Cutler impressive in debut

Jay Cutler's first NFL action went even better than the Denver Broncos could have expected. Cutler, the Broncos' first-round pick, looked like a veteran against the Detroit Lions

He completed 16 of 22 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown, and just as impressive as the numbers was the way he handled himself.

Cutler ran the offense well, displaying no nerves during his two quarters of action. He wasn't sacked and didn't throw an interception. When the pass rush came, he felt it and moved in the pocket, buying time to get a pass to his receiver.

"I'm happy," Cutler said. "You got to start somewhere and I'm glad I started on a positive instead of a negative."

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who drafted Cutler to be his quarterback of the future, wasn't too excited about the performance. He surely wasn't displeased after the rookie made plenty of tough throws and good reads, but he tempered the enthusiasm.

Cutler did his work against a basic defensive scheme. Lions coach Rod Marinelli admitted he played it very straight because he wanted his players to concentrate on fundamentals. The Broncos didn't have many complicated looks either, which made it a bit easier for Cutler.

"Both teams were very vanilla in their approach to it, offensively and defensively, so you don't get too excited," Shanahan said. "But a guy has to go out there and perform, I thought he showed a lot of poise and did an excellent job."

Cutler showed off his arm strength, which has been evident during training camp. He fired a couple of rockets, especially when he hit rookie tight end Tony Scheffler on a seam route for a 24-yard gain. But on his first NFL touchdown, he showed great touch. Receiver David Kircus got behind the defense on a hook-and-go pattern and Cutler floated the ball to him perfectly for a 26-yard score.

"That was a nice play," Shanahan said.

The Broncos' plan is for Jake Plummer to play this season, with the starting job to be contested as early as 2007. But Cutler was elevated ahead of Bradlee Van Pelt to Denver's No. 2 quarterback job so it's important Cutler be ready this year in case Plummer gets hurt.

The good news is Cutler has picked up the offense well. Denver has a complicated scheme and it takes a while to grasp it. Plummer didn't feel totally comfortable until his third year. Cutler is far from having the offense down pat but he has made good progress.

"He picks it up as quickly as anyone," Shanahan said. "He's very, very sharp, very accustomed to the passing game and very impressive to where he is at this time."

Cutler started four seasons at Vanderbilt so he had plenty of experience, and that helped ease his transition. Cutler said the only thing that frustrated him a bit during the first couple weeks of training camp was the two-minute offense. That's not too bad considering how much was thrown at him.

"I feel really good about it right now," Cutler said.


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