Today we check in again with Dan Pompei who has been covering the NFL for 28 years. Pompei recently left the Tribune and will soon begin covering the NFL for Bleacher Nation and Sports on Earth. We talked Jay Cutler, the lines, and the "Black Unicorn."
TL: After 2 games in the Marc Trestman offense what can you see if anything different about Jay Cutler?
DP: I don't think there is a lot different about Cutler, other than calls have been coming in quickly, he has been protected better and he has probably the best group of receivers to throw to he's ever had. If I had to pick one thing though, I'd say this--I think he often is responding to pressure well when it comes, and moving in the pocket in order to create time and space. That's something he has been inconsistent with in recent years. Like always, he has made some unbelievable throws. And like always, he has made some puzzling ones. Two games is a small sample size though.
TL: Trestman said that he rarely communicates with Jay during games and leaves that up to QB Coach Matt Cavanaugh. Is Cavanaugh to be mostly credited with Cutler's fourth-quarter composure? Or does that ultimately get traced back to coach Trestman in your opinion?
DP: Trestman is very involved with the quarterbacks all week. He sits in the meeting room with them. He coaches them at practice. He is the driving force behind the game plan. He calls the plays. There is no doubt he gets a big share of the credit for Cutler's performance thus far. But I think it's only fair to credit Cavanaugh as well.
TL: I have to give a slight nod to Cutler as MVP thus far, but the Bears don't win their first two games without Martellus Bennett do they?
DP: There is no way the Bears would have scored two of the touchdowns Bennett scored on (back of the end zone against the Bengals and game winner against the Vikings) if Cutler had been throwing those passes to Kellen Davis. Bennett has a special combination of size and athleticism. And it appears as if the Bears got him at just the right point in his career. He came into the NFL as an immature, unfinished product. It looks like he's about to come into his own right now. Credit Phil Emery for seeing that in Bennett.
TL: The O-line has been outstanding keeping Cutler "clean" while performing as a disciplined unit. How much can we attribute to O-Line Coach Aaron Kromer? Or is it more the new faces?
DP: It's a combination of Kromer's coaching and the new players. I think Mike Tice is a very good offensive line coach, and I think he could have gotten this group to perform well. But you have to give Kromer credit. He has a knack for developing players like Jordan Mills. You also have to acknowledge that the talent is better. The Bears clearly have a better left tackle than they did last year. They clearly have a better right guard. And if Mills keeps playing the way he's played, they have a better right tackle. They clearly are better at three of the four line positions, and if Matt Slausen can provide stability and consistency at left guard as I expect he will, they will be better at four of the five positions.
TL: So far the more aggresive blitz packages are the only differences that have been pointed out between Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker and Lovie Smith's defense. Anything else jump out?
DP: Not much. It looks like the same defense for the most part. But it's kind of early to define who the Bears are defensively. I imagine Mel Tucker could tinker with things as the season goes along.
TL: How concerned are you about the Bears lack of a pass rush?
DP: On the one hand, these are proven pass rushers whose production should be a given. On the other hand, going two games without barely sniffing a quarterback is a problem. Pass rush tends to come and go though. I expect it will come around. Once Julius Peppers gets his motor revved, everyone else should benefit. But I know this--if the pass rush doesn't get going, this team isn't going to be anywhere near as good as it should be. The Bears remain very dependent on getting pressure on the quarterback.
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