BOURBONNAIS – Jay Cutler has said that it can take three years to master an offense. The Bears’ offense on Tuesday looked too often like it will need every one of those thousand days.
It’s only practice but ...
The offense hiccupped badly with a number of new plays installed, to the point where two defensive linemen had interceptions and nose tackle Stephen Paea deflected a third that was intercepted by emerging cornerback Isaiah Frey.
[RELATED: Frey continues a strong bid for Bears' roster spot]
Cutler had a couple of hands-on-hips stare-downs of Brandon Marshall following missed connections, including one that sent a pass sailing to safety Chris Conte. And quarterback and receiver soulmate had a private chat after practice.
“You know we ... we’ll have a talk after practice and get back on the same page,” Cutler said. “It’s a long camp; today didn’t go exactly our way, but that’s how it is. We have to rebound and fix the problem and keep it going.”
Coaches and quarterback wrote some of the problems off to the defensive line not going by the “rules” for practice.
“I think we need to remind them [about the rules] again,” Cutler said, smiling.
But the rushmen were following a version of a technique typically used against a scheme such as Cutler and the Bears are installing. That was cause for concern.
How bad was it?
Cutler air-mailed a throw toward Marshall during 7-on-7 work, the “completion” going straight to Conte, who also intercepted Cutler’s first pass of this training camp.
During a subsequent team session, defensive tackle Henry Melton stuck up a hand, deflected a Cutler pass up in the air and grabbed it before heading toward the end zone.
[RELATED: Bears release first depth chart]
“It was luck,” said Melton, although whether he believed that was another question. “I just put my hand up, and it came to me. It was in the air forever. I just caught it, and scored.”
Coach Marc Trestman called an all-offense huddle to straighten some things out, whereupon Paea tipped the pass that Frey intercepted.
Later in practice, defensive end Shea McCllellin stayed put on a Cutler throw toward the flat and picked that one off, then outran receiver Eric Weems into the end zone.
The last time Cutler was working in a West Coast offense was 2009 under then-coordinator Ron Turner. He had three passes intercepted that season by defensive tackles.
The good and the very not-so-good
The deflected passes have two sides, one OK, one very un-OK.
Defensive linemen have been told that hands-up is all right but trying to bat balls is not. And offensive linemen are limited in how and how hard they may block, meaning the D-linemen don’t have to worry about protecting their legs or such. They won’t be cut-blocked, for instance.
“Batted balls are a lot of things but in practice, [offensive linemen] are not going to try to, up front, knock the defensive linemen down when they bat a ball,” said offensive coordinator and line coach Aaron Kromer.
“One of our rules [for the defense] is really don’t bat a ball in practice. So guys get excited and they can’t help but put their hands up and swat at them. You live with it and you go on to the next play.”
Trestman said that he was not caught up in the tipped passes. Perhaps he privately may be.
Because on the decidedly less-optimistic side, the Bears are working daily to return Cutler to one of the skills inherent in the Trestman and West Coast schemes: getting rid of the ball.
[RELATED -- Fantasy faceoff: Cutler vs. Roethlisberger]
The problem is that against a quick-release passing game, the first commandment, since long four-second rushes won’t be the norm, is “Two steps and get your hands up.”
Exactly what the Bears’ defensive linemen are being told to do. And did.
“That’s a little wrinkle [coordinator Mel Tucker] is bringing to us,” Melton said. “We’re just testing it out right now. We’re going to see how it works for us, and we’ll see if we’re going to run it.”