Chicago Bears: Jeff Dickerson
It really shouldn't be that way. It’s OK to appreciate what McCown has done for the Bears without it being a slight in any way to Cutler, who is the unquestioned starting quarterback of this team.
But ESPNChicago.com's Jon Greenberg thinks the Bears should ride the hot hand at quarterback and go with McCown for the rest of the season. Greenberg writes:
The McCown lovefest has been going on since he started, and won, in Green Bay. That's something Cutler hasn't been able to do.
The overall theme of his latest postgame news conference was veering close to: "How can we get you to say you should start over Cutler?"
"I'm the backup, Jay's our starter," McCown said Monday night. "When Jay is healthy, Jay should be the starting quarterback. That's really it. I don't go out here going, 'You know what, if I do this now I'll be the starter.' That's not my mindset. I've told you guys that. My mindset is to serve this team as the backup quarterback as best I can and play efficient football and winning football in this situation to keep us in contention. So, whenever he takes back over, we're in position to make a playoff run."
Trestman hasn't wavered from that message, either, obviously. If he did, we'd have a full-scale public relations disaster.
While Cutler, from this vantage point, is the superior player, I've got a tough time arguing Greenberg’s rationale here. It seems every time this subject becomes a conversation, it’s taken to extremes, to a black-and-white, one-is-better-than-the-other argument of absolutes. But the truth is it’s far from that. Cutler is the best quarterback on the roster of the Chicago Bears. No doubt about that. But I’m not sure he’s the team’s best option at this very moment.
Let’s remember, it’s been a month since Cutler last played in a game. What type of shape will he be in once he returns? How much rust will Cutler have to knock off to get back to playing at peak efficiency? Will knocking the rust off result in mistakes and turnovers the Bears can't rebound from at Cleveland or Philadelphia, or wherever the club decides to start him next?
The team allowed Cutler to return to practice for two days last week. Before that, he had only run on a treadmill two days before the Bears brought him back to the practice field. So even if you count those two days last week of practice, and give Cutler an additional week of work leading into Sunday’s game at Cleveland, I’d still be at least a little apprehensive about how the he would perform given the long layoff.
So take personal feelings and preferences out of the equation when looking at this thing and use common sense. McCown is on a hot streak, coming off three consecutive 300-yard passing games. And don’t give me the argument that McCown has faced a slew of bad defenses. Sure he has. But in five years with the Bears, Cutler faced horrid defenses, too. The fact is nobody in Bears history has accomplished what McCown has done over his last three starts.
Does it make him better than Cutler? No. But it might make McCown the better option right now given the situation. At the very least, he's given this staff something to strongly consider in the coming days.
-- ESPNChicago.com’s Jeff Dickerson put together his weekly Stock Watch, and surprise, surprise, receiver Alshon Jeffery’s stock continues to rise. Dickerson writes:
"Every week Jeffery seems to make a ridiculous, highlight-reel catch. The second-year wide receiver struck again Monday night when he hauled in a deep McCown pass in the back corner of the south end zone and managed to drag both feet in as he fell out of bounds with two Dallas defenders in the area. Jeffery is on fire. He has a combined 17 catches for 333 yards and three touchdowns in the past two weeks. Already with 75 receptions for 1,193 yards and six touchdowns on the season, Jeffery is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Brandon Marshall is having another incredibly productive season (84-1,090-9), but Jeffery's emergence has been the No. 1 storyline this year in the wide receiver room. The exciting part is the best is yet to come for Jeffery, who doesn't turn 24 until February."
-- ESPNChicago.com's Jon Greenberg delves into Cutler's performance during Sunday's comeback. Coming into the game, the Bears were 1-7 when Cutler committed three or more turnovers, with the lone victory coming against Carolina last season on a late comeback.
Against the Vikings, Cutler shook off two interceptions and a fumble to bring back the Bears in the final 3:13.
Here's what Greenberg wrote:
"Not counting a spike to stop the clock, Mr. Fourth Quarter went 7-for-9 for 76 yards on the Bears' game-winning drive, highlighted by a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Martellus Bennett, who made a twisting catch and tucked himself in the pylon for the winning score with 10 seconds left."
