QuarterbackThrough three games, the Monsters of the Midway were 3-0 and Jay Cutler was hearing his name mentioned around the league as an early-season MVP candidate, as the strong-armed signal caller put together a pretty passer rating of 109.7 and a terrific touchdown-to-interception ratio of 6-to-2. But he got his bell rung in Week 4 against the Giants, sacked an NFL-record nine times in the first half and ultimately leaving the game with a concussion, and, despite sitting an extra seven days to clear the cobwebs, Cutler has reverted back to the turnover machine that sunk the Bears in 2009. His line can't protect him, offensive coordinator Mike Martz won't call enough running plays to alleviate some of the pressure and his receivers aren't bailing him out in 50-50 situations.
Bye Week Grade: C-plus
Running BackOnly twice in seven games has Matt Forte been given more than 15 touches, and those were his most impressive outings of the season from a statistical perspective: 15 carries for 50 yards, seven catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1 against Detroit; 22 carries for 166 yards and two touchdowns, two catches for 22 yards in Week 5 at Carolina. It's not Forte's fault that Martz won't make any effort to commit to the ground game, unless the unimpressive Todd Collins is forced to take over for Cutler again under center, plus the offensive line deserves some of the blame for him averaging 2.9 yards per attempt or less in five of his first six games. While Chester Taylor was signed to give the Bears a competent second option out of the backfield, he has he gotten more than six touches just two times.
Bye Week Grade: C
Wide ReceiverDevin Aromashodu looked to be the go-to man on this team in Week 1, and Cutler has often lobbied for the 6-2, 200-pounder to be on the field as much as possible going back to last season, but he only came up with five catches on 10 targets and has been little more than a bench player ever since. Even though Johnny Knox is on pace to be the first Bears wideout to crack the 1,000-yard plateau since Marty Booker had 1,189 back in 2002, his 478 yards receiving and 19.9 yards-per-catch average need to be taken with a grain of salt since he's still missing assignments and not fighting for the football when defenders are near. Earl Bennett has done a nice job out of slot and gives Cutler a reliable option in the hash-mark area, but Devin Hester is averaging just 10.1 yards per reception because the ankle-breaking ball skills he regularly puts on display as a return man apparently can't be duplicated on offense.
Bye Week Grade: B-minus
Tight EndJust when it looked like Greg Olsen was going to be the first tight end to be a real difference maker in a Martz passing game, reeling in five passes each against the Packers and Giants in Weeks 3 and 4, the former first-round pick was shut out in Week 5 at Carolina and Week 6 against Seattle. Near the season's midpoint, 22 tight ends in the league have more catches than Olsen (18), 19 have more yards (222) and nine have more touchdowns (two). Brandon Manumaleuna seems to be a $15 million waste of money because the free-agent addition hasn't lived up to his promise as an extra offensive lineman, and the usually reliable Desmond Clark has inexplicably been a game-day inactive since Olsen is the receiver, Manumaleuna is the blocker and Kellen Davis makes more of an impact on special teams.
Bye Week Grade: C
Offensive LineMike Tice spent all of training camp and the preseason preaching about cohesion and how important it is to have the same five guys playing together, but there have been two left tackles (Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale), two left guards (Roberto Garza, Williams), two right guards (Lance Louis, Edwin Williams) and three right tackles (Omiyale, Kevin Shaffer, J'Marcus Webb) – Olin Kreutz has been the only mainstay at center. The Bears have given up a league-worst 31 sacks, and not only is that 10 more than any other team, but they're on pace for 71 on the year and would break the dubious franchise record of 66 set in 2004. That team finished 5-11 and saw four quarterbacks (Rex Grossman, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn) start at least three games, which means Collins and Caleb Hanie had better prepare themselves accordingly with all the punishment Cutler is taking on a weekly basis.
Bye Week Grade: D-minus
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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Bye-Week Report Card: Offense
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