Scouting Chicago: The Formula for Cutler’s Success
1. This Bears coaching staff finally found the formula for Jay Cutler: short, simple passes that get the ball out quickly. The beauty is you don’t need an expensive offensive line to run this. (Hence the overachieving but still not enthralling 2014 seventh-rounder Charles Leno starting at left tackle.) The quicker Cutler gets the ball out, the more likely he is to play with discipline, both in his mechanics and decision-making—two areas in which he has waivered.
2. There’s a fine line that new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains (last year’s quarterback coach, and longtime friend of predecessor Adam Gase) has to walk in keeping a systematic leash on Cutler. Because you don’t want to negate Cutler’s tremendous playmaking talent. Last season Cutler almost singlehandedly won games against the Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers with fourth quarter magic. He’s one of the best pure fastball throwers in the league, and his downfield touch passes, particularly in the red zone, have really improved. Some of his best work last season came when he extended plays outside the pocket late in the down. Loggains’s greatest challenge as a play-caller will be finding a balance between allowing Cutler to do this and still keeping him attached to the quick-striking system.
3. Matt Forte still has gas in the tank, but the Bears were comfortable saving money by letting him go because Jeremy Langford, at least stylistically, is very similar to Forte.
4. With Martellus Bennett gone and 2015 first-round receiver Kevin White now healthy, the Bears will switch from being a two tight end base offense to a three-receiver base offense. That will aid the quick-passing game and also create more space in the box for runs.
5. The idea that free agent right tackle Bobby Massie will stabilize the O-line is silly. Massie, like most right tackles, is a big-bodied guy who really struggles against top-shelf edge rushers. That’s why the open market left him with a contract worth only $6.5 million in guarantees. The main benefit of Massie’s arrival is it moves fourth-year stud Kyle Long back to guard, where he’s more comfortable and where the Bears badly needed more athleticism.
6. Vic Fangio wants to recreate the type of defense he had as the coordinator in San Francisco (2011-14). That defense was defined by dominant inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. With them, the Niners could afford to play nickel man coverage on almost every snap. Willis and Bowman could both stop the run out of this lighter nickel box, or they could match up to the running back and tight end in solo coverage. It’s no coincidence the Bears went out and got two inside linebackers in free agency: Danny Trevathan from Denver and Jerrell Freeman from Indianapolis. Neither is Willis or Bowman. But both have the swift athleticism to play that same style.
7. The other hallmark of Fangio’s 49ers defense was the potency of his four-man rush. Remember how effective Aldon Smith and Justin Smith were together on stunts? The Smiths’ unique skillsets complemented each other; Aldon with his long arms and powerful hands, Justin with his pure strength. The Bears don’t have these exact types of players, but they’ve still invested in guys who present pass-rushing options. They hope this year’s first-rounder Leonard Floyd can become the edge-rushing cornerstone. Last year’s big free agent signing, Pernell McPhee, is the versatile X-factor, capable of attacking the edge or up the gut. If Floyd contributes as a rookie then inside is where you’ll see McPhee, because seventh-year pro Willie Young needs to be on the field. Young is an edge-bender who also plays the run better than his lanky body type suggests.
8. Where Chicago’s defense falls short (well short) of Fangio’s in San Francisco is at safety. Adrian Amos and (presumably) fourth-round rookie Deon Bush are not alley-running hitters like Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner.
9. Chicago’s secondary as a whole is problematic up the middle. Not just safety, but also backup corner. Outside men Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter are fine. But will undrafted second-year nickel slot man Bryce Callahan get exposed as offenses see more of him? This is why Chicago has invested so heavily in the front seven. If those big men can do their jobs, the Bears can keep both of their questionable safeties back in coverage, giving almost everyone in pass defense some form of help over the top.
10. You should learn this name: Eddie Goldman. The second-round nose tackle improved precipitously as a rookie last season. Goldman has the size, leverage and feet to be a high quality two-gap run defender.
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