As Browns Take on Bears, is Chicago's Future Really in Good Shape?

Browns vs. Bears - Game Preview

I've never understood all of the hype surrounding QB Jay Cutler.

Sure, he has shown the potential to be a very productive quarterback. But there are other games where he'll make decisions throughout the game that prevent the offense from doing much of anything. For all of the potential he has had the past several years, he has failed to move on to the "next level", which is why I was thrilled when Cutler was not dealt to the Cleveland Browns early in the offseason. If you recall, the Browns were one of the teams reportedly interested in the former disgruntled Bronco. When Chicago landed Cutler, here's what they had to give up:

  1. First Round Pick in 2009
  2. Third Round Pick in 2009
  3. First Round Pick in 2010

The Denver Broncos have the media to thank for always touting Cutler as a top-tier quarterback ever since he was drafted. Beyond their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bears, especially including Cutler, have struggled against contending teams such as the Green Bay Packers, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Cincinnati Bengals. As efficient as Carson Palmer was last week against the Bears' defense, Cutler threw three interceptions in a 45-10 blowout. Earlier in the year, Mel Kiper stressed Cutler being overhyped:

"This guy was overhyped at the combine, he was overhyped at Senior Bowl week, he’s been overhyped before he was drafted. The media, they love Jay Cutler. Jay Cutler can do no wrong. I’ve been saying he’s overrated since day one. Everyone’s been pounding their chests saying, ‘Oh, I love Jay Cutler, I’m a genius.’ They have egg on their face now."

-Mel Kiper

Part of the problem? Cutler is stubborn, on and off the field. His stubbornness in Denver helped lead to his dismissal, and on the field, even if a receiver didn't run his route correctly or isn't open, he'll try to force it right at "the spot he's supposed to be." The Broncos are 6-0 under Kyle Orton, and the Minnesota Vikings are 5-1 under Brett Favre. Cutler might have the potential to be better than both of them, but right now, Orton and, believe it or not, Favre, have been effective game managers.

The Bears have always been known for their defense, and acquiring Cutler was an attempt to have dominance on both sides of the ball. Maybe they'll find receivers to better complement Cutler next year, but by then, they're going to have to start worrying about their lack of youth defensively.

The Browns didn't face Cutler in the preseason; he sat out the fourth exhibition game just as Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson did. Odds are in Cutler's favor that he'll rebound from last week's "off" performance and light it up against the Browns. Until Cutler starts leading his team to victory against the contending teams though, I'd probably take at least ten quarterbacks on my roster before I'd take him.

This isn't meant to say that Anderson (or Quinn) outweigh Cutler by any means; it's becoming clearer and clearer that neither quarterback will be considered long-term answers. Considering what the Bears have invested in Cutler though, if the Browns are able to find a solid quarterback in next year's draft, I'm not going to wish we had Cutler on our team instead. Maybe that'll change in the future, but three years of hype has gotten old real quick.

Running Game & Tight End

Matt Forte has seen his carries go down from last season. After averaging nearly 20 carries a game last season, that figure has dropped to 15 carries per game. I expected Forte's carries to increase this season, with Cutler being efficient by picking his spots to move the ball down the field and utilize some of the speed Chicago has in Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. The Bears rank 29th in the league this season running the football.

Greg Olsen should be the target that Cutler utilizes more often. The Bears need to start utilizing him in areas that aren't near the goal line.

The Right Tackle Swap

Even though a trade wasn't involved, the Browns and the Bears essentially swapped right tackles during the offseason. On the Browns is veteran John St. Clair; on the Bears is veteran Kevin Shaffer. Take your pick between the two, because I really don't see how either player can be measured as an upgrade.

The Bears' Adewale Ogunleye will be matched up against St. Clair on Sunday:

"It's going to be fun going against him,'' Ogunleye said. "I'm just going to say that he tries hard. He's the kind of guy that goes in every game and busts his ass, excuse me, busts his tail. He's the kind of guy that you want on your team, so he's a good guy."

The Bears have been held without a sack the past two games. The offensive line has remained one of the lone bright spots for the Browns, with the right side of the line even holding its own in recent weeks.

Tommie Harris Returning

The Bears were without DT Tommie Harris last week, and his absence was noted. With linebackers Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisomoa out for the season, the Bears were outmatched against the Bengals. Having Harris back should improve the other units as well.

Tonight, I'll have another small preview of the Bears/Browns contest. Don't forget to check out rufio's midseason analysis of the Browns offense.

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