST concentration is 100% or 50%. Maybe teams (they are risk-averse and slow to adapt almost to a comical level) won't notice though and will continue to gift the Bears consistently good field position.
#57 by Steve in WI // Apr 23, 2013 - 9:46am
Regarding the defense, I'm more optimistic about Tillman and Jennings than you are (though I agree that it's going to be hard for them to be as good as they were last year). Peppers concerns me, but hopefully his injury was a large part of what made him less effective last year. Agreed that the safeties don't look strong.
As far as Hester goes, I agree that speed is the main issue, but watching games last year it just seemed like there was something wrong with his decision-making too (being slower doesn't cause you to run backwards or across the field to get tackled for no return instead of at least getting some yards). Maybe focusing on the return game will help with that; I don't know how plausible that is. My main argument for giving him another year is that, as you said, teams are slow to adapt and they'll probably still kick away from him. I remember one game in particular last season (Carolina?) where the Bears got the ball on the 40-yard line or so every possession because the opponent flat out would not kick to Hester...which left me scratching my head because the Hester I saw last season was bad enough to kick to for sure.
One theory I heard on the radio is that with the Bears moving in a more offense-oriented direction, they'll stop paying attention to the return game because they're not going to be counting on great field position to set up drives. While I know that's an oversimplification (no team, no matter how good the offense, wants to start drives with poor field position), I hope that's not true.
#16 by peterplaysbass // Apr 22, 2013 - 4:55pm
It's great to see an NFC North team! I'm looking forward to the Vikings article.
Chicago looks to be pretty similar this year as last year's version. I'm guessing we'll hear a lot of "Brian WHO?" jokes from broadcast color commentary as the Bears' defense puts on a few smothering displays this season.
Cutler strikes me as a guy who doesn't care and doesn't try, and I think people decide this is why he's not as good as we all think he could be. On the other hand, I do hear about his high intelligence and strong work ethic also, so who knows what's actually happening? It's baffling. Easy answers include the o-line, the receivers and Cutler's supposed poor attitude, but it could be something deeper and less fixable.
#56 by Steve in WI // Apr 23, 2013 - 9:39am
I hope you're right about them being similar. I think if the defense holds together and there's some offensive improvement thanks to Trestman, they're a playoff team.
I don't know what it is about Cutler that makes so many people question his attitude. I think it's partially that the media resents him for being so uncommunicative with them, but it has to be more than that. It feels like this is the new version of questioning his toughness (which thankfully seems to have stopped), and to me it just distracts from the issue at hand: is he (or is he capable of becoming) a solid to elite quarterback? The only mental side of that I worry about is his decision-making, because he does force throws and he does hold on to the ball too long at times. I don't question his dedication or desire to win because I just don't see any reason to.
Selfishly, I'm really hoping Cutler has a career season and improves under Trestman, because I don't see the Bears being competitive for the next few years if he tanks and they cut him loose (unless they get lucky and find Russell Wilson 2.0 in the middle rounds of the draft).
#58 by peterplaysbass // Apr 23, 2013 - 10:01am
I think you're right when you say the next few years may be heavily determined by Cutler's next season. It will be very interesting to see what happens to both Chicago and Cutler if they part ways.
#70 by TomC // Apr 23, 2013 - 10:30pm
Cutler strikes me as a guy who doesn't care and doesn't try
Based on what? Body language? Quotes to the media?
I am continually amazed at the level to which even the sophisticated sports fan believes he can divine the inner workings of a player's brain from almost zero data. Really, unless you're in the locker room or hanging out regularly one on one with the guy, I think you have absolutely no idea.
#73 by peterplaysbass // Apr 24, 2013 - 10:48am
Yeah, it's more of an impression or intuition than anything objective. I was living in Colorado during Cutler's time with Denver and so I saw and heard a lot of media coverage of the guy before he was traded.
I continue to favor the data and give him the benefit of the doubt when trying to be objective about his value, but I'm not always trying to be objective about it. Right or wrong, the guy strikes me as incredibly talented and somewhat entitled, sometimes living off of being just good enough with mediocre effort. If I was good enough to be a starter for several years with less than average effort, it would be awfully tempting. Low cost, high benefit (from Cutler's perspective).
#50 by Jimmy // Apr 23, 2013 - 7:23am
I couldn't really disagree with you much more. Technically close to perfect, quick, immensely powerful and amazing field vision. You know some pundits say that if you want to know what is really happening on any play you have to take your eye off the ball? It is true, you watch Peppers instead, let him take your eye to the play, every single time with mechanical precision. You can also play the 'They aren't actually going to leave their tackle on an island!' game which is when he flattens the QB just about every time. Injury or no, he is still a monster.
#39 by Sifter // Apr 22, 2013 - 6:39pm
I think the Bears should draft a QB early(ish) this year. Cutler in the last year of his contract, and he hasn't been great - all we hear is, promises, excuses, how talented he is and more hot air. Doesn't cut it if the performances aren't there. Drafting a young QB might light a fire under Jay. Maybe another QB deals better with the line/receiver issues. Maybe another QB fits the Trestman offense better. Bears don't have much draft ammunition this year to move around, but if there is a QB they like that falls to them, they shouldn't hesitate.
#55 by Steve in WI // Apr 23, 2013 - 9:27am
Yeah, I'd definitely like them to take a QB but given their other needs I don't want them to do it early. I like the decision not to extend Cutler and to wait and see how he does this year, but the only way I'd take a QB in the first round is if I was reasonably confident that he would be better than Cutler (if not this year, then in the future). This year, even if the Bears had the #1 pick, I'm not sure any of the QBs available look like safe bets.
#64 by Sifter // Apr 23, 2013 - 4:57pm
Will be a good test for Emery if Geno Smith falls to #20 as some predict (based on the Bills taking Nassib or Barkley at #8). I personally would take him at #20. Then you could try and trade either he or Cutler in September sometime when a desperate team with an injury or a poor looking QB might want to make a desperate move. I'm looking at the Eagles haha
#79 by Steve in WI // Apr 24, 2013 - 12:29pm
I wouldn't take Smith unless the Bears front office is already planning for Cutler to be gone after this season. Operating under the assumption that Cutler will be re-signed if he excels this year, and that the Bears want that, I don't like taking Smith in the 1st round. The way I see it, what are the chances that Smith will be significantly better than Cutler? I don't see anyone predicting that he'll be a Pro Bowler.
And they're a team with plenty of holes all over who only has 5 picks this draft. I would really like to see them trade down for a couple more, but I'm hearing that everybody wants to trade down this year so I don't think it'll happen.
#53 by Jimmy // Apr 23, 2013 - 7:42am
Ben Muth wrote that Bushrod is above average as a run blocker and in pass protection. There appears to be a rupture in the hive mind. I propose a football outsiders intramural fight to settle it once and for all.
And no offence Andy but I know who my money is on.
#61 by Slaymont Harris (not verified) // Apr 23, 2013 - 4:07pm
This could change, but Trestman said that Hester will not be playing WR this year and will be a special teamer exclusively (as opposed to "almost exclusively"). He had zero WR reps in the minicamp.
James Brown is currently the starter over Carimi at guard.