-- Fans were pretty angry about some of the technical difficulties during Fox’s broadcast of Sunday’s game. Apparently 10 percent of the country was affected.
-- ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson runs down five things we learned from this game.
Rick Morrissey gives his take on Cutler’s growing legend. Brandon Marshall called Cutler “Mr. Fourth Quarter” after Sunday’s game, but the Bears are actually 7-23 with the quarterback when they trail or are tied going into the fourth quarter.
-- Dickerson hands out grades on the team’s performance here.
-- Cutler believes in the coaching staff and the system more now than he did in previous years, writes CSNChicago’s John “Moon” Mullin.
Let’s take a look at five things to keep an eye on in this matchup:
Rookies on right side of OL: The debuts of rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills at right guard and right tackle, respectively, seems to have been one of the most widely debated topics all offseason. Well, now it becomes real.
Long is set to be the first rookie to start at right guard for the Bears in the Super Bowl era. In fact, the Bears haven’t started multiple rookies on opening day since 1998.
“That’s a cool trivia question,” Long joked. “I try not to focus on that type of stuff. It’s a good tidbit to know. But right now, I’m so focused on who to block on inside zone right and that kind of stuff. That stuff is far more important to me at this point.”
“Just having another rookie [in Long] to go through it with you is priceless,” Mills said. “They have a great front seven with Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Rey Maualuga and the rest of the guys. But we’re trying to be a great offense. We’re going to come in there with a great game plan and we’re going to be fine.”
The new offense: In terms of diversity with formations and play calling, this will be the most extensive look at the Bears' offense we’ve seen since the Aug. 23 preseason game at Oakland. Look for tons of shifts, formations and plays that get the ball out of Jay Cutler’s hands quickly, not to mention some plays designed to move the pocket.
“The game plan is put together relative to how much we get practiced, how we want to spread the ball around,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Certainly it all starts with how we want to attack running and throwing the football. It’s just a process you go through every Monday and Tuesday so to speak, during the course of a normal week; who you want to feature, how you want to use personnel groupings, how you want to use formations to be able to create advantages and working toward the strengths and weaknesses of the teams you’ll be playing.”
Trestman sounds as if Chicago’s playbook is much deeper than what the team will select to execute against the Bengals. That’s definitely a positive the Bears haven’t had in the years before Trestman.
D.J. Williams at middle linebacker: Trestman said Williams will play, but wouldn’t give an indication of what degree, whether he’ll be starting or how much he’ll contribute. It’s expected that Williams will start in the middle alongside Lance Briggs and James Anderson. But when you consider how much time Williams missed (virtually the entire training camp and preseason), it’s reasonable to question whether the linebacker’s conditioning level will be up to par to where he can play an entire four quarters.
It’s also worth noting that Williams has missed the preseason the past two years, which means Sunday might not be as difficult for him as we think.
“I don’t what to say I’m used to it, but I’ve been through this before,” Williams said. “Being a veteran guy, you kind of know what you need to do to get yourself prepared for the game. I know coming into the first game there’s going to be a little gas, a little winded. But the first game of the season, everybody is going to be kind of like that.”
If Williams can’t play the entire game, the Bears are confident they can go to Jonathan Bostic, who put together a strong enough preseason to inspire confidence in his ability to be a starter.
“I’m preparing like I’m a starter,” Bostic said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
Julius Peppers vs. Anthony Collins: The Bengals might be thinking “uh-oh” when looking at this matchup on paper. Cincinnati Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth is listed as doubtful heading into the game, which means the Bengals will line up Collins at the position, where he’ll take on Peppers.
Look for the Bears to try to exploit the loss of Whitworth with Peppers, who is coming off a 2012 campaign in which he posted 11.5 sacks.
Former Bengals offensive lineman Dave Lapham, who is not a radio analyst told ESPN 1000’s “Chicago Gamenight” on Thursday how he expected Cincinnati to handle Peppers without Whitworth in the fold.
