Chicago Sun-Times

14 days to Camp: ONU news, another Joyner chat & the corners

| 13 Comments | No TrackBacks

While most other NFL teams are slowly reeling in the remainder of their draft classes with signings that are becoming more plentiful by the day, the Bears have had that business wrapped up for more than a month. The season is fast approaching and the Bears' first training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., is two weeks from today. We've already put in our request for an 80-degree day with full sunshine and a light breeze. Individual game tickets go on sale a week from Saturday on July 25 at noon via Ticketmaster phone and Internet outlets.

As our 30-day countdown to camp marches on with little news, we're going to jump around with a few different items this morning. But first, we have a little news.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the Bears and Olivet Nazarene have reached an agreement for the team to leave camp following practice on Aug. 20. The contract between the club and the school allowed the Bears to occupy campus through Aug. 21 but school officials asked the team to leave a day earlier to allow them time to prepare for the arrival of the student body of 2,500 beginning Aug. 22. That means the Bears will be at another location for their Aug. 21 walk through in advance of their second preseason game Aug. 22 at Soldier Field vs. the New York Giants. For a complete training camp schedule, go here.

*** KC Joyner was able to sidestep much of the Jay Cutler firestorm he's been at the center of recently in another chat on ESPN.com. It's Joyner's opinion that this could be a better team than the one that went to Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season.

"Wouldn't you know it, I only get one question in and a Cutler comment gets posted. I'll say this about the Bears - they get a lot of turnovers and have the next Brian Westbrook in their backfield. They went to the Super Bowl with less talent than what they have now. Cutler will hurt them at times but many teams have won with QBs that have high bad decision rates, so they have at least a 50/50 shot at the division."

That is high praise for running back Matt Forte that we detailed here. No one seems up in arms with that comparison by Joyner. By the way, later on in his Thursday chat he clarified that he has Minnesota as the favorite to claim the NFC North, but called them a 51/49 favorite over the Bears.

And, in the event you didn't see his latest Cutler post on the New York Times' Fifth Down blog, here it is. His theory is that Denver coach Josh McDaniels was led to trade Cutler more because of film review of the player than anything else.

"Some are speculating that this is because Cutler is a prima donna, but dealing with those kinds of players has always been part of being a coach. I cannot imagine McDaniels would have thrown in the towel on his QB right off the bat simply because of a self-important attitude. What might lead him to make a change would be watching the tape and seeing someone who makes a bad decision on one out of every twenty passes."

That's an angle we've once heard before, from a source in Denver, but it was hard to filter everything that was coming out of there when the trade went down. At this point it's unlikely the whole story ever comes out. What we'd love to hear--the story that would top all stories in our opinion--is who leaked the news that the Broncos were working to trade for Matt Cassel and would ship away Cutler to get him? Who leaked that news and what was their motivation? The answer to those two questions would tell an awful lot. From the Bears' perspective, they have a quarterback with physical tools like none they've had a long while. Cutler is still young so he should be coachable and the plan is to build an offense around him.

*** Could the Tampa Two have another use this season? Here is an interesting nugget in a column at SI.com where Ross Tucker spoke with Greg Cosell, a senior producer at NFL Films for 30 years. Cosell sits down and watches coaches tape with guys like Ron Jaworski and has been doing it for decades. While acknowledging the Tampa Two seems to be fading, he sees a different use for it all of a sudden:

"The other thing is that the Tampa 2 defense has been fading a bit because you really need to get pressure from your front four and that isn't always easy. But we may see more Tampa 2 on defense to stop the Wildcat. It was designed by Bud Carson when he was in college to stop the option because you essentially have a nine-man front since the corners are your run support players on the perimeter."

*** Finally, we'll touch on some more of the observations we received from Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell when we discussed the Bears, specifically the play of the cornerbacks in 2008.

Barnwell didn't paint a very pretty picture and it's easy to remember why. The Bears were not very good vs. the pass. They ranked 30th in passing yards allowed but were No. 1 in the league in yards after the catch. How did that happen? They were picked apart, left to die a slow death. The Tampa Bay loss kind of summed the entire season up when ex-Bear Brian Griese passed for 407 yards on 67 attempts, three shy of Drew Bledsoe's NFL record 70. The Bears didn't sack Griese and according to press box statistics they registered just seven quarterback hits. Griese averaged only 6.07 yards per attempt, more than a yard below the league average and 1.5 yards below the elite passers. But Griese chewed them up on slant routes and the defense couldn't get off the field, not when it counted.

