Bears first quarter grades: offense

While Jay Cutler and Chicago's offense have been inconsistent through four games, the group has shown flashes of potential.


Jay Cutler is who we thought he is. Despite having a cadre of new weapons at his disposal, Cutler again has been frustratingly inconsistent. He has two subpar games sandwiched in between two solid outings. He's completed 57.9 percent of his passes, well below his career average, throwing five touchdowns and six interceptions. His 75.3 passer rating is just 25th best in the NFL. If the offense is going to take that next step, Cutler must develop consistency under OC Mike Tice. He's also been somewhat of a loose cannon on the sidelines, which has led to frustration and poor decisions on the field. Still, the Bears have won nine of the last 10 contests Cutler has started, so he's obviously doing something right.

Running back

Matt Forte has been hampered by an ankle injury through the first quarter, forcing him to miss roughly six quarters of action. As such, he has just 163 rushing yards (54.3 yards per contest). His 4.5 yards per carry is solid and he's fourth on the team with eight receptions. So far, he's shown flashes of the explosive Forte of old, now he just needs to get healthy.

Michael Bush leads the team with 180 rushing yards, although his 3.3 yards per carry leaves a lot to be desired. He's been a good short-yardage runner, especially near the goal line, and has rushed for 14 first downs, the most on the club. He's been at his best as a change-of-pace back behind Forte but Bush is also dealing with a shoulder injury. If these two can get healthy, Chicago's rushing attack could be dominant.

Wide receiver

Brandon Marshall leads the team in every possible receiving category: targets (39), receptions (23), yards (352), touchdowns (2), yards after the catch (127) and 1st down receptions (16). He's been as good as advertised, despite a couple of costly drops. Marshall has proven he can carry the load as the club's No. 1 wideout and should continue to be a force going forward.

The question remains: who will step up as the team's No. 2 pass catcher? So far, that player has been rookie Alshon Jeffery, who is second on the team in receptions (12), targets (19) and yards (164). Jeffery has been able to use his big body in possession situations and has shown great hands. He's still developing as a player and should only get better the more time he sees on the field.

Earl Bennett has been a disappointment so far. A breakout candidate this season, Bennett has just six catches for 82 yards through four games (he missed the Dallas contest with a hand injury). Opposing defenses have paid a lot of attention to Marshall, leaving Bennett with one-on-one coverage out of the slot. Yet he hasn't been able to capitalize. The team's most sure-handed receiver has just five first down catches, an area where he has typically excelled. Bennett must step up and start playing to his talent level.

Devin Hester has seen a reduced workload this season, serving as the team's No. 4 receiver. He has just five catches for 65 yards, although that includes a 34-yard TD grab against the Cowboys. Hester will continue to see limited offensive reps, keeping him fresh in the return game, yet he should be able to still contribute on occasion as a pass catcher.

Tight end

Kellen Davis came alive on Monday night, catching three passes for 62 yards. It was a strong performance from a player for whom many had high hopes coming into 2012. Yet other than the Cowboys matchup, Davis has been almost invisible as a pass catcher. It appears he's going to be a situational receiver, similar to his role in Mike Martz's offense. He's not going to catch 60 passes but Davis always makes the most of his opportunities. Despite catching just six passes so far, he leads the team in receiving average (17.2) and is second in plays of 20 or more yards (3).

Matt Spaeth does a little bit of everything as a blocker. He can pass protect on the edge, lead block from the fullback spot or chip from the wing. He doesn't see a lot of opportunities in the passing game but his contributions as a blocker have been invaluable.

The same goes for Evan Rodriguez and Kyle Adams, both of whom have assumed the F-back role in Tice's system. Both have shown well as lead blockers, especially Rodriguez, who is currently nursing a knee injury. Adams has proved a capable backup. Both are a crucial part of Chicago's rushing attack, as the team traded its only pure fullback, Tyler Clutts, before the start of the season.

Offensive line

Left tackle J'Marcus Webb looked horrible in the Green Bay contest, getting beaten repeatedly by Clay Matthews. Yet in the other three contests, Webb has been serviceable in pass protection. He is making small strides as a pass blocker and his performance against DeMarcus Ware last week, one of the best pass rushers in the game, should give him confidence going forward. If he can continues to take baby steps, he may turn out OK on the left edge. In addition, he's been destroying defenders in the run game.

Left guard Chilo Rachal has started the last two games after taking over for the ineffective Chris Spencer. Rachal has added some nastiness up front and has been a mauler in the run game. He's also been quite effective in pass protection.

Center Roberto Garza is having a rough season. In the twilight of his career, Garza is struggling to anchor in the middle. More often than not, he's getting blown off the ball and he's struggling finding defenders in space. He's the veteran leader of this group and makes all the calls at the line of scrimmage, so his job is safe, but he is clearly well past his prime.

Right guard Lance Louis has been outstanding so far. He is easily the team's best offensive lineman, showing aggressiveness in the run game and fluidity as a pass blocker. Louis has given up just one sack so far this season and his quickness has allowed him to be very effective on pulls and traps. He was a question mark heading into 2012, after a rough 2011 in which he was forced to play tackle, but he now appears to be the strongest link in the front five.

Right tackle Gabe Carimi just isn't the same player we saw last season. After multiple surgeries on his dislocated kneecap, Carimi hasn't shown good lateral agility and is getting consistently blown back by the bull rush. He's allowed 13 hurries through four games, which is seventh most in the league amongst offensive tackles. Whether it's a confidence issue or the knee is still bothering him, Carimi just doesn't seem right and has work to do if he's going to return to his previous dominant form.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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