ESPNChicago.com’s Jeff Dickerson takes you deeper.
“I don’t think he’ll have movement issues with respect to Julius Peppers, but Peppers can bull rush you now, too,” Lapham said. “He’s a strong dude. So I’ll be interested to see if Collins can hang in there against that bull rush that Peppers can employ to complement that quickness that he’s got.”
Devin Hester exclusively as a return man: Hester worked all offseason exclusively as a return man, with the team stripping away his duties as a receiver. Now it’s time to see if the extra focus on returns will pay off for Hester, who didn’t receive much action in the preseason. Hester took part in just five returns (three kickoffs and two punts) and gained a combined 94 yards, with his longest runback being a 45-yard kickoff return.
Given that Hester is in a contract year, expect him to put together one of the best return seasons of his career. Hester needs only one more return touchdown to tie Hall of Famer Deion Sanders for the most career return touchdowns. My guess is Hester winds up breaking the record by Week 9.
Apparently the Bears don’t plan to waste time in cutting the 22 players needed to get down to the mandatory 53-man roster limit before Saturday’s 3 p.m. CST deadline.
“We’ll be at it bright and early tomorrow,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “(General manager) Phil (Emery) and I will sit down early in the morning, (and make decisions) based on the information we gathered from the tape and from the other coaches. It will be a collective process to make those decisions that work out to be the final 53.”
Several players made strong cases during Thursday night’s 18-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Others only reinforced decisions the club had already planned on making. Trestman mentioned that he didn’t think “anyone played themselves out of the roster tonight,” but the truth is quite a few didn’t exactly play themselves onto it, either. Over the next several hours, there’s a good chance the team will start bringing players into Halas Hall to begin cuts.
Here’s a sampling of what some of the on-the-bubble players had to say in pleading their respective cases.
RB Armando Allen: “To me, the reality is you don’t have control over the decision being made. So for me, it’s just I’ve just got to stay positive and keep my mind focused and in the right mindset for whatever comes next. Did I feel like I did enough? I’m probably one of my biggest critics. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I could have done better. If I was pitching myself, for me, it’s just simple. I come to work hard every day; great individual. I know the plays, (and) I’m a great special teams player. So, that’s about all I can say. My work speaks for itself.”
RB Michael Ford: “You can’t get into the coaches' head. You’ve got to let the coaches coach and do what they do. The only thing we can go out there and do is play and play hard. I gave it my all. I went into practice and gave it my all, and went into the games and gave it my all. I really can’t worry about it. When you give it your all and did everything you could, you can’t worry about it, because you know you gave 100 percent at what you did.”
WR Joe Anderson: “I’ve always felt confident. I believe in myself regardless of who else does. When you believe in yourself, you win. I believe in me. If you ask me, I believe I made this team. But you never know what someone else is thinking. So I just come to work every day and do my job. I control what I can control, (and) that’s what I do on the field. So upstairs, that’s their job. I’m gonna let them do their job, and I’ll do my job.”
OL Eben Britton: “I feel good about it. I feel really good about it. Yeah, I feel like (I made this team). I’m not the type of guy to beat my chest too much, but I was really proud of myself just about how I approached the whole camp, and what I got out of it. I feel the best I’ve felt in years. It was a great training camp for me, and I feel really good about the future. Now, I feel like I do things without even thinking about it anymore. It’s just starting to become natural because that’s what (offensive coordinator Aaron) Kromer has taught us every day. Even since back in April, I just kept working on the techniques we were taught in the run game and the pass game, stayed focused, and I just feel really good about how far I’ve come since getting here.”
- Considering the limited prep time given recently signed quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards, the duo performed fairly well against Cleveland, especially Palmer. He completed 11 of 17 for 11 yards and a touchdown to finish with a passer rating of 102.8.“I’ve prepared for this game as much as I’ve ever prepared for a game,” Palmer said. “It was a lot of fun to go out there, and I feel like we moved the ball and did some good things.”Trestman has said his preference is to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. So if that holds true over the next two days, ESPNChicago.com colleague Jeff Dickerson says it would be hard to imagine the Bears cutting ties with Palmer.
