Forget the rust; in Jay, we trust, Trestman says
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter December 12, 2013 10:22PM
Quarterback Jay Cutler, who hasn’t played since a Nov. 10 game against the Lions, praised the Browns’ defense. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jay Cutler is starting Sunday against the Browns because he’s the Bears’ best quarterback.
Even after missing five weeks?
‘‘I have no concerns [about rust],’’ coach Marc Trestman said. ‘‘I expect that he’ll play effectively and efficiently. I’m not going in with any reservation that he’ll do anything else. I don’t feel there’s any risk.’’
After Cutler suffered a groin injury against the Redskins on Oct. 20, he returned in three weeks against the Lions at Soldier Field and showed no initial signs of the layoff. He misfired on his first pass but connected on the next three to Brandon Marshall for 17 yards, 14 yards and a 32-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 7-0 lead 2:23 into the game.
This time the layoff has been longer. Cutler has not taken a snap in a game in five weeks.
‘‘I’m good to go,’’ Cutler said Thursday at Halas Hall. ‘‘Rust — we’re kind of knocking it off as we go in practice. I don’t really have a lot of room to be rusty out there. So we’ve got to hit it running. We’ve got to play well. Cleveland’s a good defense. They show a lot of different fronts. They get off the field on third down, so it’s going to be a challenge.’’
Six days after Josh McCown threw four touchdown passes and rushed for one against the Cowboys’ 32nd-ranked defense, Cutler will be facing a Browns team ranked seventh in total defense (320 yards per game) and second in yards allowed per play (4.6).
Perhaps the biggest issue for Cutler could be his ability to handle the Browns’ pass rush. The Bears have allowed 13 sacks in their last eight games — McCown was sacked two times or fewer in four of his five starts. The Browns are ninth in the NFL with 37 sacks — by an NFL-best 15 players.
‘‘We’ve done a nice job [in blitz pickup] lately, and hopefully we can continue,’’ offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. ‘‘[Cutler] has really been on it during the week . . . knowing that he’s getting ready to play. Hopefully he can carry that over to the field.’’
Cutler figures to have opportunities against a Browns defense that, while highly ranked in yards, has allowed an average of 26 offensive points in losses to the Bengals (40-21), Steelers (27-11), Jaguars (32-28) and Patriots (27-26) the last four weeks.
And Cutler is joining an offense that has been picking up steam since he left. The Bears have averaged 465 yards per game and 6.7 yards per play over the last three games.
‘‘We feel it’s going to stay full-throttle ahead with Jay playing quarterback,’’ Kromer said.
And if not? With a red-hot McCown on the sideline, do the Bears have a Plan B if Cutler struggles?
‘‘Plan B is that we play better the next snap than we did on the snap that wasn’t good — that’s all,’’ Kromer said confidently. ‘‘That’s the way we’re going into it.’’