It seems hard to believe – actually, it seems impossible to believe – but Jay Cutler’s attitude . . . is improving.
“His attitude has been better,” former Bears offensive lineman and current color analyst Tom Thayer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Adam Gase, a young offensive coordinator, they kind of have that preseason connection mentally. But I think it all amplifies as you start approaching the regular season.”
Cutler, who hasn’t led the Bears to the playoffs since 2010, isn’t exactly known for his leadership skills or ability to inspire confidence in his teammates. In fact, he’s known for the exact opposite – for sulking on the sideline and displaying poor body language.
This year, however, Thayer doesn’t believe the Bears will ride or die with Cutler’s right arm – or his incessantly sullen face.
“The key ingredient here is (the health of) Alshon Jeffery, (who) is missing some practice with a pulled calf,” Thayer said. “Kevin White is going to miss maybe the whole season with a shin ailment. So one thing I do think is that (it’s) always been the intention to take some of the downfield responsibility away from Jay and then (put) it on the shoulders of the offensive line, Matt Forte and the other running backs. And the guy who’s having the best camp of anybody is tight end Martellus Bennett. So it’s kind of a weird transformation where it’s not going to be (Jay who has) to be the best player on offense to get the ball downfield; the offensive line has to be the best unit on the field, and then the running backs and tight ends got to be A1 and A2.”
Forte, especially. The Tulane produce was one of the best offensive players in football last year, rushing for more than 1,000 yards, catching 102 balls for 808 yards and notching 10 touchdowns (six rush, four receiving).
What will his production be like this season under new head coach John Fox?
“I actually hope it’s a little bit less than last year because it was Matt Forte and that’s basically all it was,” Thayer said. “I think that the coaches, they didn’t feel that the rest of the running backs coming in the game could be held up against all your obligations as a running back, whether it’s the catching, passing or blocking a blitzer – and Matt is a three-down back.”
Indeed, Forte had 368 touches last season and 363 the year before. He also turns 30 in December.
As a result, Thayer expects a little more balance in the Bears’ backfield, especially with Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, Daniel Thomas and Jacquizz Rodgers now in the fold.
“They do have a slew of running backs who can take some of the pounding away form Matt Forte – and that is going to be key for Matt in the latter part of the season,” Thayer said. (Because) 100+ catches and all those carries, running backs can’t take that multiple years in a row.”
The Bears have arguably the toughest early season schedule in all of football. They host the Packers and Cardinals before facing the Seahawks in Seattle. Those three teams went 35-13 last season, with the Packers and Seahawks both playing in the NFC Championship.