QB Watch: Bears’ Josh McCown

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
9:00
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A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play.

McCown
Rewind: McCown entered the game for an injured Jay Cutler at the 9:47 mark of the second quarter and scrambled for an 11-yard gain on first down before throwing incomplete to Matt Forte the next play to end the drive. With Cutler running the show, the Bears missed on four third-down conversions in the first half. In the second half, Chicago converted 50 percent of third downs and racked up 313 yards. McCown hit on 70 percent of his throws for a passer rating of 119.6, as the quarterback scrambled four times for 33 yards in the fourth quarter in addition to leading three scoring drives.

Fast-forward: McCown admits he doesn’t possess as big of an arm as Cutler, but he can make up for that deficiency with solid anticipation, which for the most part is the backup’s game. McCown’s athleticism is on par with Cutler’s, and he’s probably more willing to tuck the ball and run than the starter if the targets don’t come open downfield. So McCown’s athleticism should be an asset when the Bears play Green Bay on Nov. 4. In the meantime, McCown will spend the week off immersing himself in the intricacies of the scheme as he prepares to make his first start since the 2011 season.

Run the offense through Forte: Establishing Forte early on is the best way to help McCown settle in and find a groove. The team should’ve done that in the loss last week to the Redskins but instead handed off to the running back just four times in the first half. That’s clearly not enough. By putting the ball into Forte’s hands often, the Bears can set up the play-action passing game and put the Packers on their heels. McCown will struggle if Green Bay gets into pin-your-ears-back-and-rush mode. So Chicago needs to feature the running back early.

Prediction: Fresh off the street from coaching high school football in 2011, McCown -- with a dreadful supporting cast -- put up 21 points in his first start against the Packers in December 2011. This time around, Chicago’s scheme and personnel are better, while Green Bay doesn’t appear to be as strong a team now as in 2011. So look for McCown to put together an efficient game with a passer rating in the high 80s to low 90s.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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