By and large, the Bears did an excellent job of avoiding the big play with the exception of a 99-yard touchdown by Bernard Berrian at Minnesota. They allowed only 12 passes of 30 yards or more. It didn't help that three came in the must-win season finale at Houston when safety Mike Brown was out of the lineup. But enough of the recap, let's get to the chat with Barnwell. He thought that the Bears got away from their signature Tampa Two defense more than they would have liked, a move made to aid the pass rush and one that put the cornerbacks in more challenging spots more often.

"Because the pass rush wasn't there last year, the secondary looked bad,'' Barnwell wrote in the Football Outsiders Almanac. "Charles Tillman benefited from a league-high ten drops by receivers whom he was covering, while Nathan Vasher spent the year alternately injured and ineffective.''

One nugget in the Almanac worth mentioning, Tillman was involved in 13.3 percent of the plays on defense, the second-highest total for any cornerback in the league and a testament to his involvement vs. the run. The problem is many of his stops in the run game came far downfield, more a product of the system, however, than Tillman's ability as a run stopper.

"Corey Graham was the guy who stood out as the weak link to us,'' Barnwell said. "His numbers were not good at all relative to the other cornerbacks they had. None of the cornerbacks really had a good year relative to prior numbers. We've had really good numbers for Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher in the past. Whether it was the scheme, whether it was injury, I don't know. None of them had good passing numbers. Year to year, that can change but they weren't good last year relative to what they've done in the past."

Tillman played the majority of the season with injuries to both shoulders. Vasher missed time because of hand surgery and never seemed right. The good news is the coaching staff was upbeat about his return during the spring. Right now, Graham doesn't appear to have a starting job. He completed OTA's as the nickel cornerback because Danieal Manning was out with a pulled hamstring. Vasher looks to have the lead at right cornerback and Craig Steltz looks ahead in the fight to win the free safety job. Graham could get looks at both spots during training camp or coach Lovie Smith, who personally coaches the nickel backs, could have him challenge Manning for his job. Stay tuned.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://blogs.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/24380

13 Comments

Nice article. The D and the O are more promising this season than they have ever been in the recent years.
I still do not get the whole Cutler-1 in 20 passes-interception-so he is going to remind us of Rex-thing. He had to take chances in Denver because they could not bank on their D and had no running game. Here those risky throws are going to be down because we have a good running game, especially with the Forte-Jones tandem this season. He would not have to take so many risks down the field because (a) like it or not the ability of our WRs stretching the field is suspect (b)our RBs (c) our TEs.

Will you guys stop with the Bronco's having no running game?
There rushing YPC was much higher than ours last year.
Most likely it is system-based. There zone blocking schemes always seem to make their running backs look like pro-bowlers. They have been able to plug anyone in. They had like six different running backs start last year due to injuries. Their running game was good it just wasn't from one person.

"Cutler will hurt them at times but many teams have won with QBs that have high bad decision rates, so they have at least a 50/50 shot at the division."

Brad, please, please, please stop quoting this moron. You're a much better journalist than that. Hey, I'm not a meteorologist but I'm gonna go ahead and say 50% chance of rain today. I don't follow baseball but I'll say the Padres have a 50% chance of making it to the post-season. There's a 50% chance I say hi to my neighbor today. This clown offers absolutely 0 advice and simply garners attention through his goofy statements. Stop reporting on him unless he gets fired or something.

"The other thing is that the Tampa 2 defense has been fading a bit because you really need to get pressure from your front four and that isn't always easy. But we may see more Tampa 2 on defense to stop the Wildcat."

Great. Our signature defensive scheme may prove effective against a play some teams use once a game while other teams never use it.

MikeS,

You are spot on about the Broncos having an effective running game last year and that is a false assumption by many Bears fans. If I understand their real offensive problem last year, it was that they were playing from behind very often so they had to get away from the run and pass in an effort to catch-up, but I'm not even that sure on how accurate that statement is. Brad?

Y'all have a great weekend, I'll hang-up and listen. Go Bears!

