Yippee! Hooray! The Chicago Bears found a quarterback who can throw the football and move in the pocket! And they didn’t have to exume Sid Luckman, either!
OK, what next?
Now that offensive coordinator Ron Turner has pinched himself and realizes that the Jay Cutler trade isn’t a dream, he has to put together a game plan that will take full advantage of the new quarterback and his skill set.
Cutler meets with Turner almost daily to combine the best of the Denver Broncos and Bears playbooks. But make no mistake about it—the offense is a work in progress, and until Cutler and his teammates reach a mutual comfort level, it figures to be for awhile.
Here’s an early look at what changes may in order for next season:
More play-action passes. Don’t expect the Air Bears all of a sudden. Cutler may not throw the ball much more than quarterback Kyle Orton did a year ago, when the offense ranked 14th in pass attempts in the league.
The difference is, at least in theory, the improved pass game will make the run game better and vice versa. If the offense establishes a consistent ground attack, which will be its top priority as usual, then play-action will become a more effective option.
Fewer screens, flares and dump-offs. Cutler would rather take his shots downfield than make the safe play. The gunslinger mentality gets the QB into trouble sometimes—he throws into tight spots frequently—but the trade-off is an inordinate number of big plays in the pass game.
Last season Peyton Hillis led all Broncos backs with a mere 13 receptions. By comparison, Bears feature back Matt Forte had 63 catches. If Forte has that many this season, then it probably means one thing: The offensive line didn’t give the quarterback enough time to see the entire field.
More deep passes. Last season Cutler completed 55 passes of 20-or-more yards, 21 more than Orton and second most in the league.
If you got a gun, then shoot it, right? The question is, who will take the bullet at the other end?
The Bears have a shortage of established long-ball threats, but they do have Devin Hester, the human blur. As a pass receiver, Hester is as green as the Lake Forest practice fields. He also had pure speed that can be deadly on straight-line patterns. Expect Cutler and Hester to get acquainted early and often this season.
More bootlegs and rollouts. Cutler has good mobility and throws accurately on the run. The combination is ideal for curls, hitches, fades and out patterns on throws from outside the pocket.
Cutler won’t hesitate to pull the ball down and run with it, either. His 57 attempts were second among quarterbacks last season, although Turner will surely remind him to pick his spots carefully.
More passes to the tight end in the red zone. Last season Broncos tight ends Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffler combined for more TD catches (seven) than any wide receiver on the team. That's good news for Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark, who may have expanded roles near the goal line.
Olson could get more balls on intermediate routes in the middle of the field as well.