Adam Caplan: What has happened to Jay Cutler? Why did he implode last week, and how has he been received since the San Francisco game by the fans and local media?
John Crist: Common wisdom suggested Cutler would become a winning quarterback coming from Denver to Chicago because he'd have a strong running game and a stiff defense supporting him, but instead the Midway Monsters can't run the ball and their D has disappointed. All of a sudden, Cutler feels like he did with the Broncos, needing to score 30-plus points to win more often than not and having to do it largely on his own because other phases of the game have failed him. It's not entirely his fault since his offensive line hasn't protected him well and his receiving corps is inexperienced, but he's also been way too careless in the red zone and turned it over at an alarming rate – his 17 interceptions lead the league.
While it helps that Kyle Orton has lost his last three games in Denver after getting off to that 6-0 start, Cutler is taking a tremendous amount of heat and will hear some boos at Soldier Field if he throws an INT early on Sunday.
AC: What has been the problem with their offensive line? I know Frank Omiyale has been benched, but is it just him as the reason why they have struggled so much up front?
JC: Most of the experts figured the Bears would be better along the offensive line this season, with future Hall of Famer Orlando Pace taking over for the departed John St. Clair at left tackle and 2008 first-round pick Chris Williams stepping in for the retired John Tait at right tackle. However, Pace looks like a shell of his former shelf and deserves to be benched at this point, and Williams has been up and down since he's playing out of position – he's more technician than mauler and belongs at left tackle. At left guard, Omiyale fit the profile of what general manager Jerry Angelo now looks for at that spot and got a ton of money in free agency without much of a resume, which proved to be a mistake since he was pulled in favor of last year's starter, Josh Beekman, after six games.
When you toss in the fact that six-time Pro Bowler Olin Kreutz is now the most overrated player on the team and can't even deliver a shotgun snap between his legs consistently, the O-line is a complete mess these days.
AC: Why has Matt Forte struggled so much in the running game? His yards-per-carry average is down. At least he's catching the ball well. Also connected to that position, why have they hung on to Adrian Peterson? Could they use an upgrade behind Forte?
JC: Even though Forte enjoyed a terrific rookie year, rushing for a franchise rookie record 1,238 yards while adding another 477 through the air, it's not like the Bears had a great running game last season – his 3.9 yards-per-carry average was evidence of that. This season, with the offensive line having so many problems and the passing attack inconsistent at best, Forte is now down to 3.4 yards per carry and has four games this year in which he couldn't do any better than 2.2. His two best outputs were 121 yards in Week 4 and 90 yards in Week 8, although both were at home and both were against terrible run defenses: the Lions and Browns, respectively.
Coach Lovie Smith says Peterson will always have a place on his roster since he's a tremendous special teamer and a perfect locker room guy, but the only reason he's second on the depth chart is because Kevin Jones is on IR and Garrett Wolfe is recovering from with a kidney laceration.
AC: Is Greg Olsen finally becoming the factor in the passing game that the coaches have expected him to be since they selected him in the first round a few years ago?
JC: From the moment Cutler arrived from Mile High, he and Olsen have spent a lot of time with each other both on the practice field and around the Windy City social scene. Since the top three wide receivers in the rotation are all between 5-11 and 6-0, Olsen is the only pass catcher capable of creating mismatches no matter who is covering him because of his 6-5, 252-pound frame. The former first rounder started off a little slow and dropped a few tough catches that could have been big plays, but he's reeled in at least three balls in each of his last five games and scored in four of his last seven – highlighted by an impressive three-touchdown performance against Arizona in Week 9.
Cutler has distributed the ball fairly well between the 20s and done a good job getting everyone involved, although he tends to lock onto Olsen in the red zone and has thrown a few costly picks near the goal line as a direct result.
AC: Do the Bears have the kind of secondary that can limit the big plays from the Eagles offense?
JC: The Monsters of the Midway lack a true cover corner and aren't very experienced at either safety position, which opens the door for speedsters like DeSean Jackson and rookie Jeremy Maclin to make some game-changing plays. After being forced to throw to the likes of Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett all those years, Chicago native – and Mt. Carmel High School graduate – Donovan McNabb now has the explosive playmakers he has been missing on the outside since Terrell Owens flamed out in Philly. Expect the Bears to play a lot of Cover 2 to try to take away Jackson and Maclin down the field, so it will be interesting to see if Eagles coach Andy Reid actually calls some running plays since he'll only be facing seven defenders in the box.
Charles Tillman is one of the more physical corners in the NFL and forces turnovers with the best of them, but he's not equipped to run stride for stride with either Jackson or Maclin in coverage.
To read Part II of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where Adam answers five questions from John, Click Here.
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Behind Enemy Lines: Part I
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