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Is it too early to worry about Cutler’s reliance on Marshall?

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Updated: September 22, 2013 6:38AM



So, Jay Cutler, are you going to throw to somebody other than Brandon Marshall this season?

‘‘You guys are hitting the panic button after two preseason games and 30 plays. We’ve run 30,’’ the Bears quarterback said Tuesday. ‘‘Yeah, we’re going to spread it around. We can’t just throw to Brandon and give the ball to Matt.’’

It’s early. But it’s never too early to worry about Jay Cutler. The hope is that first-year head coach Marc Trestman eventually will maximize Cutler’s heralded quarterback skills. In two preseason games, Cutler is in the ‘‘work-in-progress’’ stage — with one touchdown, two interceptions and a reliance on Marshall that becomes more worrisome than comforting.

Cutler threw five passes against the San Diego Chargers, and all five were intended for Marshall. One was intercepted on a pass Cutler admitted he never should have thrown — at no point did Marshall look like he was ever going to be open. Even the touchdown, a five-yard pass on first-and-goal, was a forced pass in which Cutler relied on Marshall to make a great one-on-one play.

‘‘We’ve got to figure out ways to get other guys involved,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘We had plays up; some of them worked, some of them got checked out of. It’s just the way it goes.’’

Cutler actually has taken just 26 snaps in the preseason. But even if it’s too early to panic, it’s not too early to expect a glimmer of hope that Cutler will flourish in Trestman’s offense. While he’s only three quarters into the preseason, Cutler also is only two quarters from the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 8 at Soldier Field. Cutler is expected to play the first half against the Oakland Raiders on Friday night but not play in the preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 29 at Soldier Field.

So Friday night’s game against the Raiders carries extra importance. Cutler said he would not consciously try to throw to other receivers against the Raiders. And Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said he did not think Cutler’s reliance on Marshall is an issue.

‘‘All good quarterbacks think they can make throws that they might not be able to make,’’ Kromer said. ‘‘So guys follow their reads. A quarterback throws it to the wrong guy at times when he’s reading his reads.

‘‘The whole offense is doing a good job of understanding our scheme and spreading the ball around by what the defense gives us. If the defense gives us Brandon Marshall, we’ll give it to him. If they don’t, we won’t throw it to him.’’

Therein lies the rub. As was the case on the interception, sometimes he throws it to Marshall even when the defense isn’t giving them Marshall.

‘‘You’re talking about one particular play,’’ Kromer said. ‘‘If it’s man-to-man and everybody is covered, sometimes you’ve got to throw a guy open. And that’s what’s happened at times. They are all working at following the reads and running the routes the correct way and doing what they’re supposed to do.’’

It remains to be seen how quickly Cutler picks up the nuances of Trestman’s offense. When Trestman was in his first season in Montreal, quarterback Anthony Calvillo played one quarter in the preseason but still got off to a hot start (11 touchdowns, two interceptions in his first four games) and was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2008.

That’s the Trestman Effect.

‘‘We’re going to make everyone better out there, not just me,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘As long as the 10 guys in front of me give me an opportunity to do my job, then it’s on me to execute what I’ve been coached to do.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter:

@MarkPotash



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