With the Bucs and Bears playing on Sunday, I exchanged five questions with SB Nation's Chicago Bears blog Windy City Gridiron. Thanks to Dane Noble for taking the time to answer our questions. You can check out their Five Questions with Bucs Nation on the site as well.
1. How do the Chicago fans feel about Jay Cutler, both as a passer and as a leader of the offense and team?
On a scale of 1-10, I'd say probably an 8.5. Cutler has both the skill set and the intelligence to be an elite QB in this league, but has yet to had the luxury of a consistent offensive line or offensive scheme to work with. Cutler isn't known for his congeniality, but like some of his teammates said this week, "When Jay gets fired up, we get fired up." Who cares what his attitude is, or what he looks like on camera... Give the guy some protection, and let him play football.2. Lovie Smith seems like the typical Tony Dungy coach: always calm, always steady, always staying the course. He was awarded with another contract extension this offseason - do you think he's earned that, and do you think he can lead the Bears to a Super Bowl?
Well, he's taken the team to the Big Dance once already, and has also registered a second NFC Championship Game appearance. His demeanor is very mild-mannered, but it's been said that his players are 100% behind him; that they completely buy into what he's selling. Having that respect from his players is huge. I do think Lovie is a good coach, but how good is a mystery. No one knows for sure how much input he really has into the personnel... GM Jerry Angelo obviously makes the final decision with draft picks, trades, etc, but how much of the product on the field is Lovie's? One way of looking at it is that he can only do so much with poor talent, and another way is saying that he is responsible for the poor talent. My personal opinion is that Lovie is average... And that's why the team under his leadership is typically very average.
3. The Bears defense seems to be struggling - can you explain why they haven't played up to last year's level?
The success of our defense is predicated on generating pressure from the front four. If the guys up front are disruptive, then everything else falls into place. But, if they don't, then everything falls apart. What we're seeing a lot of this year is poor tackling, coupled with the inability to cover WRs downfield. The latter is no surprise... We've not had DBs who can cover for wuite some time now. We DO have DBs who will knock your block off and cause turnovers, but they just can't stay with WRs downfield. That's why the pressure from the front four is so important. As for the poor tackling, I have no idea. Every year, there are 3-4 games in a row where the entire defense just forgets how to tackle. It happens every single season. But, then they get back on track, and remember again. This season, they haven't really found their tackling mojo yet.
4. Can you name one unknown player on defense who Bucs fans need to look out for?
We've got a couple of new Safeties that both started last week when veterans Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather were benched... Rookie Chris Conte and sophomore Major Wright. The safety position during the Lovie Smith regime is nothing more than a game of musical chairs, and this week is still up in the air as to who will start back there. Also, keep an eye on SLB Nick Roach. Everyone knows Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, but Roach is equally athletic and speedy as his two counterparts, he just doesn't make as many big plays as they do.
5. Can you name one unknown player on offense who Bucs fans need to look out for?
Undrafted rookie WR Dane Sanzenbacher comes to mind first. He became a favorite target of Cutler's during preseason, and has made some big catches when called upon in the regular season. Also, TE Kellen Davis can also make a big impact. At 6'7", 265 lbs, he's a huge target for Cutler, and has surprising quickness for a TE. He hasn't yet made an impact on the field in 2011, but he certainly is someone to keep an eye on.