- Rookie cornerback Demontre Hurst didn’t hurt his cause, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Hurst probably didn’t help it much, either. Last year, former seventh-round pick Greg McCoy ran back an interception for a touchdown in the preseason finale at Cleveland, but still wound up among the final cuts. But to Hurst’s credit, his preseason was better than McCoy’s in 2012. In addition to the interception, Hurst posted five tackles in addition to forcing Brian Hoyer into an intentional grounding penalty.
- Brad Biggs says the Bears are interested in quarterbacks who have practice squad eligibility remaining, and one of them is former Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of Green Bay signal caller Aaron Rodgers.
- Inconsistency has been the story of training camp for tight end Fendi Onobun. The Bears have a difficult decision to make here, and it will likely take place Friday.Trestman explained that “when the light switch goes on” for Onobun, “he’s got a chance to be a very good player. We have some tough decisions to make, and certainly Fendi is going to be in the mix when we make these decisions because of what he showed tonight again, and what he’s shown in practice.”What I saw was merely another up-and-down performance.
- Here's my take on J'Marcus Webb from Thursday night's game. Not good, not bad, just mediocre, which likely won't be good enough for him to make this team. Obviously, everyone wanted to speak with Webb after the game. But once officials opened the locker room, Webb was already gone, his locker cleaned out.
Bostic drew positive reviews for his first day making the calls.
"He did very very well," defensive end Julius Peppers said. "We're going to need him. We hope Lance doesn't go down, but he could. All of us could go down. So whenever somebody goes down, the next player has to be up. So we've got to get him ready because we might need him one of those games."
The Bears could wind up needing Bostic sooner than originally anticipated. The club drafted Bostic with the expectation he would spend 2013 learning behind Williams, a 10-year veteran, who at one time was considered one of the NFL's most talented middle linebackers. Williams suffered a strained right calf on Wednesday, and the prognosis given by the team has been "week to week," which means the injury could linger.
"I really don't look at it as getting thrown in the fire," Bostic said. "I'm out there with a lot of guys I've pretty much watched on TV the last 10 or 12 years, however long I’ve been watching football. To be in there with them, I’ve got to pick it up. I've got to go out there and make sure I'm in my playbook off the field so I'm not making any mistakes when I'm out there."
In a letter sent via e-mail from Bears team president and CEO Ted Phillips, season ticket holders were told, "in the event games are cancelled, you will be given the option between a refund or credit to future games. Refunds will be paid no later than 30 days after the final determination of how many games will be played during the 2011 NFL season."
The Bears won't be refunding interest, which would be a small sum. Season ticket holders would only start to accrue interest once a game is officially cancelled, and would then only earn interest for up to 30 days, since refunds are due to be received by ticket holders no later than 30 days following a final determination of the 2011 schedule.
NFC North rival Detroit took a slightly different approach on the matter. Lions team president Tom Lewand told Detroit season ticket holders in a similar letter, "we will provide you with a full refund, with simple interest, for any cancelled preseason or regular-season home games."
"We all want football without interruption while ensuring the game is sound and strong well into the future," Phillips wrote. "We have no doubt an agreement will be reached with the union. As Commissioner Roger Goodell recently stated, "These are not easy negotiations, but the outcome can be positive. If both sides give a little, everyone, including fans, will get a lot and the game will improve through innovation."
The due date for Bears fans to renew their season tickets is April 7, 2011.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Welcome to Day 3 of the NFL Combine here at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With the Lovie Smith extension out of the way, our focus can shift back to projecting which players might interest the Bears in the upcoming draft.
The player groups scheduled to meet with the media Saturday are defensive linemen and linebackers.
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo always puts a premium on defensive linemen, and with the uncertain future of defensive tackle Tommie Harris -- not to mention the Bears' need for another rush end -- it stands to reason the Bears will take at least one defensive linemen for the ninth time in 10 years under Angelo. (The Bears didn't take a DL in 2005.) Angelo called this group "very good" -- due in large part to all the underclassman that declared for the draft -- when he met with the local media on Friday.
