This weeks edition of Blogger Q & A features Dane Noble from Windy City Gridiron. Dane has provided not only detailed questions to our probing questions but has quite a bold prediction for the game at the end. Let's get started.
Question 1: You had a nice start to the season at 3-0 but then the Giants went sack happy. Was that simply a bad game by your offensive line or is pass protection a serious concern for the Bears? Which player(s) are most guilty of allowing the sack-fest?
Dane: In short-order: Yes/ Yes/ All of them. The Chicago Bears OL troubles are nothing new, but it does seem like 2010 is much worse than the last few years. We used to worry about having John St. Clair or Orlando Pace on the field, but this year no one across the board is stepping up. The first three games (Lions, Cowboys, Packers) saw Cutler get in trouble early in the game, only to have OL coach Mike Tice and OC Mike Martz be able to make in-game adjustments to compensate for the lack of performance. They started running a lot of cuts, traps, misdirections, pulls, 1/2 step drop passes, etc, and we were able to keep those teams off balance. But, that didn't happen when we played the Giants. Whether it was a lack of adjustments on our coaches part, or the fact that the Giants front four are just that good... either way, we had two QBs knocked out of the game. And, just like last year, we have huge OL problems to start the year, so we cut a starting DE and replace him with someone else.
This plays into the Panthers need to get pressure to protect their secondary as well.
Question 2: QB Jay Cutler has taken a lot of criticism prior to this season but has looked pretty good so far in 2010. Has he done enough to ease Bears fans fears that they overpaid for the Cutler?
Dane: I don't think there are many Bears fans who ever thought we overpaid for Cutler. There were plenty of people who aren't fans of the Bears who love to say we overpaid (Cutler is an easy target for people to not like him), but honestly, take a look at 1st Round draft picks in the last 10 years for the Bears, and tell me what you see. A LOT of swings and misses. So, we essentially used a couple of first rounders to draft a very talented and intelligent QB. Does Cutler still have work to do to get better? Sure. But the good news is he has yet to peak.
That has to be frustrating for a fan base to see high draft picks repeatedly not pan out. That makes me appreciate Panthers GM Marty Hurney.
Question 3: I saw Cutler sustained a concussion against the Giants as well. If he cannot go this weekend who will start and what does that mean for the Bears offense?
Dane: We've got two other QBs on the roster... NFL journeyman Todd Collins, and perennial backup Caleb Hanie. Hanie has been with the Bears for a few years now, and everone likes what they see in him. He got injured in the preseason (shoulder), and wasn't even active until Collins got knocked out of the Giants game with a stinger. If Cutler can't go Sunday, we'll probably see Hanie. He's got a great arm, and seems to be a sharp kid. The unfortunate part of being a backup QB in a Martzfense is that you never, ever get any reps with the first string during practice. So, Collins and Hanie have both been relegated to the scout teams this year. Cutler has been cleared by doctors to return to practice, so we'll see what happens Sunday. It will likely be a game time decision.
Word is Cutler is practicing so I think this answer is a moot point. Cutler will play Sunday.
Question 4: When I look at defensive stats I'm surprised to see your secondary ranked #27 (6th against the run though). What type of passing game should the Panthers deploy to take advantage of the Bears secondary?
Dane: Our defensive backs are at the mercy of our pass rush. Sure, that sounds cliche, but for the Bears, it is absolutely true. Our DBs do not have the talent to sustain coverage downfield, so if the Panthers want to move the ball, bring in an extra pass blocker or two and give the WRs time to run their routes. The best thing our DBs have done this season is hit people. Danieal Manning, Chris Harris... they've been playing the run very agressively, and made WRs pay when going over the middle. No doubt the Panthers coaching staff has noticed that.
Boy does that problem sound familiar.
Question 5: Last I have the obvious question, are you happy with your offseason Panther acquisitions in Julius Peppers and Chris Harris? Is Peppers everything you thought you were getting?
Dane: Julius Peppers has been a one man wrecking crew through the first four games. He's getting great support from our LB corp, but he is dominating opposing OTs. To quote a Bears beat writer recently "The surprise will come when Peppers DOESN'T play like the 91 Million Dollar Man." So far, so great. As far as Harris goes, he's been who we thought he was. He's destroyed people in the open field, and been decent in pass coverage. But, his biggest asset is his run support... he's like having an extra linebacker at times.
Since Peppers gets to pick which side he wants to line up on, we can expect for him to line up on Schwartz most of the game and avoid his old practice buddy Jordan Gross. Besides, we know how pep loves to pad his stats against the average Joe's.
Got a game prediction Dane? Oh boy. It all depends on the health of Cutler, and whether the other guys will show up on our DL. I'll go with The Superfans on this one:
Bill - Traveling to Carolina should be emotional for Mr. Peppers, but I don't expect that big of a game from him, due to constant triple teaming, which should lead to a big game from Israel Idonije.
Carl - Izzy will get it done.
Pat - Yes, and I can see Chris Harris making himself at home with a few forced fumbles and a pick or two, and a final of 46 -0.
Bill - Wow. That is exactly what I was going to say.
All - Da Bears!
Classic! I have to say that sets the record for biggest blow out prediction.
Thanks Dane for sharing!