Cutler throws 4 picks, 'O' still learning
August, 6, 2013
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsJay Cutler threw four interceptions Tuesday, although the defense was taking liberties.BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Henry Melton raised his hands and slapped at a Jay Cutler pass, only to send it wobbling off its trajectory and float gently back into his paws for an interception and touchdown.
"I always tell Jay before practice, ‘Hey, I'm gonna get a couple today,'" Melton said.
The defense feasted on that and more, as the front four batted down several passes -- with at least two resulting in interceptions -- as Cutler tossed four interceptions on Tuesday, providing a glimpse of just how much work needs to be done before the offense is truly regular-season ready.
To speed the process along, the plan is to "keep Jay Cutler uncomfortable," according to offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. The club added several new plays on Tuesday, rehearsed them in a walkthrough, and then hit the field to produce a mixed bag of results.
"There's been ups and downs," Cutler said. "This is training camp. Today we did some good, we did some bad. We just have to build on the good every day, and we go back and look at the film and see what we messed up and try to improve on it next time."
Bears coach Marc Trestman pointed out that the offense during Tuesday's workout cut down dramatically on pre-snap penalties, despite the staff throwing "a ton of stuff at (Cutler)" today, including "a bunch of new plays." The offense also worked on "multiple snap counts," resulting in "our most difficult day at the line of scrimmage with snap counts."
Perhaps all the installation played a role in one of the unit's sloppiest performances thus far at camp.
It's important to note, however, that the staff discourages the defensive linemen from attempting to bat down passes at practice so that the offense can get in its work.
"The tipped balls, I don't get too caught up in it right now because the pass rushers stop because they don't want to get in the way and their hands go up or they jump up in the air for the ball," Trestman said. "We try to discourage jumping up in the air for the ball so we can complete plays, and let everybody go to the ball and finish. But we allow the guys to keep their hands up.
"The downside of that from an offensive side is when they stop their rush, which they normally don't do, we lose the pass lane. So when you see that, certainly we're disappointed that we didn't get the plays off. We hope it doesn't carry over to the season. It usually doesn't because those lanes are created. But it's good to have adversity like that. It upsets our players offensively, certainly, that we failed on that play. But at the same time, it forces us to lock in and get better on the next play, and that's what those types of situations do. You've got to put it behind you and you've got to move on to the next play, and that's football."
Still, it's frustrating for Cutler, who joked "we need to remind" the defensive line again that attempting to bat down passes is discouraged.
"A few batted balls, it's frustrating offensively because it's probably not going to happen in a game," he said. "But (you've) got to battle through it. We know we're going to the right guy, going to the right spot, just (that) we're getting tipped here and there, couple bad decisions. But like I said, it's camp and we just have to keep working on the things we're struggling with and keep doing all the good things."
Isaiah Frey also intercepted a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage.
"One of our rules is really, don't bat a ball in practice," Kromer said. "Guys get excited, and they can't help but put their hands up and swat at them. You live with it, and you go onto the next play."
The offense did that often Tuesday, only to experience another miscue. Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh viewed the team's sloppy practice as ideal training ground for what Cutler might experience during a live game situation.
"That's good practice for our quarterbacks to see those kinds of bodies in front of them with their hands up," he said. "You've got to find throwing lanes. You've got to change your delivery sometimes to get the ball out. For the most part, he's done that. Today (the defense) got us. They got us about four or five times today on knocking the balls down."
The unit also took advantage of a miscommunication between Cutler and Brandon Marshall for another pick, while another came as the result of a heady play at the line of scrimmage by Shea McClellin.
Having quickly diagnosed the play, McClellin stopped in the middle of his rush and ran to the passing lane to jump in front of a Cutler pass for an INT.
"I was just doing my job, reading my keys, and the ball was there, so I grabbed it," McClellin said.
On the miscommunication with Marshall, Cutler fired a pass directly into the chest of safety Chris Conte that didn't travel close to the vicinity of where the receiver was running his route.
As the play came to an end, Cutler and Marshall stared frustratingly at one another as the receiver walked back to the huddle.
"You know, we'll talk after practice and get back on the same page," Cutler said. "It's a long camp. Today didn't exactly go our way, but that's how it is. We have to rebound, fix the problem and keep it going."
But time's running out before the club opens the season Sept. 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Trestman anticipates he and Cutler will experience more ups and downs as the season progresses, and admits they're still very much still getting to know one another.
"We're really not going to know who we are and what we're about until February. Then, we'll sit back and really evaluate the process. I certainly think we've grown. We've gotten to know each other, how we think and how we work. We know we're willing to work hard and we love football," Trestman said. "With that foundation, the next step is how we're going to handle success on a week-to-week basis because that's just as important as handling adversity, and then how are we going to get through it when it gets tough. That's the fun part and the most exciting part, because both sides of this are going to happen eventually. We'll truly grow as a team, collective team and individually within our position groups, and that's the exciting part."