Mullin: Great QBs make everyone on field a 'weapon'

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Mullin: Great QBs make everyone on field a 'weapon'

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011
Posted: 3:36 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Continuing an investigation...

A colleaguecompetitor who will remain nameless (so our bosses dont chirp about us fraternizing with enemies (yes, people can compete flat-out and have some good chat along the way) and I shared some thoughts from time to time. Like now.

The subject was this weapons thing and how the Bears havent given Jay Cutler any. Well, we noted that that in 2008, Denver Cutler was the exalted Pro Bowl quarterback with weapons that included receivers Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokely and Tony Scheffler, and running backs Peyton Hillis, Michael Pittman and Selvin Young, all of whom averaged more than 4 yards per carry. The Broncos scored 370 points and finished 8-8 with some input from a bad defense.

That same season, Chicago Kyle OrtonRex Grossman had Rashied Davis, new-receiver Devin Hester, unhealthy Brandon Lloyd (five starts) and old Marty Booker to throw to. The Bears were 9-7 and scored 375 with Josh Beekman starting at left guard and John St. Clair at left tackle.

Weapons are nice. Great quarterbacks make everyone a weapon.

Salty Peppers?

Probably not. But Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, generally regarded as a gentleman and class act on the field, was micd up during the Green Bay game and you can catch him on NFL Networks Sound FX at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Peppers had some conversations with officials as well as players so it should be good listening.

Looking a little deeper...

A lack of investment in the offensive line is cited as the primary source of problems for Cutler, based on the assumption that the bombardment hes been too often under has made him a scared quarterback with declining skills. That doesnt work, for reasons beyond the fact that the Bears invested a first-round draft choice in a tackle, tried to re-sign an aging veteran center for one year at 4 million and then arguably overpaid for a former start as the potential answer.

The bigger reason is that Cutler is without question one of the NFLs toughest quarterbacks. But he is being given something of a pass in part because of the 52 sacks he took last season. Never a good thing, and Cutlers passer ratings in fact improved after mid-season when the offensive line stabilized and playcallinggame-planning changed for the better.

But just for sake of comparison, Aaron Rodgers was sacked 50 times in 2009 and posted a passer rating of 103.2 for the year, best for any of his three full seasons. Cutlers mark last season was 86.3, right about in line with his career level around 84.

When Cutler was sacked 35 times in 2009, he threw 26 interceptions in a forgettable year under Ron Turner, and he had the lowest passer rating (76.8) of his career.

The point is not to serve as an apologist for either the offensive line or the organization. But to simply cite protection issues and a receiver group of modest abilities is to look at a snapshot and miss the overall.

On the plus side...

Cutler is off to a start unlike just about any other in Bears quarterback franchise history, at least for yardage. Through three games Cutler is averaging 286 passing yards per game, vs. the next-highest Bears total for a season, 240 by Erik Kramer in 1995.

On the fence...

The 1-2 start has given Cutler a .500 record (34-34 regular season, 1-1 playoffs) as a starting NFL quarterback...

On the run...

The Green Bay Packers held running back Matt Forte to 82 total yards on Sunday, notable perhaps because for his career, Forte is averaging 100.7 yards through 51 games. Only Walter Payton (111.9) averaged more yards per Bears game for his career... Since coming into the league in 2008, only Chris JohnsonTennessee, Adrian PetersonMinnesota and Maurice Jones-DrewJacksonville have netted more yards, and only Baltimore running back Ray Rice (1,709) has more receiving yards than Fortes 1,727.

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.