The Bears lost Jay Cutler for spells last season because of a couple of different injuries, but they were able to withstand his absence without much damage to the offense thanks to the play of Josh McCown.
McCown is in Tampa now, leaving the backup duties to someone from the group of Jordan Palmer, Jimmy Clausen, Jarrod Johnson and David Fales. The chances that one of those players could repeat McCown’s performance isn’t great, making it all the more important for the Bears to have Cutler in the lineup for the full 16 games this time around. Coach Marc Trestman thinks that there’s a good chance of that happening with Cutler reporting for work this year in better condition than he was in last year.
“Jay has really worked hard in the offseason, and he has always been a hard worker in his conditioning and his training, but he has really amped it up,” Trestman said, via the Chicago Tribune. “He’s bigger, he’s stronger than a year ago, and he has really focused on staying physically well for the entire season. That’s No. 1 — we’ve got to keep him standing, keep him safe. And we see the improvements he’s made in working on different issues in his mechanics, and I think he’s feeling very comfortable back there in Year Two.”
In past years, one might respond by saying that being big and strong is great right up to the point that the offensive line breaks down and leaves Cutler to be a sitting duck. The Bears line made a huge improvement in pass protection last year, though, and could be even better this year with right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills entering their second NFL seasons.
Add that to a bigger, stronger Cutler and there’s plenty of reason for the Bears to feel optimistic about their offense heading into the 2014 season. If similarly strong signs appear on defense, the Bears should be in position to improve on their record in Trestman’s first season as coach.