The Bears also figure to check out the class of linebacker, since both Pisa Tinoisamoa and Nick Roach are free agents and veteran Hunter Hillenmeyer missed all of last year due to a concussion issue. Factor in Brian Urlacher's age and the expected loss of several key core special teams contributors and you could make the argument the Bears could use a few young linebackers who can run. Angelo, however, called the linebackers "not so good" when evaluating the draft earlier in the week.
Trgovac, the Green Bay Packers current defensive line coach, spent seven years with Peppers in Carolina as both defensive line coach (2002) and defensive coordinator (2003-08). Over that span, Peppers made five Pro Bowls and recorded double-digit sacks in six separate seasons.
However, after all the success in Carolina, Peppers arrived in Chicago with the reputation of occasionally taking plays off.
"He had it [the reputation] coming out of college," Trgovac said Tuesday at Super Bowl media day. "I always attribute it to [the fact] he's so smooth and natural. I was his position coach his rookie year, and he was rookie of the year by the way, and he only played 12 games. I did every [college] game on him because we had just been hired there in Carolina and Houston already said they were going to take quarterback David Carr, so we had to choose between Julius and Joey Harrington.
"People always talked about him taking plays off and doing this, but he's just so smooth and natural that he does things so easy that people think he's being lazy. But Julius plays hard. That reputation has always followed him, and maybe will always follow him for his whole career. I don't know, I hope not, because he is a really good guy. He commands a lot of attention. What was really impressive for us [in Carolina] was his work ethic in practice. He busts his butt in practice and I don't think the kid ever got enough credit for that."
Besides providing background on Peppers, Trgovac shed light on the Packers defensive mind set during the NFC Championship Game in the aftermath of the Jay Cutler injury.
"Let me tell you, I've played against Jay Cutler a bunch of times and he is a tough kid," Trgovac said. "We were talking about it on the sidelines as coaches. You could see Collins warming up and one of our coaches even commented that if Cutler could play, he's a tough guy, he'll play, and to just keep your guys focused on the rush lanes.
"When Jay was in there, we respect his running ability. He's had some runs on us in the past so we really respect his running ability. When Todd came in there, Todd isn't that mobile, so we changed up a couple things on our rush lanes. When [Caleb] Hanie came in, we knew he could run a little bit. I mean, Cutler and Hanie aren't Michael Vick, but they both have escapability, so we had to make a quick change. It was one of those deals where the players were over there by the heaters, and I saw what was coming on, so Kevin [Greene] and I grabbed our guys really fast, we were knocking guys out of the way, to tell them [the Bears] are bringing [Hanie] into the game. We told them to keep your rush lanes and be conscience of stuff like that."
"He's unbelievable, in my mind he's defensive player of the year," Urlacher said.
It may be tough for Peppers to claim that award, since he's tied with five other players -- including fellow end Israel Idonije -- for 21st in the NFL with eight sacks.
But numbers aside, Urlacher points to Peppers as being the main reason behind the Bears' defensive resurgence in 2010.
"There's no one player in the NFL that affects a game on defense more than he does," Urlacher said. "You look at what he does, the schemes people have to do for him, he pretty much eliminates one side of the field. You have to double him, and if you don't double him, it's a sack. It makes our job easy. The running game, I don't know how many tackles for a loss he has, but he's always in the backfield. He sets up our whole defense.
"He's been everything we thought he was going to be and more. He practices hard, he plays hard. I have a lot of respect for the guy. He does a great job for us."
Peppers lead the team in quarterback pressures (20), is tops among all Bears' defensive linemen in tackles (48), and is the first lineman to record multiple interceptions (2) in a single season since Alex Brown in 2006.
"He's [phenomenal against] the run," Urlacher said. "He's a big guy, 295 pounds, and people always talk about how many sacks he has, but he plays the run really well. The guy is in the backfield all the time, in his gap, he's distributive. He just does his job and does it well."