Reporting Jeff Joniak
By Jeff Joniak
In his 16th NFL season, Matt Cavanaugh is working as hard as ever as the Bears quarterback coach. Jay Cutler wondered aloud today if Cavanaugh ever sleeps. He’s a football grinder. A gym rat turned coaching lifer. He loves it, even after investing some 40 years in the sport as a player and coach.
He’s very good for Cutler, helping to push him through the challenging moments of the work week and providing a calming influence on the sidelines on game day. Cavanaugh says Cutler is doing all the little things that quarterbacks have to do. He’s made up his mind he wants to be great. He also believes what the coaches are asking him to do will benefit the team, and as a result him.
Cavanaugh says Cutler “gets football” and is a “quick study.” They have spent a lot of time working on Cutler’s fundamentals. Cavanaugh says he loves working for Marc Trestman, who gives him a lot of input and asks for his opinion. That matters to Cavanaugh. Having played quarterback in the NFL from 1978 to 1991, Cavanaugh can relate to Cutler on all levels and that allows for deep and frank discussion about all aspects of the position.
Aaron Kromer is an outstanding offensive line coach and a trusted lieutenant of Trestman. They were together in Oakland on the Raiders’ last playoff time in 2002, and he coordinated the run game of the Saints for Sean Payton. He’s doing the same for the Bears, with Trestman focused on the passing game.
Kromer is making a difference in the quick adaptation of right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills. He molded left tackle Jermon Bushrod into a pro bowler in New Orleans. Veteran center Roberto Garza is using his hands in a way that has improved his performance, and veteran Matt Slauson is playing physical at left guard and doing so as well as any of the starting five.
Kromer believes the more physical this group plays, the better they will be. “I think you can peak by the end of the year,” he says. You can hear more from Kromer on the history behind Dick LeBeau’s creation of the zone blitz in Pittsburgh on the Bears radio pregame show at 5:40 Sunday evening in the audio version of Joniak’s Journal.
Hearing from defensive tackle Henry Melton Thursday, it sounds like he’s optimistic things will start going their way up front. He speaks in terms of the “group,” not him individually.
“Soon enough, things will start falling for us,” Melton said.
They have heard for years the “four equals one” philosophy of working together to pressure the quarterback and so that explains his context. Melton said he wasn’t allowed to do anything for several weeks after a preseason concussion which set him back. He also claims to be unaware of the public criticism of his performance after two games. He said the defense is still playing at a high level and the results in terms of the pass rush, is “just how it goes.” However, that pass rush will be under the microscope on the national stage Sunday night in Pittsburgh against the struggling Steelers offense.
Fourth and Short
Brandon Marshall is headed home. Born in Pittsburgh, he relocated to the Orlando area in central Florida after the fifth grade. However, the bulk of his extended family apparently remains in Pittsburgh. Cousins, aunts, and uncles reportedly were star athletes in that area and one relative played for the Harlem Globetrotters. Marshall grew up a Steelers fan and remained one until he was drafted by the Broncos. He expects to have a large number of family members at Sunday night’s game.
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.