Jay Cutler is slated to miss the next 2-3 weeks. His injury could actually help the Chicago Bears struggling offense.
I can see the Jay Cutler fan club gathering their torches and pitchforks now. This isn’t a post to rip on Jay and heap praise on Chicago Bears backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Trust me, I know that Hoyer is not nearly as good as Cutler. With word that Cutler is slated to miss 2-3 with a sprained thumb, it could present an opportunity for the struggling Bears offense to settle into a groove.
It made sense that the Bears were setting themselves up to be a run-heavy team. It fits head coach John Fox’s profile with a conservative approach to keep it close on offense, limit turnovers and wear other teams down while keeping his defense off the field. He did it in his other stops with the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos to a certain extent, even with Peyton Manning.
Even though the Bears parted ways with Matt Forte, they were setting themselves up to be a running team. GM Ryan Pace invested in free agent right tackle Bobby Massie. He added guard/center Cody Whitehair in the second round and bruising running back Jordan Howard in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. They nabbed surprise Green Bay Packers castoff Josh Sitton just before the start of the season. All of these ingredients seemed to point to a running attack in 2016.
I’m not sure if it’s new coordinator Dowell Loggains and his play calling or if it’s Jay Cutler checking out of plays at the line, but the Bears have not committed to the running game. They attempted 18 rushes in their Week 1 loss to the Houston Texans. This is a game in which the Bears led heading into the fourth quarter. This past Monday night, they attempted 18 more runs in a game that was tight until the middle of the third quarter. 36 rushing attempts in two weeks is a far cry from a commitment to the run.
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With Jay Cutler joining his buddy Pernell McPhee in street clothes on the sidelines the next couple of weeks, Loggains may be more inclined and should be more inclined to run the damn ball. Get second-year running back Jeremy Langford and rookie Jordan Howard lathered up and run the ball. Establishing a running game against a Dallas Cowboys defense ranked 22nd in rush defense and allowing 120.9 yards per game seems reasonable.
Getting a running game established relies on the offensive line coming together and settling down. It limits the playbook and gives backup Brian Hoyer a little less to digest on a short week. It also should set up the play-action passing game, which could get redshirt rookie Kevin White going. Opposing defenses have kept White bottled up in his first two games. If opponents sneak a safety into the box to stop the run, it could open things up downfield for White and Alshon Jeffery.
I feel like the offense has been a little disorganized and frankly uncoordinated the first couple of weeks. Chalk it up to some growing pains for Loggains. Without Cutler, he should narrow his focus and streamline his play-calling for Hoyer.
The good news is that a couple of weeks without Cutler could help this offense settle down and establish an identity. When he gets back, it could really open things up.