Moon: What to expect from BearsSaints

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Moon: What to expect from BearsSaints

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011Posted: 11:20 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
The Bears defensive line ran into something of a problem this week that could be something of a real problem on Sunday.

You always want to study film on an upcoming opponent, to clarify strengths and things to stay from, and to identify weaknesses and things you can exploit. In the case of latter when it came to New Orleans Saints guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, forget about it.

We were trying to find some tape where they actually got beat, defensive tackle Henry Melton said, shaking his head and marveling. It was hard to find.

So will sacks be for Melton, who had two in his first start last Sunday, against Atlanta.

Ouch
If you want a great first-hand idea of what Jay Cutler is going to be put through (at least thats the Saints plan) on Sunday, give a serious read to the analysis of Gregg Williams defenses done by Comcast SportsNet colleague Jim Miller in his "15 on 6" blog.

Jimmy faced Williams defenses, which are distant cousins to the Buddy Ryan groups that had an unspoken bounty deal working on opposing quarterbacks. For all of the fascination with the Bears newfound prowess with the screen pass, Jimmy doesnt see Williams letting the Bears repeat that. And the premium may well be placed on Cutler's accuracy down the field, which gets into a whole other issue, whether his offensive line can protect for that approach to work in the Noise-a-torium known as the Superdome.

Great thought on how to help the young Bears tackles: no-huddle. It worked for Green Bay. Its traditionally a way of minimizing blitz opps. Aaah, but heres the rub: The Packers were at home, this is on the road, and huddling takes time, which is a solid way of keeping Drew Brees and that offense watching.

Think about this

I mentioned this in the main advance for this game but it warrants repeating: Smith's Bears are 42-9 when opponents score 17 or fewer points.

But throw this in along with it, and you get a real glimpse into it takes to make a championship team, which the Bears most definitely believe they are.

Lovie Smith Bears teams are 54-10 when they score 18 or more points.

Now, refine all of this into cause-effect terms:

In the three playoff years under Smith, the Bears were 25-5 when they capped opposing point totals at 17 or less (2005, 11-1); 2006, 8-1; 2010, 6-3). And when they scored 18 or more, the record has been a net 28-1 (2005, 6-0; 2006, 12-0; 2010, 10-1).

What you really see in all this is why the Bears believe they can be something seriously great with Cutler and the offense taking a step up. They know their defense is solid and they win when they play D. When they put points on the board from the offense, they become legitimate NFC Championship or Super Bowl prospects.

Oh, in case youre wondering, the only time in three playoff years when the Bears scored 18 and didnt win the game? The Seattle game last year, a 23-20 loss to Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks.

And finally

With all of that, what happens Sunday?

The Saints are favored, by about a touchdown, which says that the better public isnt convinced that the Bears are as good as an 18-point winner over the Atlanta Falcons, or that the Saints can be beaten at home by a team with an offensive line thatll be given its most severe test since the New York Giants game last season. That was a road game as well.

If this game is early last season, the Saints are the pick. The reason is pretty simple: That offensive line was in real trouble (five different front fives in the first seven games) from the start. This one isnt even in the discussion with that bunch.

Not one starter from the first five games last year is in the same position as he was last year. A lot of ink and sound has been spent talking about the problems of line continuity but in this case, that kind of turnover is a good thing, not a bad one.

What that means is that Cutler will not automatically be in the peril he was last season, and of the five sacks he took against the Falcons, only two of those were the lines fault and Cutler can eliminate others with more timely release.

The Bears defense simply does not get trampled, and the Saints without Marques Colston are missing a huge field-stretching threat. That means that the defense can tighten down on the Saints running game (just a guess here, but they spent a No. 1 pick on Alabamas Mark Ingram not to upgrade their passing offense).

If the Saints cant get the Bears into a shootout and force CutlerMike Martz to abandon balance, the Bears will be 2-0 come sundown:

Bears 23, Saints 20

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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.