Break­ing down why Jay Cut­ler is a good fit for Adam Gase’s Dol­phins

Sunday Sports - - SPORTS - JOHN KRYK jokryk@post­media.com @JohnKryk blogs.ca­noe.ca/kryk­slants

Jay Cut­ler fi­nally makes his big-buzz, reg­u­lar-sea­son de­but as a Miami Dol­phin on Sun­day, in the Charg­ers’ nobuzz re­turn to Los An­ge­les.

Far more peo­ple in North Amer­ica care about how Cut­ler fares in his first start at quar­ter­back for the Dol­phins — af­ter three years in Denver, eight years in Chicago and three months in re­tire­ment — than An­ge­lenos give one squint about the move north of the Charg­ers from San Diego.

So this story is about Cut­ler’s re­lo­ca­tion, not the Charg­ers.’ And more than that, it’s about Cut­ler’s much-dis­cussed re­u­nion with Dol­phins head coach Adam Gase.

The 34-year-old Cut­ler is the Dol­phins’ emer­gency, one-year re­place­ment for in­jured sixth-year starter Ryan Tan­nehill, gone for the sea­son with an ACL tear suf­fered in early Au­gust.

It was two years ago that Gase jumped from Denver to Chicago to con­tinue serv­ing as of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor for head coach John Fox, af­ter the Bron­cos fired him and the Bears hired him.

Cut­ler had in­fa­mously failed to mesh with a string of pre­de­ces­sor play-call­ers in Chicago, but he got along fa­mously with Gase — even if Cut­ler’s stats that sea­son don’t quite bear out the breath­less­ness.

What ex­actly makes the duo such a sup­posed good match? Off the field, both men still talk about their deep, gen­uine, mu­tual re­spect for one an­other, as forged in Chicago.

But what is it on the field that po­ten­tially sets up this coach and this QB for suc­cess in Miami in 2017?

When you want to scratch be­low such talk­ing-point ve­neers on NFL schemes, tac­tics and quar­ter­back play, there’s no bet­ter brain to pick than that of se­nior pro­ducer Greg Cosell of NFL Films. He has been break­ing down pro foot­ball film for decades, es­pe­cially on ESPN’s in­for­ma­tive, long-run­ning X’s-andO’s show, NFL Matchup.

“I think what Gase likes to do of­fen­sively fits Cut­ler, and here’s what I mean,” Cosell said in a phone in­ter­view. “Gase likes what we call three-by-one sets, where there’s a sin­gle re­ceiver to the bound­ary.

“And that re­ceiver in this of­fence will ei­ther be DeVante Parker, who is their X, or (tight end) Julius Thomas. Be­cause if you re­mem­ber back in Denver (when Thomas was there too), Gase likes to have a tight end who can line up at that X re­ceiver po­si­tion, to the bound­ary — the sin­gle re­ceiver who can win.”

OK, a brief ter­mi­nol­ogy re­fresher.

A team’s “X” re­ceiver typ­i­cally is its best. As the X he’s also called the split end be­cause, in many for­ma­tions, he lines up split to the short side of the field, and right up to the line of scrim­mage, not set back. That’s be­cause, ir­re­spec­tive of slot re­ceivers, the op­po­site side of the of­fence’s for­ma­tion, the wide side, typ­i­cally has the both tight end (the “Y” re­ceiver) as well as the “Z” wide re­ceiver or flanker, the lat­ter of whom must line up a cou­ple yards be­hind the line so as to make the tight end an el­i­gi­ble down­field re­ceiver.

If your X isn’t your premier re­ceiver, he at least needs to be — as Cosell de­scribed it — some­one who can “win” in man-to-man matchups against usu­ally the de­fence’s best cor­ner­back. Un­like the Y re­ceiver, the X has no buf­fer and of­ten is im­me­di­ately en­gaged by the cor­ner. So he must be strong enough to avoid be­ing phys­i­cally cor­ralled, fast enough to help him shake the cor­ner, then skilled enough both to make good cuts to get open and re­li­ably catch the ball once it ar­rives.

“There’s no ques­tion DeVante Parker was drafted by Miami (14th over­all in 2015) to be an X re­ceiver,” Cosell said. “When Gase was in Chicago in 2015, Al­shon Jef­fery was that guy. And the thing about Cut­ler is he prefers to throw to one-on-one matchups. He’s a turn-it-loose thrower. So his style fits with throw­ing the ball to the X.”

Some NFL passers won’t throw it to the X re­ceiver un­less he’s clearly open. That’s lim­it­ing, and it frus­trates coaches to no end.

“But Cut­ler throws to him,” Cosell said, “be­cause he be­lieves, as you should in the NFL — and I was told this by Troy Aik­man a hun­dred years ago, and I’ve never for­got­ten it — that if it’s a one-onone, your re­ceiver has to win. You throw him the ball. That’s the best you get in the NFL. If it’s your big-time re­ceiver, one-on-one, he’s got to win.”

Bot­tom line, Gase wants Cut­ler to do what Cut­ler likes to do.

AP

Miami Dol­phins quar­ter­back Jay Cut­ler will make his reg­u­lar-sea­son de­but with the team to­day against the Charg­ers.

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