Reporting Jeff Joniak
By Jeff Joniak
Wins and losses are always attached with quarterback evaluations, and so is how they win. Every quarterback breakdown comes with his comebacks, or record when trailing entering the fourth quarter.
Jay Cutler earned his first in 2013 with clutch throws in tight windows and timely scrambles out of the pocket for chunk yardage. About half the time, it was Cutler who got the offense into the right play and right protection. He repeatedly checked and adjusted pre-snap, by shifting the formation to a position of strength for the Bears. Cutler believes in his blockers, and by hanging in the pocket as long as he did at times in order for receivers to defeat man coverage is the evidence.
I believe it was a very good first step in the right direction for an offense that will collectively grow significantly over the course of the season.
Despite varying levels of performance by the Bears blockers, the group is coming together. Against one of the tougher defensive fronts they will play for a while, they provided Jay Cutler time to efficiently work out of the pocket. They did not win the day in the run game, but they were physical.
Guards Matt Slauson and Kyle Long are punishing finishers, and right tackle Jordan Mills handled himself well. Pro Football Focus gave him the highest grade among the starting five in week one and he graded out similarly by the Bears.
There is a lot of room for growth from the defensive line after one week. Defensive tackle Stephen Paea was the best of the group. He was disruptive, violent with his hands, kept his pads down, and jumped out against a better than average offensive line.
Henry Melton’s return from a concussed pre-season did not go as well. Another week of practice should sharpen his technique and gets his legs back under him. Defensive end Shea McClellin had a productive 30 snaps. He earned the only sack of the game in the fourth quarter, did well nose-to-nose with the tight end, and did his job in the run game turning plays inside for others to clean up the tackle. Julius Peppers was stout as usual against the run, the most underrated aspect of his skill set.
Fourth and short
Tight end Martellus Bennett calls himself the “Black Unicorn” and made reference Monday at Halas Hall about a “Unicorn” package in the offense. Turns out, there really is a unicorn package. What is in it, I could not tell you. As long as it includes plays for Bennett in the red zone making touchdown catches like the difficult one he made against the Bengals, it sounds good to me.