By Chris Emma-
BOURBONNAIS (CBS) – The stakes are greater than ever for Jay Cutler and the Bears’ high-octane offense.
All the pieces are in place for the Bears to see success in year two under coach Marc Trestman, led by Cutler, the franchise quarterback with a newly minted contract. There are playmaking receivers, a top-tier running back and stable offensive line.
This all led Brandon Marshall, one of Cutler’s closest comrades and top receiving targets, to offer a prediction when speaking with the NFL Network’s Michael Irvin. In an audacious statement, Marshall said Cutler can win MVP. He reiterated these remarks Wednesday, speaking to the assembled media in Bourbonnais after practice at Olivet Nazarene.
“Absolutely,” Marshall sad.
“We have a special group at the skill positions like Matt Forte, Alshon (Jeffery), Martellus (Bennett), Q (Marquess Wilson). I think, absolutely.”
It’s a bold belief, considering Cutler’s background in the NFL. His best statistical season came in 2008, when he threw for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns. His best year in Chicago was 2009, where he posted 27 touchdowns and 3,666 yards — but also threw for 26 interceptions. He hasn’t seen an injury-free season since, though he did post a career-best 89.2 quarterback rating in 11 games last season.
Off the field, Marshall sees a different side of Cutler — something he believes will make a difference. The quarterback is up and working at 5 a.m., Marshall said, and “lives” the chance to get better.
“I don’t think anybody would believe it,” Marshall said. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t believe it. This is a different person. I don’t know this guy. I don’t know this new Jay Cutler. Maybe his new name is like Joshua or something. This is a totally different guy. Just call him Joshua Cutler. That’s what the ‘J’ stands for.”
Were Cutler to have an MVP season, he would need to conquer health concerns. Everything is set around him for success. Marshall, the go-to target for Cutler, would be the greatest influence for such success.
Everything has ramped up for the Bears’ new season, and the expectations are rising with it.
Long cleared for camp
Training camp can become tedious at times, especially for a Pro Bowler stuck going through the motions. In the case of the Bears guard Kyle Long, missing out made him a “wreck emotionally.” He even filled the void by jumping in a fight last week.
Long is nearing full recovery from a viral infection that sidelined him for the Bears’ first five practices in Bourbonnais. He’s been cleared to begin conditioning and is expected to suit up in a helmet and pads this weekend.
“We’re going to do the right thing,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We’re going to do what the trainers and doctors tell us to do in our meetings, he’ll get back up on his feet, and then we’ll get him going.”
As a rookie, Long started all 16 games at right guard, putting together a Pro Bowl season. There were no injury woes or struggles throughout his first season. The bout with a viral infection, beginning days before training camp, became his first setback as a Bear.
Long will have to work from behind in practice, catching up with an offense that’s beginning to establish itself in the early onset of camp. First, he must get back into full physical condition.
“He’s missed out, no doubt about it,” Trestman said. “We’ll get him to accelerate the process.”
Bears taking advantage of little time
The clock of NFL coaches is different from the average human being. Early hours of the day are commonplace to begin a strenuous job. Such is the case for Trestman.
However, each morning when Trestman arrives to the practice field at Olivet Nazarene — often times a full hour before the team’s 9 a.m.start — his players have already arrived.
“It’s what it takes to be a pro,” Trestman said. “We start practice at 8:30, and most of the team is out here at five after 8:00. Guys are having catches, working on their hands, working on their footwork. They’re spending as much time out here as they can.”
Part of the urgency is a result of deep competition to make the Bears’ 53-man roster. There are plenty of vacancies throughout the depth chart and more reasons to make each day a chance to improve.
Time is limited on the field in training camp. Gone are the days where two-a-days and lengthy practices were conventional. The collective bargaining agreement keeps teams in check but also takes away reps on the field.
“With the new CBA, this time is precious,” Trestman said. “There’s only so much time we have to learn and get ready for the season. Our guys are really trying to make the most of it. We’re trying to make the most of each and every day.”
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.