Miller: Bears facing an identity crisis

318027.jpg

Miller: Bears facing an identity crisis

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
Posted: 8:25 p.m.

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

The Bears have some serious offensive issues tocorrect heading into this weekends divisional matchup against the Green BayPackers. An offensive identity is the biggest concern. By Week 3 in theNFL, you normally know who you are and who you want to be offensively. Shockingly, in year two of Mike Martzssystem, the Bears again cannot identify who they are and are pretending to besomething they are not. If the Bears want to reign victorious; they must run thefootball, protect QB Jay Cutler, have offensive line cohesion and wide receivers must make plays. Bear Down Bear fans because its not lookinggood.You would have thought Mike Martz would have taken theblueprint from last year and built from it! After the bye week last year, the Bears found their identity in Week 8 through a run game that brought balance and preserved Cutlerfrom purchasing a headstone and early burial at Soldier Field. Unfortunately, every Sunday seemed like Cincode Mayo for opposing defenses to enjoy an afternoon Siesta with Jay posing asthe Piata. Only Mike Martz can explain his fascination throwing thefootball every down, but Lovie has stated very clearly what the Bears'blueprint for success needs to be. There must be balance. Yes, Cutlers talents are numerous andcertainly need to be featured in some games, but with solid defense and goodspecial teams the Bears would finish the season 8-8 with those two componentsalone. Why Martz continues to battlethis mission statement is not good for the team and quite frankly, its notgood for Cutlers career.

Sadly, this weekends game is one where Jay needs to throwthe football. Green Bays secondary has been lit up forover 400 yards in consecutive outings and needs to be tested again, but Martzhas lost this option. The plethora ofblitzes DC Dom Capers likes to run have not been executed well and left themvulnerable to big plays it's essentially designed to stop.The 3-4 Blitz Zone is normally a well choreographed defense,but I believe, it has been affected by the lockout. The same defense run by thePittsburgh Steelers had the same issues losing to Baltimore in Week 1. It's an assignment drivendefense where each non- blitzer drops to a certain spot in coverage. The reason it's called a Blitz Zone defenseis because you are calling zone coverage where a defensive player is in placeto defend deep even though you are Blitzing!
Blitzes normally coincide with man to man coverage, which is why theBlitz Zone has been all the rage and why 26 of 32 NFL teams now use someversion of it. The scheme is actually very conservative but it does have an array ofdifferent looks and blitzes, which can be confusing to any OL. Both the Steelers and Packers are ultimately running the same scheme, which is: Blitz Zone cover 3 or Blitz Zone cover 2 amajority of the time. After witnessing the Bears offensive line incorrectly pointout their pass protection assignments versus the Saints last week, this willhave to be a very simple game plan for the Bears, who now have injuries to deal with on their offensive frontline. Gabe Carimi might be a rookie, but at least he knew his assignment andnow he's out. The Bears' offense canonly handle base runs, base pass protections and if they fall behind and haveto throw, they should just put it on Jay by calling a 5 man pass pro. Let Jay worry about the blitzes to:1. Throw the ball away to protect himself.
2. Throw hot to Wrs, who need to expose a GB secondary out of position.

3. Scramble for yardage (Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau hated mobile QB's, given Cam Newtons big day. Jay is capable)

I also hope Jay uses the snap count to his advantage to getclues from the Green Baydefense. A lot of double cadence andquick count needs to be called in the huddle by Jay for nothing more than whatmight become self preservation.

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.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.