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Hoge’s Bears Depth Chart Breakdown: Quarterback

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Jay Cutler. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Jay Cutler. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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By Adam Hoge-

The second in a series of depth chart breakdowns leading up to the start of Bears training camp in Bourbonnais.

(CBS) It seems hard to believe, but this is already Jay Cutler’s fifth season with the Chicago Bears.

And the big question entering 2013 is: will it be his last?

Cutler enters the final year of his deal with plenty of questions, but also renewed optimism. He has a revamped offensive line and, perhaps more importantly, a new, offensive-minded head coach whose No. 1 priority is to get the most out of his quarterback.

Forgive those who are still skeptical. It’s been an up-and-down ride for Jay Cutler in Chicago and he’s suddenly already 30 years old. He also happens to get his head pounded into the ground a lot because of a lack of protection up front. And that’s why the depth behind him is still so important even though there is no controversy about who’s starting.

 1st Team 2nd Team 3rd Team
 QB  Jay Cutler Josh McCown Matt Blanchard

More: Entire Projected Depth Chart

Projected Starter

Jay Cutler - The eighth-year pro from Vanderbilt enters the most crucial year of his career.

Projected Reserves

Josh McCown – GM Phil Emery is rolling the dice with the 34-year-old who has played in only six NFL games in the last five years.

Matt Blanchard – The second-year QB out of Wisconsin-Whitewater spent last season on the Bears’ practice squad.

Training Camp Outlook

There are two separate storylines involving the Bears’ quarterbacks in training camp this year.

For Cutler, all eyes will be focused on how he is mastering Marc Trestman’s offense. The quarterback tempered expectations in minicamp by saying “it’s hard to go out there Year 1 and blow the doors off,” but he knows he needs to improve on the 81.3 passer rating he posted last season. The Bears have upgraded the offensive line in front him and given him a dynamic tight end who can actually catch a football (Martellus Bennett). With Alshon Jeffery expected to come along in his second year and Brandon Marshall lining up on the other side, the thinking is that Cutler finally has all the pieces he needs to be successful in Chicago. Now it’s time to deliver. Training camp will offer our first glimpse at how it is all coming together under Trestman.

Further down on the depth chart, McCown and Blanchard will be competing for jobs. The Bears have kept Blanchard around long enough to indicate that they think he could actually play in a pinch. Could he push McCown for the backup job? You can’t rule it out, but it would be surprising given McCown’s role on the bench. He’s a knowledgeable guy who is an extension of the coaching staff and the players in the locker room like him a lot. That doesn’t mean he can fill in adequately the next time Cutler gets hurt though. McCown has thrown a pass in only four NFL games since 2007. Jerry Angelo was run out of town two years ago for not having a good enough back up quarterback on the roster when Cutler was lost for the last five games of the season. Remember who ended up starting the final two games that season? Josh McCown.

Don’t be surprised to see the depth at quarterback change by Week 1.

Sleeper: Matt Blanchard. Not much of a choice here. The kid was pretty good at Whitewater and he’s done enough to stick with the Bears for a second training camp. He likely doesn’t have a ceiling higher than a career backup, but that might be exactly what the Bears need him to be this year.

Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.

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