If you think the Broncos had no running game, you need to check the facts on NFL.com.

http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?archive=false&conference=null&role=TM&offensiveStatisticCategory=RUSHING&defensiveStatisticCategory=null&season=2008&seasonType=REG&tabSeq=2&qualified=true&Submit=Go

It looks like the Broncos are 12th and the Bears finished 24th. So where is the big advantage for the Bears? I know there could be a combination of factors to cause those running numbers to be skewed. Forte was a refreshing change from Benson but he can’t do it without good o-line play. Last year the line did better than most expected but still it wasn’t a better than average NFL line. It looks like we bulked up there so maybe that will help. I’m just saying that Denver’s running game wasn’t as bad as you’ve been saying. Go Bears!!!

"Corey Graham was the guy who stood out as the weak link to us,'' Barnwell said.

That was the real suprise in the article. Graham seemed to play well last year. Maybe they threw at him avoiding Peanut?

There was/is another QB, one that played/has played in the league for a long damned time that threw/throws a boatload of INTs. Everyone seemed/seems to like to watch him play. Not going to mention his name (HAW,HAW), but watching a TALENTED gunslinger (we had an UNtalented one here not long ago)is a helluva lot more fun than some game mgr. I doubt JC is going to be completely stupid, PLUS what was Mr. un-named numbers after HIS 1st 3 yrs.

Lighten up on Cutler, we'll see in a few yrs.

By far the biggest concern for us is D rush, COACHING, D backfield, COACHING, unknown WR's, COACHING, NOT QB. Did I mention COACHING?

The Broncos had a garbage running game last year. They never had a single 100 yard game from a back and had 9 rb's on a 53 man roster. Their first pick in the NFL draft this year was a rb for a reason. They had a better running game than the Bears but who said the Bears had a good running game last year? The Broncos benifited from three things in the running game last year: Cutlers ability to stretch the field, nobody stacked the box, and one of the best offensive minds in football.

Wow someone else agreed with me that Graham was a weak corner. Kevin A must be writing some really deep hate mail about now. Graham lacks coverage ability for the position. Give him a little time at Safetie and he will be ok.

Oh no Joyner thinks the Bears are better than the 2006 team. Well thats the kiss of death. What an @** clown, his little "bad decision rates stat" isn't even a stat. it's his opinion on if he thought the QB took to much of a risk on a play. There is no actual way to guage it. Wow that was close, lucky the ball landed right in the recievers hands and he scored a TD. Their was a DB playing that reciever tight though so I give it a negative two on my bad decision rate stat cause it could have been picked. Oh wait what if it had been picked and run back fir a TD, I give it a negative 10.

If Joyner had his way he would have every QB in the NFL hand the ball off on every down. How about you get someone who knows how to read QBs and film like Bill Bilichick or Jaws to do a Cutler film review.

Brad any chance you can get an interview with Ron Jaworski about what he thinks of Cutler? I know once the season starts he will be talking about him, but just a little insight from Jaws goes a long way. The guy has got great insight into QB's. He called out Orton last year and was right about him, and Rex in 06.

This is from 2007.

the stat that Broncos coach Mike Shanahan likes is Cutler's 70.4 completion percentage on third down, which is the best in the league.

"That's where a quarterback makes his money, being able to make third downs," Shanahan told Nashville reporters on a conference call last week. "He's playing with a lot of people that haven't been there from a year ago. He's doing quite a few good things."

From 2006
"Chris Mortensen and Ron Jaworski tabbed him as the best quarterback available in the draft. Many scouts believed he had better arm strength than Young and Leinart, and compared him to Brett Favre for his arm, play style and gunslinger attitude."

Guess they were right.

In 2008
"Cutler and tight end Daniel Graham were voted offensive captains by Broncos teammates" Cause Cutler is so hated in that locker room they voted him Captain.

Oh wait this is how Jaws feels about Cutler. It's actually well thought out and honest. But I can't seem to find the Dr. Z almost messed up stat:

Jaworski lauded Cutler's rare talent but acknowledged the 25-year-old passer hasn't handled himself well since rookie Broncos head coach Josh McDaniel attempted to trade for New England's Matt Cassel last month.

"I'm still a big Jay Cutler guy and I think he'll grow from this, but right now, he looks foolish,'' Jaworski said of Cutler's evident bruised feelings. "I thought he was a very mature player, but the way he's reacted to this situation shows some immaturity.

