Cutler Facing Make-or-Break Season

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler improved last season but will need to build on that momentum if he's ever going to live up to the expectations of fans, media, teammates and coaches alike.

After a disastrous first season in Chicago, Jay Cutler showed frequent flashes last season of the franchise quarterback the Bears thought they were getting when they traded for him before the 2009 season.

Despite being sacked 52 times, more than anyone in the NFL, Cutler improved his passer rating from 76.8 to 86.3, mostly by reducing his interceptions from a league-worst 26 in '09 to 16. Still, the season ended controversially when a sprained knee knocked Cutler out of the NFC title game loss to the Packers.

He was criticized extensively by outsiders for not gutting it out, but his teammates and coaches stood behind him. The whole episode may have served to form a closer bond between Cutler and his teammates.

This will be Cutler's third season of working with his receiving crew of Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox and Devin Hester and tight end Greg Olsen. More important, it will be his second season under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Last season was solid, but Cutler will have to do more to live up to his salary and the expectations of others.

T Gabe Carimi
Jerry Lai/US Presswire

Carimi not backing down

Bears first-round pick Gabe Carimi isn't taking back one word of what he said at the Scouting Combine when he claimed he was the best offensive tackle in the draft.

"What am I going to say?" Carimi said Saturday morning at Halas Hall. "That I don't think I'm the best tackle or (I'm) not going to be the best tackle? No. I assume almost any tackle would feel confident in their own game."

Four offensive tackles were drafted before the Bears jumped at the chance to take the Wisconsin All-American at No. 29. The match seems to be ideal between the 6-foot-7, 314-pound Carimi and the blocking-challenged Bears, who allowed more sacks than any NFL team last season.

Paea ready to show quickness

It says a lot about defensive tackle Stephen Paea's potential that, even after setting the all-time Scouting Combine record with 49 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, the Bears' second-round draft pick considers quickness his greatest attribute.

"I feel like the bench press was something in my back pocket," Paea said. "When I watched the replay, some of the experts, (Mike) Mayock and all of those media guys saying that I'll be a true nose tackle (that was great). But, in my mind, strength is my Plan B. As far as the quickness and stuff, that is what I feel like I can bring to the game."

Quote to Note

"I'm excited to start working together as a team and excited to see the guys. I haven't seen any of the guys forever. So I'm just pumped up about us getting back together as a team and starting to work on the goals that we're going to set for the season." - Head coach Lovie Smith.

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