Bears expect Jay Cutler ‘at highest level’ in his return from injury
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter November 9, 2013 1:44AM
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- TELANDER: Let’s see how well Jay Cutler does filling Josh McCown’s shoes
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Updated: November 10, 2013 11:33AM
Even though Jay Cutler missed most of the last three weeks with a torn groin muscle, the Bears expect him to pick up right where he left off when he starts Sunday against the Lions.
Well, hopefully not right where he left off. Lost in the tumult of Cutler’s injury and the wonderment of his lightning-fast rehabilitation is the fact that Cutler wasn’t very good against the Redskins before suffering the injury.
Coming off a 10-day break after playing the Giants on a Thursday — and facing a Redskins defense that had allowed an average passer rating of 105 — Cutler was 3-for-8 for 28 yards with an interception returned for a touchdown. It gave him an 8.3 passer rating.
So now that coach Marc Trestman has decided to start Cutler against the Lions instead of staying with Josh McCown and giving Cutler’s injury another week to heal, the pertinent question is, how good will he be?
Based on McCown’s six quarters against the Redskins and Packers, the Bears knew what they were going to get from him in this offense. He completed 59 percent of his passes (36-for-61) for 476 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 100.2 passer rating. He was sacked twice.
But Cutler enters this game as a wild card:
◆ His performance against the Lions in Week 4 was by far his worst of the season (three interceptions, two gratuitous touchdown passes after the Bears fell behind 40-16 and a 65.6 rating). But before that game, Cutler was at his best against the Lions (a 100.5 rating with 12 touchdowns and one interception and seven victories in nine games).
◆ Cutler never has been better at dodging a pass rush than against the Lions, especially in a 24-20 victory in 2010, when he was sacked four times; and even in a 24-13 loss in 2011, when he was sacked three times and harassed constantly but still posted a 99.6 rating with no interceptions.
But last season at Soldier Field, Cutler was injured when defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh body-slammed him legally on a sack and twice left the game before returning in the second half. That incident was forgotten in a 13-7 victory, but it resonates stronger than ever with Cutler coming off a groin injury.
Still, Trestman is going full speed ahead. Now that Cutler has been cleared to play, it’s as though the injury never happened. He doesn’t feel the need to ease Cutler into his first game in three weeks to address the rust factor.
‘‘[That assumes] he’s going to be rusty, and I won’t assume that,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘We expect him to play at the highest level. We wouldn’t have him out there if we didn’t think he could perform at that.
‘‘He’s worked so hard that if he didn’t think he was ready personally and emotionally, I don’t think he would put himself out there and put the team at risk.’’
The stakes for Cutler actually are higher now than when he left. In his last six quarters in this offense, Cutler has a 86.4 passer rating (27-for-44, 290 yards, two touchdowns, one interception). In his last six quarters in this offense, McCown has a 100.2 rating. Believe it or not, Cutler has big shoes to fill. Right now, it looks like the offense is the star of the offense.