Jay Cutler Gets a Mixed Bag to Work With in Chicago
First off, let’s restrict this discussion to weapons the Bears already have, not ones they may or may not acquire in the draft or via free agency.
At first glance, most people would say that Cutler will now make up all of the Bears' offense. His strong arm and quick thinking helped the Broncos contend for the AFC West title, and though his previous team fell short, he still put up stellar numbers with help from wide receivers Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall.
Cutler posted 25 TDs on 4,526 yards passing last season, but the more important thing to take note of is that Cutler put up those numbers without the aid of a running game. Last year, Denver went through several running backs, even going so far as to sign a player off the street.
In contrast, Jay will have Matt Forte and veteran Kevin Jones in Chicago. Not only can Forte run, but he’s also a receiving threat; if he works on his pass blocking this offseason, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more complete back in the league.
Meanwhile, the oft-injured Jones has proven to be effective when he’s 100 percent healthy. We can only hope he remains strong so that he can take some of the rushing load off of Forte.
Being part of the “run first” Bears means that Cutler won’t have to make every play with his arm. Also, having Cutler under center could mean Forte will face less seven- and eight-man fronts, which will give him more room to run and set up the play-action pass.
The receiving game looks to be quite thin at first glance, but with the playmaking ability of Devin Hester and the matchup nightmare that is Greg Olsen, Jay should have enough targets to keep him successful throwing out of the pocket.
While Hester has made significant strides at the wideout position, he’s not quite there yet. The glimpses of ability he's given (such as his TD catch last season against the Eagles, beating Asante Samuel) should impart hope that he'll blossom to all Bears fans.
Tight ends Greg Olsen and Des Clark (Olsen's backup) can line up in the slot and spread the field. Olsen is a scary blend of size and speed, and there’s not a linebacker in the league that can cover him. Clark is good in pass protection and is not afraid to run routes over the middle.
The biggest challenge Cutler will face as a Chicago Bear will be staying on his feet behind the offensive line.
The members of the O-line that haven’t left via free agency or retirement are starting to show their age. However, Jerry Angelo addressed this by signing three free-agent linemen, most notably Orlando Pace, to shore up the protection.
Having a good quarterback is nice, but only if you can protect him in the pocket. The Bears' offensive line started last season off well but dipped towards the end. With so many newcomers in the unit, it’ll be interesting to see how they mesh. Hopefully they'll be the anchor of a productive offense in 2009.
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