Offensive struggles don’t faze Cutler
Jay Cutler understands the angst. He also has a message –
Whether it’s breakdowns on the line or just poor execution
overall, the Chicago Bears aren’t getting what they envisioned from
their starting offense.
Good thing for them it’s just the preseason. The games don’t
count until Sept. 12, when Chicago opens against Detroit, meaning
there’s time to figure it all out.
With a new offensive coordinator in Mike Martz, Cutler said the
Bears are running plays ”just to get it on film” so he’s not too
worried about what he’s seen so far.
The line has been shaky, and the points simply aren’t coming.
The starters were held scoreless in last week’s 14-9 loss to
Arizona, drawing boos from antsy fans who have seen the Bears fail
to make the playoffs since the 2006 team’s Super Bowl run.
”Is there a reason for concern? Maybe, maybe not,” Cutler
said. ”I’m not concerned. I don’t think anybody in that locker
room is really concerned of where we’re at. I think we’re happy
where we’re at. There’s room to improve, absolutely, but I think
we’ll be ready.”
The Bears have scored on just three of 16 drives with Cutler,
getting a field goal from Robbie Gould along with an 89-yard
touchdown run by Matt Forte and TD pass to Johnny Knox.
Gould also had one field goal blocked and another hit the
upright against Arizona, but it wasn’t exactly a smooth performance
for the offense, either.
Cutler was 10 of 20 for 129 yards and intercepted twice by Greg
Toler while being sacked four times. He was taken down five times
the previous week. On one of the sacks against Arizona, he tripped,
but the pass protection was better.
Even so, he admittedly was skittish. And the offense again was
out of sync. It didn’t help, either, that Cutler had some problems
with the audio. Even so, Martz was ”a little surprised” by some
of the mistakes he saw.
Cutler acknowledged that the Bears were a little too tense and
insisted the mistakes are a matter of small tweaks rather than
”Guys have a really good feel of what we’re trying to do, what
their routes should be,” he said. ”We don’t have a lot of mental
mistakes out there of guys lining up wrong or guys running the
wrong routes. It’s just minor things: not getting the depth,
cutting too soon, missing if it’s single-high or middle of the
field open. Just little things right now.”
Those ”little things” loom large in a system that relies on
precision and timing, and they will go a long way toward
determining the team’s success.
There’s little room for error this season. Coach Lovie Smith and
general manager Jerry Angelo are operating on a win-or-else
mandate, and the Bears made some big changes during the offseason,
acquiring Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers and running back
Chester Taylor while shaking up the coaching staff.
Martz brings a successful track record, not to mention a
playbook that’s as thick as a lineman’s waist. He also has
receivers who at times struggled to grasp former coordinator Ron
Turner’s system, a quarterback with a gunslinging mentality and a
line with question marks.
Yet, there’s potential – potential for big results or big
”It’s pretty tough at the beginning, but once you get down the
concepts and all the minor details – which are very important –
you’ll pick it up,” said receiver Earl Bennett, who returned to
practice this week after being out with a pulled hamstring.
It might not matter, though, if the line doesn’t block.
Martz said the protection improved ”remarkably” in the third
preseason game, particularly with left tackle Chris Williams doing
a better job after he got outplayed Oakland’s Kamerion Wimbley.
”Each week, that group grows together and gets better and
better,” he said. ”I was very pleased with the progress,
particularly in the protections.”
So was Cutler, who’s been sacked 10 times. And he remains
confident the offense will be clicking by the opener.
”It has to be,” he said. ”We don’t have a choice.”