Shanahan proteges meet as Bears host Redskins

Mike Shanahan was talking about Jay Cutler. He could have just

as easily been discussing Robert Griffin III.

”You could see he was a natural,” Shanahan said.

The Redskins’ coach will get a close look at proteges past and

present when Cutler and the Chicago Bears host Washington in a

preseason game on Saturday. It figured that the two quarterbacks

were a topic of conversation this week, even if their situations

weren’t quite the same.

Griffin is being handed the keys right from the start after

Washington took the Heisman Trophy winner with the second pick in

the draft. Cutler had to wait to get behind the wheel in Denver,

but he quickly made an impression.

”We had a guy (Jake Plummer) that took us to the AFC

championship game and beat a team that had won 10 straight playoff

games,” said Shanahan, the former Broncos coach. ”We weren’t in

position really to make that change right then but had an

opportunity to get a quarterback that I thought was a

difference-maker. I think Jay is that type of guy, but other

quarterbacks are a little bit different. Everybody will have their

restraints. What you do is try to run an offense around their

restraints, and hopefully, it pays dividends.”

The Broncos were expecting big things when they drafted Cutler

out of Vanderbilt with the 11th pick in 2006, and he put up the

numbers once he got the chance.

Cutler started the final five games as a rookie, threw for

nearly 3,500 yards the following year and set a club record by

passing for 4,526 while making the Pro Bowl in 2008. A rift with

new coach Josh McDaniels ultimately led to a trade with

Chicago.

Now, he’s leading a team with big expectations after an

offseason overhaul. The Bears believe they have the talent and

depth to compete for an NFC championship after a series of moves,

none bigger than the trade with Miami for Pro Bowl receiver Brandon

Marshall. That gave Cutler a go-to target for the first time in

Chicago (tied for 11th in the AP Pro32), and, even better, he’s

reunited with a teammate he had in Denver.

They figure to play together Saturday for the first time as

Bears, after Cutler was held out the preseason opener against

Denver following the birth of his son. Now, he is eager to see what

this offense can do, even if it’s a work in progress.

”What we unroll against the Washington Redskins isn’t the final

product, we’ve still got a lot of time, we’ve still got the rest of

the preseason and then a game week where we have to prepare and

really hammer down what we want to do offensively,” he said. ”We

want to get in and out of the huddle, we want to execute plays, but

it’s not going to be the end of the world if we’re not clicking on

all cylinders Saturday.”

With most of the starters playing a series, the Bears simply got

nothing going in a 31-3 loss to the Broncos.

Griffin showed some promise in his brief appearance last week

against Buffalo, leading the Redskins (No. 25) to the lone

touchdown in a 7-6 win. He didn’t get a chance to run the ball but

did complete 4 of 6 passes for 70 yards, capping it off with a

20-yard TD to Pierre Garcon.

It was a good start, something to build on. He’s still trying to

adjust, though, to life as a pro – and his new surroundings.

”It feels like I have been in a movie,” Griffin said. ”I walk

outside my house one Saturday, and there are kids selling lemonade

on the side of the street and that is funny to me because I have

never experienced that. Next thing you know somebody knocks on the

door and brings a ”goodie” basket. So, those types of things have

been great, but I haven’t experienced the city too much. I am not

really a big-city guy. I really don’t do too much. I can sit at

home and have fun and be content for the rest of my life if I need

too. Hopefully once D.C. starts `poppin’ because this team is doing

extremely well, we will all be able to enjoy.”

The Bears game is just another step for him. That he won’t have

to deal with Brian Urlacher should make things a little easier.

The Pro Bowl linebacker had an arthroscopic debridement

procedure on his left knee this week and will likely sit out the

preseason. He expects to be ready for the Bears’ opener against

Indianapolis on Sept. 9, though.

Even so, Griffin figures to be tested. So does the Bears

defense, for that matter.

”He can do everything you want a good quarterback to do,” said

Chicago coach Lovie Smith, who is friends with Griffin’s high

school coach.

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