Bears on Defense: Avalava's Takedown
At the snap, Edwards drops back to pass. All three receivers release down field. Reed breaks across the field at five yards, but Urlacher picks him up. At the same time, left end Adawale Oguunleye speed rushes around the outside shoulder of RT Brad Butler and is instantly in the quarterback's face. Graham blitzes behind Ogunleye and uses an inside stutter-step on Schouman before breaking outside. Edwards eludes both Ogunleye and Graham, scrambling out of the pocket to his right. By this time, Lynch has released into the right flat. Edwards hits Lynch in the flat, but S Al Afalava takes him down in the open field for 2-yard loss.
Pressure on the quarterback was the Achilles' heel of this squad last year, so Ogunleye beating Butler decisively is a good sign. Additionally, the Bears were ineffective in their predictable blitz packages last season, which usually involved Briggs or Urlacher rushing through the middle of the line – a scheme offenses have learned to neutralize. On this play, Graham uses a delayed blitz off the edge, which pulls Schouman to the inside and allows the defender a free path to the QB. Another good sign was the play of Afalava, who looked like a young Mike Brown for most of the night, contributing positively against both the pass and run. Improved safety play and consistent pressure from the front four will be critical to the success of this defense in 2009.
Bears on Offense: One-Sided Jump Ball
At the snap, Cutler drops back to pass. Wolfe and Clark both release into the secondary, leaving only five blockers. DE Aaron Schobel gets under LT Orlando Pace's shoulder pads and drives him into Cutler's face. On the right side, DE Chris Kelsay speed rushes to RT Chris Williams' outside shoulder and gets into the backfield. Both tackles are well blocked on the inside. At the same time, Hester runs a fly pattern down the left sideline. Because of the pressure, Cutler is forced to step up into the pocket. He then makes an awkward, off-balance throw. The ball floats to Hester, who is instantly boxed out by CB Leodis McKelvin. The corner then leaps into the air and pulls down the interception.
This play showed two things: Cutler needs to adjust to his receivers, and Hester needs to become more aggressive when the ball is up for grabs. In Denver, Cutler almost always had the 6-4, 230-pound Brandon Marshall to throw deep to when the pocket collapsed. Marshall would often use his size and strength to get at jump balls or, at the least, prevent an interception. Cutler needs to realize that Hester does not have the frame – 5-11, 190-pounds – to be battling for jump balls. At the same time, Hester needed to go up for that pass and disrupt the pick attempt. If he is to ever become a complete receiver, he needs to be on the offensive when the ball is in the air.
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Jeremy Stoltz is the editor-in-chief of The Business Ledger, the business newspaper for suburban Chicago. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report and BearReport.com.
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