A funny thing happened on tight end Greg Olsen’s way to becoming quarterback Jay Cutler’s go-to guy.
Cutler got to some other receivers.
So four games and 10 catches for 94 yards into the season, the Bears head into their Sunday night road matchup against the Atlanta Falcons trying for a re-launch on Olsen’s season as a Pro Bowl type tight end.
“I feel that I have that type of potential and that type of ability, and things have to go your way sometimes and get the breaks,” Olsen said Wednesday at Halas Hall. “But I feel good overall about how my game’s been through the first quarter of the season.
“I know a lot of the other stuff gets looked past—the run-blocking, pass-blocking; stuff like that—but I’m not really too concerned about all the stuff that gets said. I feel good about where I’m at and just have to continue to not press and when the chances come just make the best of them.”
So far, Olsen has struggled to come up with clutch third-and-short catches, which they hope will be his strength. He’s been targeted 25 times and has just 10 catches.
Cutler has thrown to Olsen needing four yards or less for a first down or touchdown a dozen times. The Bears have two first downs, two touchdowns and eight incompletions on those 12 passes.
Like Tom Cruise was told in “Risky Business,” "... it isn't quite Ivy League, is it?"
So why isn’t Olsen the Chicago version of Jason Witten when it seemed he was headed that way after 54 catches last year and 39 as a rookie in 2007? Cutler thinks it has more to do with the opponents.
“A lot of teams are going to try to take him away from us, which is fine,” Cutler said. “That’s why it’s opened up stuff for everyone else. There’s going to be a time and a place where Greg’s going to start getting his balls and really start getting involved and there will be a couple-week span where he gets two or three balls. He understands that, this offense understands that.
“We’re not going to make a big issue out of how many balls anyone catches or how many yards we run for or pass for.”
Olsen thinks defenses are focusing on him a great deal more than his rookie season, but not necessarily a lot more than last year.
“A lot of guys around the league get different attention and different looks each week and you just have to adjust and take what’s there.
“Last (game) we were able to score a lot of points. At the end of the game, it’s not about how many catches and the stats. When the plays come your way, make them, and the rest of the stuff takes care of of itself. I’m not too worried about stats around here.”
It’s easier to take a tight end away from on offense than it is to take away wide receivers or even running backs.
“Because if he has to line up in the natural tight end position it’s a lot of people that are around him,” tight end Desmond Clark said. “And you can have the defensive end bump him, and then from there you got the linebacker who can bump him and then you’ve still got the safety.
“So you can do so much with so many different levels of your defense to shut a tight end down where with a receiver he’s out in space more and there’s limited stuff that you can do.”
That said, Clark isn’t so sure it’s the way defenses are trying to stop Olsen as much as it is other targets making themselves available to Cutler.
“Instead, it’s a situation where everybody is stepping up and playing an equal share in this,” Clark said. “At the beginning of the season nobody was expecting Johnny (Knox) to be making catches like he’s making, so I don’t think people are shutting (Olsen) down. The ball is just getting spread out more.”
Clark speculated that Olsen’s time will come simply because he’ll get hot and Cutler will start looking his way more often as that happens.
“With football, somebody is hot for a couple weeks and then they try to take them away and it switches to somebody else,” Clark said. “He’s going to have his three or four or five games where he’s going to heat up and he’s going to get those catches and get those stats that everybody thought he would get.
“It’s just that right now the receivers are making some outstanding plays. Because they’re making plays, we don’t have to look to Greg to make those plays everybody thought he was going to make.”
But the numbers say Olsen is getting the chances. He has yet to produce in a way that‘s expected.