How will the Chicago Bears do in 2016? That mostly depends on the right arm of Jay Cutler.
Most NFL pundits see the Chicago Bears as bottom dwellers in the NFC North. Every preseason power ranking seems to have the Bears among the bottom ten teams in the league. There are a few though that see the Bears headed in the right direction. NFL Network‘s Daniel Jeremiah considers the Bears the most underrated team in the NFL. If the Bears can make some major strides this year and push for a playoff spot, they are going to need Jay Cutler to continue to prove he’s a legitimate NFL quarterback.
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The Chicago Bears defense is going to be solid. The Bears have plenty of impact free agents ready to contribute. There are also plenty of rookie and second-year players that will be factoring into the Bears defensive prowess. I expect the Bears defense to be a top ten unit this year. If they stay healthy, they could be borderline top five.
The question marks on this team are on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line is a question mark. Tight end is a question mark. With the departure of Matt Forte, the young stable of running backs is a question mark. Alshon Jeffery’s health is yet another question mark. The depth at WR behind Jeffery is, take a guess, a question mark.
What isn’t a question mark is the quarterback position. Jay Cutler is the Bears’ starting QB. As long as he’s healthy, the Bears won’t even consider going to Brian Hoyer or anyone else. He will be directing the offense. If any of those question marks become answers, Cutler is going to have influence over them.
Cutler’s statistics in 2015 weren’t the gaudiest of his career, but they were the steadiest. Under Adam Gase, he made less mistakes and because of it, earned his highest QB rating of his career (92.3). This season, Gase is gone and Dowell Loggains is in. Loggains got the job because of Cutler. Cutler had good chemistry with Loggains last year when he served as the Bears QB coach and Pace and John Fox want Cutler’s transition to go as smoothly as possible.
Cutler’s numbers are probably going to regress this season. That’s not to say they are going to be bad, but it’s asking an awful lot to see his numbers improve. First, the Bears are going to focus on running the football. Second, Cutler has some young developing weapons, but they are exactly that- young. Those future weapons are going to make mistakes and they are going to stall the offense and impact Cutler’s bottom line.
The offensive line also seems suspect. It showed a lot of improvement from week one to week two of the preseason, but they won’t be mistaken for the ’85 Bears unit. There are plenty of question marks on the line and when Cutler doesn’t feel he has enough protection, he tends to make mistakes.
Last year, Cutler threw for 3659 yards with 21 TDs and 11 interceptions. He completed 64.4% of his passes and did all that in just 15 games. This year, expecting Cutler’s numbers to grow is foolish, but the Bears wouldn’t be upset with a slight regression. If Cutler plays 16 games, expect him to throw for about 3800 yards with 20 TDs and 12 or 13 interceptions.
With another year to work with Jeffery, and young weapons like Kevin White and Daniel Braverman to throw to and young running backs Jeremy Langford and Jordan Howard lining up behind him, Cutler has a chance to have a career year in 2017. But expecting all these young players to breakout immediately is asking for too much. Cutler needs a year to build up chemistry and let them develop.
In 2016, expect Jay Cutler to perform well and similar to what he did the previous season, but expecting anything gaudy out of the 33-year old QB isn’t being fair to him and setting him up to fail.