By Jeff Joniak-
Most of Marc Trestman’s Thursday news conference was about Jay Cutler, where the quarterback is, if he’s ready to go in the new system, and how he’s been to work with.
Trestman’s review remains consistent: he feels good where Cutler is at right now. The Bears new head coach says Cutler has been “even keeled” throughout the preseason in terms of his work ethic, preparation, determination to learn and ability to get things done.
Admitting Cutler is a fiery guy, Trestman applauds Cutler’s toughness and competitiveness. Trestman has long stated that a quarterback’s demeanor is critically important. He was asked how he would handle an emotional Cutler, Trestman says there will be moments like that and he’s not going to take that away from him. It’s just part of who he is. Trestman says he won’t be firing back. He will let Cutler get it off his chest, blow off some steam, and get him ready for the next play.
Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer are in charge of defenses that take the ball away.
Combined, these two teams since 2004 have 583 takeaways in 144 games. The Bears are the only team with more than 300 during that span, the Bengals rank third. In 2012, the Bears took it away a league-best 44 times, giving them the second best turnover ratio in the league at plus-20. The Bengals were a plus-2.
Last season, both defenses were ranked in the top ten, with the Bears ranked slightly better than the Bengals in points allowed, yardage and rushing yardage allowed. The Bengals were a slot better than the Bears against the pass allowing a yard and a half less per game. Both were top eight in the league in forcing negative plays. The Bengals were third in sacks with 51, the Bears eighth with 41. The Bears were sixth defending third down, the Bengals eighth. The Bengals defense is very good, but the Bears defense is every bit as good.
I found it interesting that Trestman spoke at length about the quality of the Bengals special teams unit this week.
He referred to that phase repeatedly and for good reason. In the 2012 Dallas Morning News rankings, which tallies performance in 22 categories of special teams play, the Bengals ranked second in the NFL last year.
Punter Kevin Huber set franchise records for gross and net average, and inside-the-20 punts (33). It’s a fast and physical unit that has forced 23 fumbles in the last 10 years. They have two home-run hitters in the run game in Brandon Tate and Pac Man Jones. It’s a good test in Week 1 for the Bears who traditionally have been a power on teams. A year ago, they were eighth in the rankings fueled by the best punt cover unit in the league.
What the Bears have done well on teams is scored touchdowns (22), block kicks (25), and that outstanding punt coverage (6.8), all number one in the NFL since 2004.
Fourth and short
St. Thomas Aquinas high school in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida boasted a league-high nine graduates on NFL opening day rosters in 2012, including Bears safety Major Wright and Bengals star defensive tackle Geno Atkins. They were teammates with Bengal rookie running back Giovani Bernard.
The program has won four state championships in the last six seasons, but none with Wright and Atkins on the same team. They were defeated in 2004, 2005, and 2006 by Lakeland led by former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey and twin brothers Maurkice and Mike Pouncey of the Steelers and Dolphins, respectively. Bernard won state titles as a sophomore and junior at Aquinas.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffJoniak.