Through the first five games of the season the Chicago Bears stand with a record of 4-1 and the vast majority of Bear players have played up to expectations.
But two players stand out as early season disappointments.
Carimi was supposed to be the best player on the offensive line this year; his return from injury was going to help stabilize this unit. Instead, Carimi has been one of the worst pass-blocking offensive tackles in the NFL through the first five games, giving up a sack in each game and allowing numerous pressures.
Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carimi was flagged for three penalties—two false starts and a holding penalty. He also allowed a sack, a QB hit and five pressures, adding to his already negative pass-blocking rating on the season (per ProFootballFocus.com).
Carimi is struggling with all aspects of pass protection, he struggles with speed-rushers, with the bull rush and with his footwork. There is a legitimate concern about whether he has the footwork to be a solid pass-protector throughout his career.
On the other end of the spectrum however, Carimi has been a dominant run-blocker. His strength as a run-blocker was expected because the Wisconsin Badgers have always been a very run-heavy college team.
There is only one other major disappointment associated with this young season and that’s Cutler’s early season inconsistency. Most people assumed this year would be the one in which Jay Cutler would put it all together and become an elite quarterback in the NFL. The addition of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery was to give Cutler the receiving weapons necessary to maximize his production.
Instead Cutler has seemingly regressed in 2012; he’s not among the top ten quarterbacks in the NFL in any of the major statistical categories. Cutler is 21st in QB rating, 13th in touchdown passes, 26th in completion percentage and 13th in yards. He has thrown the fifth-most interceptions in the NFL.
He started out 1-of-10 against the Colts, had one of his worst career performances against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 and was ugly against the Rams. Only a decent performance against the Cowboys and a resurgent second half against the Jaguars have given Bears fans any hope. Even in the Week 5 win over Jacksonville, Cutler started out terribly, throwing an awful interception in a first half that saw him complete only 50 percent of his passes.
Most Bears fans point to how often Cutler is under pressure—and there's some truth to that assessment—but great quarterbacks overcome such pressure and manage to perform at a relatively consistent level. As Pro Football Focus notes, Matt Schaub’s passer rating is nearly identical when he’s under pressure:
One reason the Texans are so good—Schaub's consistency. Rating with no pressure: 105.9, with pressure? 104.3—Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 8, 2012
So Cutler can't use defensive pressure as an excuse for his poor play. He needs to get it together mentally and put up consistent performances regardless of how unsteady his protection may be.
Dating back to last season, Jay Cutler is 9-1 over his last 10 starts, but of those opponents only the Detroit Lions had a winning record (10-6 in 2011). However, the Lions record over their last 16 games, including this season, is only 6-10.
Essentially, Cutler has not beaten a team with a winning record over his last 10 starts; he will eventually have to show a high level of play against good teams in order to silence his skeptics.
Strong defenses are what Cutler and the Bears will face in the playoffs. Bears fans have lofty but legitimate expectations of this team winning a Super Bowl, but Cutler’s play will have to be better than we have seen before Chicago can realize that goal.
The expectation is not for Jay Cutler to be better than the previous group of Bears' starting quarterbacks, which was amongst the worst in franchise history.
The expectation is for Cutler to be among the best in the NFL on a game-to-game basis.