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Jay Cutler, Bears’ offense need to show progress

Updated: August 16, 2013 12:36AM



The problem with the NFL preseason, besides its very existence, is that it warps perspective. You know and I know that these games mean very little, but we can’t help ourselves.

It’s why, year after year, we find ourselves discussing the battle for a backup safety position or who should be the eighth offensive lineman, when we know we have better things to do. Like listening to paint dry.

But this preseason is a bit different for the Bears because of all the moving parts, which don’t always know where they’re going and sometimes run into one another. I’m talking about the offense.

Thursday night’s “game’’ against the Chargers is the second of the preseason for the Bears, and all we want to see from the offense is progress. That’s it. If Jay Cutler can begin the game with a completed pass to his own team, that would be progress, if not cause for a parade. If he throws an interception on the first play, as he did in the preseason opener, we can all expect calls from the Matt Blanchard for President Campaign Committee.

Cutler says the offense “is getting better each and every day,’’ so there’s that. But some proof would be good, just to calm the masses.

A new head coach and a new offensive system apparently are a lot to digest for all involved. Bears players and coaches have been describing an offense that is more difficult than organic chemistry. They don’t think we civilians could ever pick it up. Really? I’ve interviewed football players, and you’ve surely seen football players being interviewed on television. Are they wearing lab coats or consulting a calculator or pondering Kierkegaard? How difficult can learning football plays be, especially if you’ve played football your whole life?

Thank you. I feel better.

There have been whispers that Bears players are not exactly embracing Marc Trestman’s offense, which, if true, would answer the question, “What’s the definition of the word ‘ridiculous?’    ” The Bears weren’t successful offensively under the last three or four coordinators. Last year’s team finished 28th out of 32 teams in total offense. I’m not sure any Bears player is in a position to question the new system.

So, progress. That is not asking the world. It would be nice to see progress in terms of Cutler spreading the wealth to different receivers. Watching Brandon Marshall catch 118 passes last season was interesting, in the way that watching Joey Chestnut down hot dogs is interesting. But it’s not the best way to win football games. I think everyone can agree with that. By “everyone,’’ I mean, “Brandon, are you listening?’’

It also would be nice to see progress on the right side of the offensive line, which will feature rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills. Then again, I’m not even sure what progress would look like. Baby steps? Bears fans have every right to be scared to death of the idea of two rookies protecting Cutler. The thought that Mills, a fifth-round pick, could start at right tackle this season and handle some of the best, most experienced pass rushers in the league is hard to fathom. But that’s where the Bears are. That’s where the Bears always seem to be.

If by some borderline miracle the decision to start two rookies on the offensive line works, the Bears actually might have an offense. So pay attention to the right side of the line Thursday night. I would suggest not even looking where the ball goes, unless it’s in Cutler’s hands as he attempts to escape a very large, very fast defender.

Preseason is a scary time. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady left practice Wednesday with what appeared to be a minor knee injury. You can bet the Patriots are holding their breath. But there’s no way to keep football players out of harm’s way before the season. It would be nice to see the league cut the number of preseason games from four to two and stop charging regular-season prices to see them. Speaking of miracles.

This is a preseason that matters a little more for the Bears, who are on the cusp of something, whether it be a playoff appearance or Cutler’s departure. Given their history, I’m leaning toward the latter.

Not to worry. According to a new Forbes report, the franchise is worth $1.25 billion, eighth-highest in the NFL. Chicago doesn’t have much to show for it, but, hey, how about those ’85 Bears?



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