When you break it down to its most fundamental level, the goal of the Chicago Bears' offense is to score points. We often get caught up in the details of how that can be accomplished but the main goal is to put numbers up on the scoreboard. To coordinator Mike Martz, that's all that matters.
Now in his second year directing Chicago's offense, Martz feels this year's group is far better prepared to meet that goal than was last year's team.
"The understanding of what we're doing, not just what they're supposed to do but why we do it, is really important," Martz said. "If they try to learn what to do, if it's just memorization, it doesn't work. They have to really understand what their role is and why they do it."
He said once the players are able to see the big picture, they can quit thinking on the field and just react as the plays are happening.
RB Marion Barber
"The adjustments are a little easier for them too," said Martz. "They can kind of problem solve in the game, because things don't always work out the way you prepare it during the week. But I'm very pleased with how fast they've played and how much they've learned and their adjustments. I think they're confident in what we're doing."
"Everyone is a lot more comfortable," Cutler said. "There's less thinking involved. It's a tough offense to learn the first year, but the second year, everyone's just a lot more comfortable with their assignments and what's being expected [of them]."
Running back Marion Barber was the only Bears player not dressed for practice today. The calf injury he suffered against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 of the preseason is still lingering and it's anyone's guess when he'll return. Martz believes that if the offense is to reach its full potential this year, Barber needs to be on the field.
"He's such a violent runner," said Martz. "He's a guy that, he can certainly jump cut and do all of those things, but he'll take a defender on too and break tackles that way. He's kind of a complete back in a way. He's a real tough inside runner but he's got the skills to get outside and he's an excellent receiver. He's a guy that will excel too in short yardage. We need to have him healthy. We really do. He's a terrific player."
Cutler said the one-two punch of Barber and Matt Forte will be tough for opposing defenses to handle.
"Matt's more comfortable with the schemes and the offensive line and the way that they are opening up holes," said Cutler. "You add a Marion Barber, a downhill guy, a short-yardage, goal-line guy, he packs a little bit more of a punch. We've got a pretty good group out there."
Most believe the offensive line will be the key ingredient to the success of this year's offense. It's a young front five. Center Roberto Garza the only player with more than three year's experience in the NFL. In addition, only one starter, LG Chris Williams, is still at the same position he was last year.
Because of the number of moving pieces and their relative lack of experience, expect some growing pains this year, Martz said. Yet he's confident this group can far exceed the performance of last year's offensive line.
"They've made terrific progress in the last three weeks," said Martz. "Particularly the last two weeks. I'm anxious to see them play. I'm excited about what they've done so far. They've got a chance to be a pretty good group."
C Roberto Garza
Garza said he's finally reached a point where he's comfortable playing center, after having played guard his entire career.
"Every day I feel more comfortable," said Garza. "The confidence level is definitely there. Knowing all the adjustments. Going through last season and learning from that film is a big plus for us."
Cutler also believes there will be some missed assignments early on in the season but he sees no reason this front five can't excel.
"We're going to have a few bumps in the road with those guys, probably the first game, just getting them settled down and comfortable," Cutler said. "But I've got all the faith in the world in them. They're a very talented group."
At receiver, the Bears will head into the season with Roy Wiliams and Devin Hester as the starters. Yet Martz said he will use all six of the pass catchers on the roster and that there's enough balls to go around.
"We like six [receivers] and all six can play," said Martz. "Roy and Devin are our two starters and the rest of them are going to play. So they'll have plenty of opportunities during the course of the game and the season. It's a nice feeling to have that many, that's for sure. We didn't have enough last year."
The only rookie in the bunch, Dane Sanzenbacher, is not expected to contribute much on special teams, which means he's on the roster to get reps on offense. Cutler said how much Sanzenbacher plays depends on how he progresses mentally within the system.
"He's definitely got enough talent to be out there," said Cutler. "It's just a matter of him being able to catch up mentally with everybody else. We have to trust him on Sunday. We've got to know that he's got all the details down and that he's going to nail it. I think he wants too. We'll take it game by game."
The Falcons boast a strong defense, bolstered by the offseason acquisition of defensive end Ray Edwards. The secondary includes Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and recent acquisition Kelvin Hayden. Yet Cutler believes, despite their talent, opportunities will be there to score points.
"There's stuff out there to be had," Cutler said. "There are creases in that defense. You've just got to find them. Whenever they give you the opportunity you've got to take advantage because it doesn't happen very often. As sound and as good as they are, they just don't have a lot of weaknesses and they don't give you a lot of openings. If it does happen, we've got to make sure that we make it count."
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.