One of the great things about working at The Landry Hat, and the Fansided Sports Network, is our access to different experts. Since our network has a site for every NFL team, I’d thought I’d get an insider’s take on the upcoming Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears game from “behind enemy lines”. Therefore, I present these five in-depth questions with the editor of our Bears’ site, beargoggleson.com, Mike Burzawa. (checkout my answers to his questions here)
1. Do you believe in Jay Cutler? Is he the emotional wreck the national media makes him out to be? Tony Romo or Jay Cutler?
MB: I still believe in Jay Cutler, but he’s making it a little harder to do so. This is sort of a make-or-break season for Jay. Since he’s been in Chicago, there’s always been an excuse, whether it’s a lack of weapons or the 7-step drops in the old offensive system, there’s been some other reason why Cutler hasn’t been successful. This offseason, the Bears brought in Brandon Marshall, his favorite target from Denver and drafted promising rookie Alshon Jeffery to bolster the wide receiving group. They canned Mike Martz and promoted Mike Tice to install a more Jay-friendly offense and added Jeremy Bates, another familiar face from his days in Denver, as QB’s coach to help mentor Jay.
Cutler is made to look a whole lot worse by the national media than here locally. He has a weekly radio show that he does and seems to be generally affable and has a pretty decent sense of humor. I think most guys in the locker room respect the competitor that Jay is, but would probably prefer he handle some of his business behind closed doors rather than on the sidelines and in the media.
If choosing between Cutler and Romo, I’d still have to take Jay. He’s much more gifted physically with a much better arm and enough mobility to get the job done. Cutler is a few years younger than Romo, so that doesn’t hurt either.
2. We all see the weapons on offense. Tell us more about Chicago’s defense, outside of Peppers and Urlacher.
MB: Peppers and Urlacher grab a lot of the headlines, but you left off a bunch of guys. First, how could you miss linebacker Lance Briggs? He’s been to more consecutive Pro Bowls than Urlacher and is a tackling machine. You can look for him to blow up at least one DeMarco Murray run for a big loss.
The defensive line has had a resurgence this season with the play of tackles Henry Melton and Stephen Paea. They’ll be collapsing the pocket from the inside and flushing Romo out for Peppers and rookie DE Shea McClellin.
In the secondary, Charles “Peanut” Tillman is coming off a Pro Bowl season last year and has been solid again to start 2012. He has an amazing knack for forcing fumbles, so the Cowboys had better practice good ball security. On the other side, Tim Jennings has been the Bears’ defensive MVP with 4 INT’s and 2 tipped passes that led directly to interceptions by his teammates. Jennings may only be about 5’8″, but he plays much bigger than his size.
3. How has new offensive coordinator Mike Tice made a difference to the Bear’s offense? And how has new QB coach Jermey Bates helped Cutler this year?
MB: So far, I think Tice may be hampering the Bears’ offense while they’re transitioning to his system. Ultimately, I think the offense will improve, but the Bears are still going through some growing pains while he tries to figure out what works and what doesn’t. When the Bears offense has been out of sync, I feel like it’s because Tice has been out of sync.
I don’t know what value Bates has brought other than another Cutler “guy” to coddle him and make him more comfortable. Cutler’s breakdowns in mechanics, especially when under pressure, are maddening and I’d think that the quarterbacks coach should be able to straighten those out.
4. What’s the Bear’s biggest weakness?
MB: This may sound familiar – Offensive line. When new GM Phil Emery joined the Bears, he had a lot of holes to fill and for the most part has done a great job, but one area he neglected was offensive line. Left tackle J’Marcus Webb has been little more than a turn style and starting left guard Chris Spencer has lost his job to free agent Chilo Rachal after just 2 weeks. J’Webb could be right behind him. Second year man Gabe Carimi, last year’s top draft choice, missed all but the first 6 quarters of the season to a knee injury. The hope is that his early season struggles are him just getting his game legs under him, but he’s been vulnerable too. We expect to see Cutler running for his life early and often on Monday.
5. What’s your prediction for the game on Monday night? Please include a final score.
MB: The Bears played pretty well in their last trip to Dallas and that was behind a makeshift offensive line. I’m not sure that they’ll be able to repeat that success this time around. As much as is made about the offenses, this game comes down to two top-10 defenses. The Cowboys rank #1 overall while the Bears rank #7. Each team is 2-1 and the 1 has been a clunker. I think Jay Cutler spends a good chunk of time running for his life as I’ve set the over/under for DeMarcus Ware sacks at 3.5. The Bears’ running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush are both dinged up and their status is up in the air for Monday night, which puts more pressure and Cutler and the passing game. It doesn’t add up for me. Cowboys win 19-13 in a defensive showdown.