Cutler and Cam: Whats wrong with these pictures?

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Cutler and Cam: Whats wrong with these pictures?

Cam Newton is struggling. Or is he?

The Carolina Panthers quarterbacks 84.5 passer rating from his epic rookie season of 2011 is down a little to 79.3. He threw 17 interceptions last season; he has thrown six in 2012, on pace for 19.

His completion percentage has dipped a little from 60 to 58.4.

His team is 1-5 and has lost four straight games. But the Panthers were 1-5 at this juncture of Newtons rookie season as well, although they never lost four in a row during the 6-10 season.

So what really is the problem with Cam Newton? The Bears arent quite seeing it, and if they are, theyre certainly not going to say.

I just think hes playing very well, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. The guy is a weapon, and right now, were very concerned with him.

Newton may have simply set the bar too high with his rookie season of impact plays and games, like 543 yards and 29 points on the Chicago Bears. Dan Marino was in a Super Bowl his second season and since Newton broke some of Marinos and others rookie records, without the benefit of an offseason, the assumption that he would take not the next step but rather the next leap.

I understand Im not perfect, Newton said. Im striving to be great. What other people may think or what other people may criticize me on, I take it for what its worth but continue to try to make myself better each and every opportunity that I get.

Yet if Newton is struggling to the point of Hall of Famer Warren Moon crying racism at the decibel level of the criticism, what does that make Cutler?

Cutler is off his 2011 production in passer rating (85.7 to 78.3), completion percentage (58 to 56.7) and interception rate (2.2 to 3.7). He has thrown one more INT than Newton but three more TD passes.

The difference is pretty simple: Newtons Panthers have lost four straight for their 1-5. Cutlers Bears have won four straight for their 5-1.

Ironically, Newton is being ravaged for his pouty demeanor through times of trouble. Sound familiar?

The Bears have focused on film of last years near-miss against Carolina as well as current games. But what they see, apart from spot problems that have left the Panthers with that record, not that much has really changed with Newton himself.

Hes fast, hes big, hes got a strong arm, hes mobile in the pocket, said coach Lovie Smith. With that strong arm he can make all the throws and they do a good job letting him display all those talents. They have some option plays that normally are reserved for quarterbacks who can run.

Bears reportedly won't franchise tag Alshon Jeffery, so what's next?

Bears reportedly won't franchise tag Alshon Jeffery, so what's next?

NFL.com's Insider Ian Rapoport dropped a news bomb in the middle of the night, Tweeting in the wee hours of Monday morning that the Bears will not sign receiver Alshon Jeffery to a franchise tag:

Jeffery played under the franchise tag in 2016, when he earned roughly $14.6 million. 

The Bears could still re-sign Jeffery to a longer deal in free agency, but the market on the 27-year-old receiver may climb out of their desired range.

The $17 million franchise tag was an awful lot of salary cap to spend on a guy who has missed 11 games over the last two seasons to injury and a PED suspension that stretched to four games in 2016.

When he was on the field last year, Jeffery turned in his worst stat line since his rookie season, catching only 52 balls for 821 yards and 2 TDs.

Still, his departure would leave a gaping hole in the Bears receiving corps as Cameron Meredith and Kevin White would emerge as the leaders of the group.

Meredith went undrafted out of Illinois State, but he has impressed in his two pro seasons, leading the Bears in receptions (66), targets (96), yards (888) and TDs (4) in 2016.

White was the Bears' first-round pick in 2015 (7th overall) but has played in just four games due to leg issues and has only 19 catches for 187 yards and 0 TDs under his belt.

David Kaplan believes if Jeffery does depart Chicago, it sends a bigger message about the state of the Bears:

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

Quick hits: Blackhawks start strong in win over Blues

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Michigan State gets big win to boost tourney hopes, while Wisconsin loses for fourth time in five games