Offensive struggles don’t faze Cutler

Jay Cutler understands the angst. He also has a message –

relax.

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

major fixes.

”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

failure.

”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.”