The Rick Dennison model: Rushing attack with low interceptions


The Rick Dennison model: Rushing attack with low interceptions

Another name that has emerged as a Bears head coaching candidate is Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. Many are quick to link time spent with Jay Cutler in Denver as the primary reason Dennison could be tabbed as Lovie Smith's successor, but there is more to it than that.
To be an NFL head coach, you should have knowledge of both sides of the ball. Its one reason Smith was relieved of his duties as head coach. Offensive failures cannot continue, according to Phil Emery, and I dont think Bears fans would appreciate any drop-off in defensive production, either.
Dennison is an interesting candidate because he played linebacker for the Broncos from 1982-1990, with his then teammate, Gary Kubiak. But his coaching career has focused mostly on the offensive side of the ball since 1995. Dennison did serve as the Denver's special teams coach from 1997-2000, when the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls. It gives Dennison knowledge of roster development both offensively and defensively, but its been primarily an offensive focus -- which is normally not the case with former players who coach to crossover.
Related: Why Bruce Arians could be the right call
Regardless, Dennison has had tremendous success as an offensive coordinator in Denver, and since joining Houston in 2010. His mission statement of running the football, combined with gameplans to deliver them has been more than effective. In 2011, Houston set a franchise record with 2,448 rushing yards (153 yards per game) and 546 rushing attempts, second most in the NFL. In a pass-happy league, Dennison accomplished this goal with three different quarterbacks last year, who threw a franchise low nine interceptions while making the playoffs. Dennisons encore in 2012 was a ranking of fourth in the NFL in rushing (140.3 ypg) while the Texans now travel to New England this weekend for a Divisional Round matchup with the Patriots.
Dennisons philosophy is run and play-action pass, which is directly influenced from his coaching tree. Kubiak and Dennison are direct disciples of their mentor, former Denver Broncos and current Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan. It seems, however, the teacher is still schooling his pupils, as Shanahans Redskins led the NFL this year in rushing, averaging more than 160 yards per game.
Dennison is an ideal fit for the Bears because he will implement the same offense Cutler has been most successful running in the NFL. Keep in mind, Cutler was drafted in Denver to run this specific offense. It suits his skills well. Also keep in mind, Dennison and Cutler were in charge of the NFLs second-ranked offense during their time together in Denver.
More: Dennison has the "Cutler connection"
The only thing I struggle with is whether a grind-it-out, time-of-possession offense can win against fast-break Green Bay in the division. The Texans did not break through to the playoffs until Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was injured and could not play. As a matter of fact, Houston had never beaten Indianapolis since the franchise's inception until last year. Indianapolis owned the Texans in the AFC South Division, much like many feel Green Bay owns the Bears in the NFC North. For good measure, Green Bay hammered the Texans this year, 42-24, in a game that was more a rout than the score indicated. Aaron Rodgers threw for six touchdown passes in the win.
Cutler has been introduced to more four- and five-wide receiver offenses during his time with the Bears, which Dennison may incorporate but that is not his base. Playing catch-up is a problem with this style of offense, which may not be in the Bears cards unless Rodgers gets hurt like Manning did.

Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?


Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?

Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down where the Bears go at QB following Brian Hoyer’s injury and evaluate the defense’s gutsy performance on Thursday night against the Packers despite numerous injuries. Plus, a look at the big picture and who can help the Bears down the road.

Check out the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast here:

Bears Grades: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers

Bears Grades: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. – The Bears could scarcely have started off any worse Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers, with exactly one positive play in the entire first quarter.

And then things got bad.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer, having his worst outing since succeeding Jay Cutler, sustained a broken left forearm when he was hit by Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers after releasing a second-quarter pass. Matt Barkley replaced Hoyer, but the focus now centers on Jay Cutler returning from a thumb injury suffered in game two vs. Philadelphia, and Cutler starting a week from Monday in Soldier Field against the currently undefeated Minnesota Vikings.

“When [Cutler’s return] is going to be,” said coach John Fox, “I can’t say.”

Regardless of the quarterback, the offense showed none of the efficiency exhibited in the last four games under Hoyer. The Packers were good enough to encroach before the first snap; after the gratis five yards, the Bears netted exactly zero on three snaps before punting. The Bears failed to gain a yard on eight of their first nine plays

By the end of the first half the Bears were without both starting guards and their starting quarterback, with left guard Josh Sitton inactive due to an ankle injury and Kyle Long sidelined in the second quarter.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The offensive finished with 189 total yards, the lowest Bears total since game three of the 2015 season, in Seattle against the Seahawks (146).

“It was just a weird night,” said tight end Zach Miller.

Quarterback: F-    

Brian Hoyer was uncharacteristically inaccurate in the first half, missing on five of his first six passes and finished with 4-for-11 passing for 49 yards and a 50.9 rating. Worst of all, he overthrew a wide open Josh Bellamy on a seam route in the second quarter with Bellamy well behind the defense.

Matt Barkley, who last threw passes (three, all incomplete) for the Philadelphia Eagles in November 2014, fared poorly, not unexpectedly. Barkley completed six of 15 throws, was sacked once and threw two interceptions.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen the next couple weeks,” said Barkley, alluding to the uncertain status of Cutler. “I know I can do the job. ... I know I’m better than that.”

Running back: D+

With Hoyer gone, the Packers clamped down on the Bears’ rushing plans. But Ka’Deem Carey did an excellent job of gaining yards after contact, both on rushes and pass receptions. Carey finished with 48 rushing yards on 10 carries and caught his only pass target for nine.

Jordan Howard was completely shut down in the first quarter but recovered somewhat with an 11-yard carry and another for nine.

Receivers: B-

Quarterback issues and glaring inaccuracies rendered receivers as largely non-factors. Josh Bellamy gave the Bears their only positive play in the first quarter, with a 25-yard catch for a third-down conversion.

But while Alshon Jeffery was targeted 11 times, he finished with only three receptions. Zach Miller caught two of five. “You have to dial it back a little bit,” Miller said, “but we tried to stick to the game plan.”

Offensive line: D

The line was without Josh Sitton (inactive because of an ankle injury). Eric Kush started at left guard, his second NFL start since coming into the league in 2013.

Protection was about as good as could be expected overall, with Barkley taking one sack and Hoyer taking the huge hit on which he suffered his broken arm. But the Packers managed just five total hits on Bears quarterbacks and the run game averaged 3.8 yards per carry.

Coaching: C

What coaches could have done differently with the personnel available is difficult to analyze. Eventually the defense caved in because of the offense being unable to generate any continuity.