15 on 6: Cutler must expect physical game for WR's

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15 on 6: Cutler must expect physical game for WR's

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010
11:39 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

There are great defensive matchups for both sides as the Bears (6-3) prepare to take on the Dolphins (5-4) on the road. I will focus on Jay Cutler's matchups as the Miami Dolphins have, what I believe to be, a very talented secondary.

The Bears must make this their most physical game to date. Miami is a physical team, and desire to turn every game they play into a slugfest. This will have a big impact relating to the Bears WR's who must get off the ball vs. press coverage.

Devin Hester and the rest of the wideouts must deal with Sean Smith who is a legit 6'3" and 214 lbs. and can run. Vontea Davis is no slouch either, at 5'11 and 205 lbs. Plus, Miami recently added former Green Bay Packer Al Harris - a rangy veteran at 6'3" 190 lbs., but is tremendous in bump and run coverage. I did not see him play last week and do not know his health status, but I certainly remember lining up against him. He was solid then, but I can't necessarily say he is that same player today coming off his injury.

These matchups boil down to release techniques, as corners with long arms want to slow down speedy WR's. They get up in a receivers face and do not want them to get going. At the snap of the ball, they use their long arms to hold up WR's creating a more equal playing field when dealing with foot speed.

Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake and Jay need to demand they win at the LOS (Line of Scrimmage). As we all know, the Bears wideouts are very young. This is where they must go back to training camp and tap into all those one-on-one sessions with a big corner like Charles Tillman or Zack Bowman.

The Washington game would be another reference where I thought the Bears receivers saw a lot of bump-and-run looks. Remember the interception by DeAngelo Hall on the slant route to Johnny Knox? They have to win those battles for Jay and the Bears to have success in the passing game.

The run game should be fine with Mike Martz's renewed commitment to balance. The Dolphins give up four yards a rush and the Bears have an opportunity to pop some big runs if Martz can dial up the right run against the right blitz. It's more about how Mike gets a feel for Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's tenancies during the game.

It would be hard for the Dolphins to throw in something totally new on such a short week. They will call what they do well and stick with their basic blitz packages. The same can be said for the Bears offensively since there is just not enough time to work in exotic material and feel confident with the execution.

Keep calling movement plays

We all witnessed Michael Vick Monday night, and while Jay is not Mike, he has become increasingly dangerous with his legs the past two weeks. Dashes, bootlegs, waggles and playaction half rolls with seven-man protection are all great play calls to move the pocket. They also put Jay in position to be a threat to run, and he has thrown the ball extremely well on the move, at times, even better than straight dropback plays.

Lastly, Jay cannot get frustrated! As much as Jay wants receivers to win these matchups, he has to be ready to move on in his reads.

Do Not Beg them to get open! Jay's read may dictate a certain wideout must win, but coverage may delay the timing.

This should be a tight game in Miami.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

With Bears players reporting for training camp Wednesday, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz have been spending the last two weeks looking at three burning questions at each position group. The series concludes with Boden’ s look at the coaching staff.

1. Can John Fox find a balance between necessary snaps, and staying healthy?

Unless he’s practicing this team every day (he’s not) and hitting every day (he’s not doing that, either), a coach really can’t be blamed for injuries. That out-of-his-hands factor has kept his first two years from a true evaluation, yet every team has to deal with them. He and Ryan Pace have been particularly hamstrung (pun intended) by the fact so many key, high draft picks/building blocks and impact free agent signings (see Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Royal) have spent significant time on the sidelines. 

Fox tweaked the workout schedule in Bourbonnais with more consistent start times (all in the 11 a.m. hour), mixing in off-days and walk-throughs. Yet there are heavy competitions to sift through, particularly at wide receiver, cornerback, and safety, and projected starters must learn to get used to each other (and the offense get used to Mike Glennon) so that miscommunication is at a minimum. The Falcons, Buccaneers, Steelers and Packers won’t wait for them to get on the same page over the first 19 days of the regular season.

