Veteran Minicamp Preview: Offense

The Chicago Bears have questions to answer on the offensive side of the ball at veteran minicamp this weekend, including Jay Cutler's grasp of the new offense and the state of his receiving corps.

How quickly is Cutler picking up Martz's complex system?
If you go back to OTAs this past season, and even training camp to some degree, there were times when Jay Cutler was patting the football after dropping back from center and didn't appear to know what to do with it. It took him a while before he truly felt comfortable running Ron Turner's system, and some of the cynics out there would be quick to suggest that he never felt comfortable since he led the league with 26 INTs in 2009. Now he's going to have even more responsibility placed squarely on his shoulders in Mike Martz's scheme, especially because audibles are a thing of the past – Martz doesn't believe in them – and it's more about making in-play adjustments than simply calling a new one at the line of scrimmage.

Going down the depth chart, if second stringer Caleb Hanie doesn't do well for himself over the course of these three days with his limited reps, perhaps general manager Jerry Angelo will indeed check the open market for a veteran backup.

What is the rotation going to look like at running back?
Matt Forte has been one of the few true every-down backs in football his two seasons in Chicago, and while he was a revelation as a rookie in 2008, 2009 was a different story entirely and necessitated the signing of Chester Taylor in March. Rarely has the second-string ball carrier been a focal point of the offense during Forte's reign since he can be equally effective as a rusher and a receiver, but after watching him struggle with minor injuries and prove to be downright ineffective in short-yardage and goal-line situations a year ago, don't look for him to get 20-25 touches each and every week anymore. Angelo paid Taylor a handsome sum to depart Minnesota for a reason, and it wasn't to be a mentor on the practice field or a cheerleader on game day.

If Taylor is working with the first-team offense this weekend enough to break a sweat – say, one rep for every two of Forte's – then you can be sure this pair is going to rotate somewhat frequently once live bullets start firing in September.

Is Aromashodu ready to announce to the NFL he's a No. 1?
As far as the receiving corps is concerned, the Bears know what they have with most everyone and felt comfortable not making a significant move at that position – even after hiring Martz as the new offensive coordinator. Devin Hester will never be an Alpha dog but has adjusted to being a full-time wideout admirably, Earl Bennett is a classic possession target and has Cutler's confidence going back to their college days together at Vanderbilt and Johnny Knox offers that big-play potential with his blinding speed and should only get better coming off an impressive rookie campaign. But while it's nice to have a bunch of 2s and 3s at your disposal, Devin Aromashodu has shown flashes of No. 1-type ability and now has the chance to prove to everyone that last December was no fluke.


WR Devin Aromashodu
Getty Images: Doug Pensinger

Aromashodu caught 22 passes for 272 yards and four touchdowns in the four games closing out 2009, which would translate to 88, 1,088 and 16 if he could do it all season long, and that's in the vicinity of Larry Fitzgerald numbers.

Where is Olsen lining up more often than not?
It was a tough offseason for Greg Olsen, as he was subjected to criticism for not living up to his Pro Bowl potential yet, continued questions about his failure to progress as a blocker and then had to deal with trade rumors once Martz came to town. Nevertheless, he is going to be a part of the Bears this season, only it remains to be seen if he can be the first tight end to register more than the 38 catches Ernie Conwell did for St. Louis in 2001 under Martz's direction. Olsen was relatively productive in 2009, reeling in 60 balls for 612 yards and eight TDs, although that was no better than lesser-heralded TEs in the division like Minnesota's Visanthe Shiancoe (56-566-11) or Green Bay's Jermichael Finley (55-676-5).

If Olsen is lining up all over the field this weekend like he used to for Turner, then he'll be fine; if his hand starts to get grass-stained from the extended time it spends on the ground, then plan to avoid him in your fantasy draft.

Will anyone step up and claim the starting job at guard?
The media will have to see it first-hand with its collective eyes Friday before anything is official, but expect 2009's starting left guard, Frank Omiyale, to be kicked out to his natural spot at right tackle throughout veteran minicamp. That means there is an opening available between center Olin Kreutz and left tackle Chris Williams, and since the coaching staff still seems to be down on 2008 starter Josh Beekman, the race is wide open at this point. Youngsters Lance Louis and Johan Asiata probably aren't ready to make that kind of leap, and since the Bears didn't address the position in free agency or the draft, speculation suggests that career tackle Kevin Shaffer is getting some time at left guard during voluntary workouts – despite the fact that the Omiyale tackle-to-guard experiment from a season ago was more thumbs-down than thumbs-up.

Assuming Omiyale can play right tackle well enough to be a competent bookend to Williams, left guard is the only position along the line in question and could be a big factor in determining the offense's direction this season.


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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.


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