Ron Jaworski concerned about hits on Bears QB Jay Cutler
SEAN JENSEN ON THE BEARS October 6, 2011 10:04PM
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler gets sacked or knocked down 10 times a game. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:46AM
When he turns on tape of the Bears, former NFL quarterback and ESPN ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ analyst Ron Jaworski worries about what he’s seeing from Jay Cutler.
He’s getting sacked or taken down 10 times a game. He’s shuffling too much in the pocket. He’s not stepping into his passes.
“I am concerned about Cutler,” Jaworski said, noting the 28 times Cutler has been sacked or knocked down. “Your quarterback takes that many hits, and the cumulative effect wears him down.
“It’s a trust factor, and the only one who can feel that is Jay. But in his movement, he doesn’t trust his offensive line, and he doesn’t trust his receivers.”
All, however, isn’t lost, Jaworski insisted.
Cutler can rebound. The offensive line can provide adequate protection. And the receivers can be “good enough.”
“I think it’s a work in progress,” Jaworski said. “There have been changes. I think the key is to be patient.”
Cutler opened the season with a strong performance, completing 22 of 32 passes for 312 yards against the Atlanta Falcons.
But he took a beating reminiscent of stretches last season in back-to-back losses against the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.
Against the Carolina Panthers, Cutler threw only 17 passes, as the Bears emphasized running back Matt Forte.
Asked if the protection against the Panthers helped his confidence, Cutler said, “Yeah, absolutely.
“We’re starting to get our guys back, we’re starting to get everyone healthy again, and those guys are starting to get a good feel for what we’re trying to do offensively and what we’re trying to get with the pocket around me. We’re headed down the right road.”
With a shortened offseason, the Bears stressed the importance of continuity — particularly on the offensive line — to a strong start this season.
But the opening-day starting five didn’t even last a game. Right guard Lance Louis suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for the second half of the opener. Then rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi suffered a knee injury in the second quarter the next game.
The same five started against the Packers and Panthers, but there was chaos against Carolina when Frank Omiyale was benched for the second half and Chris Spencer fractured his right hand.
“The pieces have to remain the same,” offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. “When the pieces were the same [in 2010], we got into a rhythm.
“When it calms down and we have the same guys every week, then I think you have a chance to get that rhythm going.”
So what do the Bears do until then, especially with Carimi unlikely to play Monday in Detroit?
“You just have to watch what you’re doing,’’ Martz said. ‘‘You have to make sure you’re not asking them to do something that we’re not ready to do. You have to be careful with the plays that you use and be very, very judicious in that respect. You just change gears and go in a different direction sometimes.”
They didn’t pass the ball very efficiently against the Panthers, but Martz was encouraged by what he saw from the offense, notably the confidence of the players in blocking for Forte.
Jaworski said a quarterback’s feet tell him what he’s thinking.
“And [Cutler] is just a little fast at times,” Jaworski said. “I don’t see him setting the feet — the plant, step and drive of the football — on a consistent basis.
“When he plants that back foot and snaps it, he throws it as well as anyone in the league.”
The protection problems, Jaworski said, clearly are an issue.
“When you lose confidence in your pass-protection schemes, that’s what happens,” he said. “There’s no quarterback in the history of this league that enjoys getting hit.
“Then you begin to get cabin pressure, and you feel the pressure. But sometimes it’s not even there.”
Still, Jaworski doesn’t see a broken quarterback.
“To Jay’s credit, he’s still looking down the field,” Jaworski said. “That’s very strong. A lot of times, that’s hard to do.”
Martz downplayed any concern about Cutler.
“Jay’s fine,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s nothing wrong with Jay. He’s obviously got to do better, but there are things he did in the opener that he’s not doing as well right now.
“He’s got to sit in there and make throws that we know he can make. We’ll get him there. We’re going to get him there.”