The Bears trading for quarterback Jay Cutler was not only the best offseason move the Bears have ever made, it also may result in a big change in the way that the Bears offense traditionally runs.
The Bears have traditionally been a defensive minded team that relies heavily on a good running game. This season with Jay Cutler as the quarterback, the Bears will have a little bit more firepower and will probably pass the ball a lot more.
With the quality running back that the Bears have in Matt forte, who led the team in rushing and receptions, It would seem obvious that the Bears should continue to play the way they always have. But what is different now is that the Bears actually have a downfield threat at quarterback for the first time since Brett Favre's career began. This opens up a variety of offensive opportunities for the Bears.
In the past, the passing game has been dictated almost exclusively by the Bears running game. If the running game was firing on all cylinders, the passing game via play action pass could be employed. But if the running game was struggling, the Bears would many times force the passing game.
With Rex Grossman in the lineup, this meant big time turnovers. With Kyle Orton in the game, it resulted in many a three and out. Expect the Bears to utilize the play-action pass a little bit more this season as they finally have a quarterback who can throw the ball downfield accurately to go along with the great running back.
To go along with the play-action pass, we will probably see the Bears offense call more straight dropback passing plays. They will do this not only because of the passing ability of Jay Cutler, but because the Bears spent a great deal of their offseason improving their tight end and wide receiver corps. This will no doubt enable the Bears to strike with both the running and passing games.
Many times in the past, the Bears relied heavily on their tight ends to be the favorite target for the quarterback. Don't expect that to change this season, in fact don't be surprised if the Bears employ that a lot this season.
The combination of Greg Olson (54 rec, 574 yards, 5 TD) and Desmond Clark (41 rec, 367 yards,1 TD) combined for almost 1000 yards last season. Both players figure to meet or exceed those numbers this year. The Bears also signed tight end Michael Gaines which will only add to their depth at that position. Expect to see a lot of two tight end passing sets throughout the season.
Last season, rookie running back Matt Forte led the team in receptions and had 477 receiving yards. While Forte will still be a valuable asset in the passing game in 2009, the teams focused on wide receivers in this year's draft probably means that Matt forte will not have the type of year reception wise as he did last year.
The Bears three wide receiver picks during the draft (Iglesias, Kinder, Knox) bring much-needed speed and catch ability to a core of wide receivers that was led in yardage by a kickoff and punt returner last season.
In addition to perhaps taking away from the amount of passes that Forte will see throughout the year, Devin Hester figures to have some of the pressure taken off him as the only big play guy on the offense. While these players are unproven, they are sure to see a lot of passes in their rookie year with Jay Cutler at the helm.
Overall, the major changes to the playbook will probably be that the Bears will pass maybe a little bit more often than they have in years past. They will still probably run the ball quite a bit, but it is important to note that the offense will be a lot less one-dimensional.
Expect to see the same amount if not more play-action passes to keep the defense honest, which will probably open up the running game even more. Expect the Bears to take more chances downfield to take advantage of Cutler's superior arm and throwing ability.
While the Bears will not look drastically different during the 2009 season, the changes will be notable enough that you will see that this isn't the typical run-first Bears offense that fans here in Chicago have grown used to over the last two decades.