Will Cutler continue Monday night 'magic?'

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Will Cutler continue Monday night 'magic?'

Time for a few night moves from Jay Cutler. That hasnt always been easy for the Bears quarterback to accomplish.

The Bears have lost all four of their Sunday night games behind Cutler in addition to a Thursday Night Football debacle in San Francisco when Cutler threw five interceptions. A win at Miami last year stands as the lonely W but in none of those six night games did Cutler post a passer rating higher than 79.6 and three were below 50.

Given that the Bears have two Sunday night NFC North games scheduled at this point (Oct. 16 vs. Minnesota, Dec. 25 at Green Bay), this Sabbath issue needs to be worked out in the interest of division chances.

But the Detroit Lions are a Monday night situation, an altogether different Cutler story.

Monday magic

The Bears have won all three of their Monday Night Football appearances with Cutler and the lowest passer rating of the three was an 82.5 against the Green Bay Packers last season. His other two MNFs were at the expense of the Minnesota Vikings with ratings of 108.4 and 106.6.

What Cutler has inexplicably been able to do on Bears Monday nights has been to deliver impact throws. In the three MNF games Cutler has thrown eight touchdown passes vs. three interceptions.

Accordingly, the Bears have averaged 32 points per Monday night Cutler game.

Reasons for Cutlers erratic night play have included speculation that his diabetes leaves him run down or vision-impaired later in days. But the sometimes-spectacular play on Monday nights make clear conclusions impossible.

A conclusion that is very possible to make, however, is that Cutler needs to improve significantly and immediately.

His passer rating has slid from a 107.8 in the opener vs. Atlanta to 46.7 against the secondary-challenged Carolina Panthers in a game when he was sacked only once and had a ground game piling up 224 yards. Cutler ranks 26th in the NFL for passer rating (77.8), right below Rex Grossman and ahead of only rookies Andy Dalton and Blaine Gabbert plus Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel and Kerry Collins. His 54.2 completion percentage ranks 28th.

You look at our offense right now and we need to get more from our passing game, coach Lovie Smith said. We got more from our run game last week. I'm pleased with how we're protecting the football and some of those things like that, but there will come a time when we have to do a better job passing the ball, and we will. Hopefully it will be this week.

Lining up
Bears coaches typically do not divulge decisions on personnel until late on game days. So not surprisingly, coach Mike Tice hasn't identified his starters at right guard and tackle.

But decisions are virtually always made on the basis of winning this game. And before running through a glowing assessment of Lance Louis performance at right tackle, Tice offered one of the most critical takes in recent memory with respect to tackle Frank Omiyale.

Tice indicated that with Omiyale the goal is simply to avoid being horrendous.

When you have some bad plays, you cant compound those with other bad plays, Tice said. You try to minimize the number of bad plays you have in succession. Thats what were trying to do with Frank; were trying to keep his bad plays to sporadic as opposed to back to back.

Louis has been at right guard all season before the shuffling last Sunday from right guard (for injured Chris Spencer) to right tackle (for an inept Omiyale) to short-yardage tight end (next to Omiyale). That is Louis preferred position and indications point to that only occurring if Spencers fractured hand cannot stand the rigors of practice this week.

Spencer practiced on a limited basis Thursday with his right hand in a plastic castsplint. If he can go, the negative review of Omiyale point to Louis going to right tackle, a position he played in college.

The linemen have to go where its best for us, said Tice, noting that Louis put 10 Panthers on the ground over his 41 plays. That might mean a player not playing in the spot where hes most comfortable but where it helps us the most.

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.

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. 

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

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. Thursday's unit: the tight ends.

1. Will Zach Miller make the 53-man roster?

Miller didn’t play a single down from 2012-14, and has missed seven games in two seasons with the Bears, but he’s been productive when on the field: 110 targets, 81 receptions, 925 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Bears signed Dion Sims to an $18 million contract and then drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the draft, moves that seemingly put Miller in a precarious position heading into Bourbonnais. Not helping Miller’s case is the Lisfranc fracture he suffered last November, which kept him sidelined through OTAs and veteran minicamp in May and June. He’d be a valuable player for the Bears to keep around, but at the same time, training camp could be a perfect storm for Miller to be among the cuts.

“They’re going to cutting it close for training camp,” coach John Fox said of Miller (and Danny Trevathan) in June. “But right now they’re right on target and that’s kind of what we expected all offseason.”

2. What can we expect from Adam Shaheen?

Shaheen was among the bright spots during May and June, hardly looking like someone who played his college ball at Division II Ashland while going against NFL defenders. But those were just shorts-and-helmets practices without any contact, so it’d be premature to project anything about Shaheen off of them. The real test for Shaheen will be when he puts the pads on in Bourbonnais and gets his first experience with the physicality of the NFL after a few years of being head and shoulders — literally — above his competition in college. It’s unlikely Shaheen will live up to his “Baby Gronk” hype in Year 1, but if he handles training camp well, he could be a valuable red zone asset for Mike Glennon as a rookie. 

“You don’t know until you put the pads on,” Shaheen said. “That’s what I’m excited for.”

3. How productive can this unit be?

Between Sims — who had a career high four touchdowns last year with the Miami Dolphins — and Shaheen, the Bears have two new, big targets for an offense that tied for 24th in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns a year ago. If Miller sticks around, this group would have enviable depth. But even if he doesn’t, the Bears liked what they saw from Brown last year (16 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD in six games). There are fewer questions about the tight ends heading into training camp than the receivers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Glennon leans on this unit, especially early in the season.