By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) In 2013, the Bears offense was fortunate when it came to injuries. They were one of only three teams in the league to have the same five offensive linemen start all 16 games, and their primary skill position players were also available for the entire season.READ MORE: Jussie Smollett Returns To Witness Stand, Again Denies Hiring Osundairo Brothers To Stage Attack; 'There Was No Hoax'
It’s only Week 2 of the 2014 season, and the Bears may be without four starters on offense this Sunday night against the 49ers.
While they haven’t come out directly and said it, by parsing through quotes from offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte, you get the feel that the Bears will be without center Roberto Garza (ankle) and guard Matt Slauson (ankle).
In addition, receivers Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) have yet to practice this week, and No. 3 receiver Josh Morgan (groin) sat out too Thursday.
Still, Marshall was adamant Thursday afternoon that he will be ready come Sunday.
“I’m going to be out there Sunday, that’s what I’m saying,” Marshall said. “But of course, you know, I’m not the head decision maker here. But I’m going to be out there in my mind, and I’m going to be OK.”
Marshall is going through his rehab schedule and will test his ankle at practice Friday.
“I still have a few more days of healing to go,” Marshall said. “Get out there tomorrow (Friday), hopefully, and test it out. I’m sure it’s going to be ugly and it’s going to be sore and it’s going to hurt. But you got to be able to show the team and the coaches that I can at least be in position (to play).”READ MORE: 2 Tigers At Pittsburgh Zoo Test Positive For COVID-19
In the meantime, the Bears are getting their reserves as many reps on the field and in the meeting room in the event they’re called upon on Sunday. Cutler is being called upon to take an even bigger role in directing the team both on and off the field.
With the regular starters, Cutler was more hands off, but currently, that’s not the case.
“With the full 11, you can just get in and out of the huddle as fast as you can and those guys will figure it out,” Cutler said. “Even if we’re lined up on the wrong side, if Z (flanker) goes one way and X (split end) goes to the wrong side, they know the call, they know the concept, they’ll get it figured out. With these new guys, I’ve got to make sure when we break the huddle we know exactly where we’re going, we’re getting our splits, we’re getting lined up correctly.”
In training camp, the Bears chose to give Cutler reps with the second- and third-team players, which in hindsight is looking like it was a prescient decision.
“Taking a lot of reps with those guys in training camp and even OTAs,” Cutler said, “I’ve got a good comfort level with what Josh Bellamy and Josh Morgan can do physically, what they’re good at, what routes they like. How they come in and out of cuts. So, it’s a good thing we did that.”
With the Bears’ primary pass receivers’ status in question, Cutler is turning his focus to tight end Martellus Bennett and wants to make sure the Bears establish the running game early against a 49ers team that allowed the Cowboys to average 5.5 yards per carry this past Sunday.
“With the way Matt (Forte) is playing, with the way our offensive line is blocking, kind of how we are set up offensively this week, the run is important to us this week,” Cutler said. “We’ve got to stay in rhythm, we’ve got to keep them honest and throw the ball down the field a little bit. But it’s (establishing the run) something we’ve definitely talked about and emphasized.”MORE NEWS: West Town Area Neighbors Band Together To Catch Man Suspected In Years' Worth Of Package Thefts
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.