By Laurence Holmes-
(WSCR) Questions have been pouring in since the Bears lost to New Orleans Sunday. Let’s see what’s on tap in this week’s mailbag:
The Bears and Bears fans have waited forever for a bona fide QB. We now have one but he is continually at risk of injury due to a poorly assembled O-line and an equally poor WR Corp. Why hasn’t more been done to shore up the O-line and WR corp thru drafting and free agency? How much more abuse will Cutler have to take before it’s too late? – Brian, Shorewood, IL
Brian, the Bears did make an offer to Willie Colon, but he decided to stay in Pittsburgh. Other than the signing of Chris Spencer, that was about it. As for wideouts, they thought they were getting veteran help at WR by acquiring Sam Hurd and Roy Williams. The reason they didn’t make a big splash at the tackle position is because they have confidence in J’Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi. In fact, they think they have their bookend tackles for the next few years. Whether that confidence is warranted is still to be determined and I have my doubts, but the start of this season has not been good. Even in the Bears win vs. Atlanta, they had protection issues. It’s important to note that protection of the quarterback isn’t exclusively on the five guys on the line. It’s on everyone on the offense including Jay Cutler. Through the first two games, the Bears have seemed incapable of sustained protection. They’ve been beaten in a bunch of different ways as well: Coverage sacks, missed assignments, late off the snap, back-side protection and blitz pick-up. Now the Bears have injury issues to contend with as well on the line and over the past few years, that hasn’t been a strength for the Bears.
You correctly point out that WR play a significant role in pass protection too. The Bears system doesn’t allow for audibles. That means that the best weapon against blitzes are hot-reads. Wideouts need to recognize where blitzes are coming from and adjust. If the blitz is coming from their side, they need to become an immediate target for Cutler, so he can get the ball out fast. If the Bears hit enough big plays, it would slow defenses down. For example against Dallas last year, the Cowboys came at the Bears heavy. The Bears hit a hot-read to Greg Olsen for a 40-yard touchdown and the advantage swung back the Bears way. Until they show more like that, expect the Bears to continue seeing tremendous amounts of blitzing.
Laurence, As quickly as the bandwagoners jumped on in Week 1, they abandoned ship in Week 2. The criticisms have been harsh and desperation, high. Do you think the praise received in Week 1 was just, given that the offensive line still displayed weaknesses against the Falcons? Also, aside from the run to pass ratio that everyone is talking about, do you think that the decrease in screen and slant calls from Week 1 to Week 2 had an effect on the offense, specifically momentum? – Dan, Chicagoland
The Bears should have been praised for their play vs. Atlanta. They had a great gameplan on both sides of the ball and did a pretty good job executing it. On Sunday, the opposite was true. The Saints seemed ahead of the Bears in most aspects of the game. So it’s fair to criticize them for that. The encouraging thing is that two games does not make a season. Remember, after the first seven games last season, the Bears looked like they were lost. During the bye week, they made adjustments to their offensive gameplan and went 7-2 down the stretch. As for the screens and slants…they were called and Saints did a good job defending them. It’s a big weapon for the Bears offense. I’m pretty sure that you’ll continue to see them.
LoHo, Is the Martz offense becoming antiquated? I ask that because it exposes your most valuable player seemingly too much in today’s NFL. Thanks. – Bryan, Romeoville
Bryan, I absolutely believe the Bears offense still has a place in the NFL. The question that the Bears have to answer is: Can you block it? The routes are deep which means that the drops have to be deep. The plays won’t work if Jay Cutler doesn’t have time. But unless you have Mike Vick (and notice he got banged up Sunday), most NFL offenses can’t run if the quarterback is under the duress. If the pressure that Cutler is seeing continues, the Bears will have to temper their expectations and adjust. That means more 3- and 5-step drops, screens to sucker the defense in and better balance running the ball.
Hey Laurence, Is there a reason Paea is not playing a lot or starting? Is he not ready or is Big Toe playing better? Thanks. – Jay-J, Chicago
Jay-J, Stephen Paea has not even been active for the first two games. The Bears feel good about their defensive line depth, but not having a second rounder suit up is not a good sign. As you point out, the Bears really like Matt (Big Toe) Toeina. He’s been in the system longer and they feel more comfortable with him on the field. I think that the Bears expected Paea to play the 3-technique position, but he looks like he might be a better fit at nose tackle. Scouts in the league were split about whether Paea could be as productive in the NFL as he was at Oregon State. It would be a shame if injuries were the only way he found his way on the field.
Laurence, How much longer is CBS, NBC, ESPN and Fox going to bore us with the numerous cut-aways of Cutler? It’s beyond ridiculous. – Joe, Geneva, IL
I’m with you whole-heartedly Joe. It seems as if the networks broadcasting the games have their storylines all set to go before the game instead of giving the viewer what’s happening and reacting to it. It seems like there are members of the national media who have made up their mind about Cutler and can’t look beyond that. To me it’s unprofessional and pretty unfair. I was on the air with Dan McNeil a couple of weeks ago and we talked with Dan Patrick. Patrick is someone in this business that I really respect and like. Even he brought up the “demeanor” and “being a good teammate” stuff. The difference between Patrick and the rest of these guys, when I presented him with facts of what transpired at the NFC Title game, he actually listened. Too many analysts, including Joe Buck yesterday, have been deaf to the facts of that day.
It seems that Cutler can’t get the benefit of the doubt and it’s a shame. Don’t get me wrong, Jay and I have had some tense moments in press conferences. At times he can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be equity in the coverage of him. I’ve seen a change in him. He was the first guy into training camp. He’s trying to lead. He’s doing more to change the perception of him, but I wonder if he should have to. He’s become a target and it’s not right. Considering the pressure he was under and the pounding that he took on Sunday, if you were to put a camera on ANY other quarterback in the league, you can find moments that are unflattering. With Cutler, it seems agenda driven.
Thanks for great questions. Make sure to follow me on Twitter (@lholmes670) and watch for updates from Halas Hall when the Bears get back to work on Wednesday