2. How does Dowell Loggains divide up quarterback snaps?

His starting quarterback basically hasn’t played since 2014 and is trying to master a new system, working with new receivers. All while Mike Glennon tries to be “all systems go”-ready on Sept. 10. Loggains is also in charge of developing the quarterback of the future, who never previously worked under center or called a huddle. If Mitch Trubisky isn’t the backup to start the season, Mark Sanchez, who missed all of minicamp with a knee injury, has to gain enough of a comfort level with the playbook and his receivers to slide in in the event of an emergency. These practices usually top out at about two hours, maybe a bit longer. Will there basically be two practices going on at the same time? If so, how can Loggains and the offensive assistants not overdo it for those at other positions?

3. Are Vic Fangio and Leonard Floyd tied at the hip?

The defensive coordinator still oversees all the position groups, but will focus particularly on the oustide linebackers and the prized pupil, Leonard Floyd. Fangio says he liked what he’s seen of the 2016 first-round pick this off-season, once he recovered from his second concussion. But he said all the bumps, bruises, strains, pulls, and bell-ringing didn’t mean anything more than an incomplete rookie grade. At this point, he’d probably like to be joined to Floyd’s hip in Bourbonnais, because that means he’ll be staying on the practice field, learning. “3b” in this category would be Ed Donatell sorting through a long list of young defensive backs to find the right pieces to keep for the present and future, in addition to finding four starters who’ll take the ball away a lot better than they’ve done the past two seasons.

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Friday's unit: the offensive line. 

1. Will Kyle Long and Josh Sitton flip spots, and will it be effective?

One of the more intriguing storylines to come out of the Bears’ offseason program was the possibility of a Kyle Long-Josh Sitton guard swap, with Long moving from right to left and Sitton to left to right. The prevailing wisdom is that Long’s athleticism would be better suited for the pulls needed at left guard, while Sitton has made Pro Bowls at both positions. But is it prudent for the Bears to make this switch with Long still recovering from November ankle surgery and some nasty complications that came after it? He’s shown he’s skilled enough to already make one position switch on the offensive line (from right tackle to right guard), so there’s no reason to doubt he couldn’t handle another so long as he’s healthy. We’ll see where he is next week. 

“You want flexibility,” coach John Fox said. “You don’t want as much flexibility as we had to use a year ago because we had to play so many guys due to injury. But we’re messing around with (Sitton) and Kyle both playing opposite sides, whether one’s on the left, one’s on the right. We’ll get those looks in camp, we got plenty of time.”

2. Can Charles Leno Jr. capitalize on a contract year?

Leno has been a pleasant surprise given the low expectations usually set for seventh-round picks. He started every game in 2016, checking off an important box for John Fox — reliability. Whether Leno can be more than a reliable player at left tackle, though, remains to be seen (if the Bears thought he were, wouldn’t they have signed him to an extension by now?). He has one more training camp and 16 games to prove he’s worthy of a deal to be the Bears (or someone else’s) left tackle of the future. Otherwise, the Bears may look to a 2018 draft class rich in tackles led by Texas’ Connor Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. 

“I know if I take care of my business out here, everything else will take care of itself,” Leno said. 

3. Will Hroniss Grasu survive the roster crunch?

A year ago, Grasu was coming off a promising rookie season and was in line to be the Bears’ starting center. But the Oregon product tore his ACL in August, and Cody Whitehair thrived after a last-minute move from guard to center. If the Bears keep eight offensive lineman this year, Grasu could be squeezed out: Leno, Long, Whitehair, Sitton and Bobby Massie are the likely starters, with Eric Kush and Tom Compton filling reserve roles. That leaves one spot, either for fifth-round guard Jordan Morgan or Grasu. The Bears could try to stash Morgan, who played his college ball at Division-II Kutztown, on the practice squad and keep Grasu. But Grasu doesn’t have flexibility to play another position besides center, which could hurt his case.