The first day of the Bears’ minicamp had a decidedly offensive feel to it as offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer was made available to the media after practice and quarterback Jay Cutler spoke for the first time since signing his megabucks free-agent contract in January.
Appropriate, I guess, as media and Bears fans everywhere continue to advance the theory that the Bears suddenly are an offensive juggernaut with nothing to worry about on that side of the ball.
Cutler seems ready to at least sip the Kool-Aid.
“We did OK last year, for the first year. We have the same guys we had last year, which is always good,” Cutler said. “Talent wise, it’s hard to top our O-line and some of the guys we have on the outside and Matt Forte, who is hugely underrated. Talent wise and being in the system two years and the way the guys work, all that adds up.”
Kromer is cautious about pumping up his offense too much, but certainly pleased with what he’s seeing so far.
“As an overall offense, I feel like the knowledge of what we’re trying to get done is getting greater and greater. That’s what’s big in the offseason. We’re in shorts. We don’t have full pads on, the full blocking, the full tackling, all the things that make football, football can’t happen in these periods.”
Caution is good because, the truth is, the Bears are not yet the offensive machine fans would like, and they probably are not in the same league as the Broncos, Patriots, Eagles and a few other clubs. Not yet anyway.
There is no denying the talent the Bears possess at the skill positions and no reason to assume they can’t take the next step. But ...
The Bears were second in the league in points scored last year but that was with Josh McCown starting five games and playing the bulk of the Redskins game, during which time the Bears averaged 29.5 points.
With Cutler as the primary signal-caller, the Bears averaged 26.8 points, which would have ranked them eighth.
Marc Trestman expects Cutler to take another step forward.
“Jay is incredibly smart football-wise,” Trestman said. “His ability to draw from all the different experiences he’s had both in the physical aspects of running these plays and then the mental aspects of having to read them out and find the right guy goes into his growth in the second year, plus he’s working with the same people, which is a big advantage.”
Another question to be answered is whether or not Cutler is correct when he says “talent-wise, it’s hard to top our offensive line.”
Actually, only Matt Slauson graded out extremely well individually over the course of the 2013 season. The sum of Slauson, Jermon Bushrod, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills and Eben Britton was far more impressive than any of their individual performances.
And the fact that they play Britton so much as a sixth offensive linemen and usually block four with six and five with seven or even eight now is on tape over the course of an entire season and it will be interesting to see how opponents react.
There also, of course, are the issues of health and depth. Every Bears starter on offense except Cutler started 16 games last year and that is extremely unusual at best. Will they be that lucky this year, and have they improved the depth at running back, tight end and receiver enough if they’re not?
The pieces for this offense to be great definitely are here, but Cutler will have to be both healthier and better. Will he be?
“Looking back at my younger days in Denver and even when I first got here, you do some things that are foolish and you regret, and I think anyone does that,” Cutler said. “Me and Kristin (Cavallari) getting married, having kids, being involved with Phil Emery and Trest and just kind of the way everyone operates kind of forces you to grow up. If you don’t want to grow up, you’re probably not going to last. They’re going to find somebody else. I think we’ve done an excellent job of bringing in the guys that are good people and are very good football players.”
If he’s right, this offense just might be great.
* Chicago Football editor Hub Arkush can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.