CSN analyst Jim Miller provides his take on the Bears' 33-28 win over the Chargers Thursday night.
1. It’s clear Jay Cutler is still a “work in progress” Marc Trestman’s referring to in terms of the offense. Yes, there are some other things it entails like offensive line shuffling which seemed to come more into focus Thursday night with the positive play of right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills. When Cutler gets comfortable is when the offense will finally take off. The first two sacks in last night's game are prime examples of where Jay could have avoided them by simply getting the ball out of his hand. Both plays were “throw away” opportunities for Cutler.
The interception is also another indicator. As much trust as Cutler has in Brandon Marshall, he can’t beg Marshall to be open. Jay has three choices on the play: 1. move on in his progression 2. throw the ball away or 3. tuck the ball and run rather than force it into coverage. The Bears were already in San Diego territory after Conte’s interception. At the very minimum, the Bears have to come away with a field goal or punt the football, playing field position by backing San Diego up to their goal line. It is the smarter play given the situation.
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2. It’s looking more and more obvious that Long and Jon Bostic are going to be pretty solid players for the Bears. Kyle Long can get by with his brute strength and athleticism alone. When he hones his techniques and knowledge of assignments is when he will really be a force. Bostic made the hit of the night on San Diego WR Mike Willie. His read and recognition is starting to come into play where he is just reacting like diagnosing the WR screen last night to blow it up.
DJ Williams might be backing up Bostic at this point. Bostic is not a liability if he were to start and that hit just gave him some street credibility with veteran players. Right tackle Mills would be a bonus if he is able to contribute.
3. I’m not going to get too excited about the Bears pass rush from Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin. Both had sacks. For Wootton, it was against rookie DJ Fluker. The Alabama product is going to be a good right tackle, but busted his assignment on the play. For McClellin, it was against Max Starks, who is not scheduled to be the starter. Starks is in competition with King Dunlap, who has been dealing with a hip injury. Both McClellin and Wootton got good work in and continue to improve.
4. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is playing with some things on defense. He showed press man single safety quite a bit vs. Carolina and now the linebacker mug look unveiled vs. the Chargers. Lovie Smith used both as frequently as the Tampa 2 defense where he made his name. I’ve also seen a cornerback trail technique when they are in off coverage. It led to the interception for safety Chris Conte. The corners play off, but lock onto WRs, depending on the route combination. Tim Jennings trailed a deep-in cut to disrupt quarterback Phillip Rivers' throw.
5. Running the football is going to protect Cutler more than anything. Last night, the Bears ran the ball 17 times in the first half compared to 10 passes. Trestman still has not unveiled the extent to which running back Matt Forte will be utilized in short dump-off passes which in essence are an extension of the run game.