"Having said that, I still think he's the best young quarterback in the game. When do you get an opportunity to get a 25-year-old quarterback this good? He may have the most physical tools of any quarterback in the league. He has a strong arm, the ability to move and throw on the run and he can make defenses defend the field from sideline to sideline. He's got touch with a gunslinger's mentality – quite a combination.''

So basically Jaws wants him to mature a little which most 25 year olds do. But also thinks he is the best young QB in the NFL. I will take it over what Dr. Z said with his made up pretend stat that is actually an opinion and has no math basis at all. How can you be a stat and have no actual math involved. Could someone post the actual formula, theorem, or theory Z uses. If he does have one can he proof it?


Instead of looking at statistics, I actually watched the Bronco games last season. The problem was not a poor running game it was a play caller that seemed to abandon the running game too frequently. He also called waaaay too many bubble screens, and became kind of predictable.

I remember yelling at the TV "Run the ball!" many times but he just ignored me.

Brad. Did you see the story in SI by Jim Trotter on Larry Fitzgerald? Fitz is holding private sessions for current NFL receivers and bringing in former greats like Jerry Rice and Chris Carter for advice. I would love to see Devin or one of the really young receivers get an invite to attend. What do you think? Keep up the great work and go Bears! Steve in DC.

I will say it again. The Bears have the 2nd most wins in the NFC the last 4 seasons without a QB. They went to the playoffs twice with no QB. They even went to the superbowl with no QB.

They will be dominant this season. 14-2 is not out of the question. Hester was 3 plus yards behind the defense numerous times last season, and Orton couldn't get it there. Cutler can. Olson down the seam will be a huge play this year.

Cutler will make 3 plays per game that extend drives instead of kill them.

The Bears with a legit QB is unfair to the rest of the league. Detroit, GB, and Minnesota fans should be sending hate mail to the Broncos for trading Cutler to the Bears.

Now it will pick your poison on how to play the Bears offense instead of pack 8 and 9 in the box and force them to throw.

3rd and long is not that big a deal this year, whereas before it was a foregone conclusion to punt.

If 9-7 was a terrible record last year, then we are in for a treat this year.


Don't want summer to end, but I can't for camp either. This will be a helluva year to be a Bear's fan.

Go Bears!!

Corey Graham's poor play was a result of a very poor pass rush last year by the D line and the opposing QB's were willing to pass for 6 yards at a clip, moving the chains down the field and gaining a huge time of possession advantage.

Graham, doesn't mind tackling and could be quite exceptional as a free safety. He certainly has more speed than Steltz, does he have the smarts for the position, maybe? I think ultimately he will be the guy at FS.

Lets wait and see.

I agree with Creighton that Jaworski shoud be the guy that should give an interview about what he thinks of Cutler, the other guy Joiner is a joke.

Brad, please no more of this guy Joiner.

Stats by themselves do not tell a complete story. Case in point is the raking of Denver's rush game versus Chicago's. Sure Denver rushed for more yards and a higher average, but why and how is the real questions. Why? Because teams played a deep cover 2 and 3 for most of the middle of the field, to protect against the strength of Denver's offense (deep passing from Cutler). So in essence, teams conceded the run game as they played pass first. The Broncos also had a longer field to travel than most every team, as their special teams were one of the worst. So what is the How? Well, that is the most telling part, and the true indicator of a team's strength of running game. That is how well a team is able to rush in the red zone, when defenses have a shorter field to cover, and in essence every team is facing an 8 man front. Well, I don't know if NFL.com has stats on that, but trust me, I watched every Bronco game at least once, often twice (Directv DVR), and they could not run at all in the red zone, except for a couple of games when Hillis was the starter. Unfortunately he got hurt along with 7 other backs. So teams forced Denver to run to get to the red zone, then with a short field and a small windows they forced Denver to score most their TDs via the pass.

Chicago's stats were acquired in the exact opposite way. Teams played run first, so they earned everything they got. Furthermore, in the red zone they dared Orton to beat them, so his challenge was much more less difficult than Cutler's, that is why he had a better red zone rating.

Leave a comment

Twitter updates

Categories

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on July 17, 2009 5:06 AM.

Packers' Driver disses Bears' wide receivers and he's got a point was the previous entry in this blog.

Bears set to extend agreement with Olivet Nazarene through 2010 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.