Jay Cutler began placing a premium on ball security from the earliest days of his working with offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. It took on accelerated emphasis from the outset of training camp, and Cutler went interception-free through nearly the first two weeks of practices. It was a preview of a key step forward in Cutler’s game, with him ultimately delivering not only his career-best passer rating (92.3), but also the second-lowest interception percentage (2.3), best for any season in which he played more than 10 games.
More notably perhaps, and partly because of that ball security, Cutler led the Bears to four game-winning fourth-quarter drives, his most since 2010.
“I think the ball security has been very good in the pocket,” said Loggains, taking over in the wake of Gase moving on to coach the Miami Dolphins. “It’s something we’ll continue to work on, talk about, and I think he’s doing a good job with it.”
The Bears achieved a reasonable run-pass balance (46 percent run) as the offense reflected the preferences of coach John Fox. Cutler was not asked to become a game manager but he did become better at managing a game.
No “adjustment” of the past calendar year ranks higher in significance than Loggains moving up from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, making him the sixth Cutler has had since coming to Chicago in 2009. Loggains was a critical part of Cutler’s progress while Gase was on staff, and the Bears now have to trust that Loggains-Dave Ragone, himself a former NFL quarterback, clicks with Cutler as the Gase-Loggains tandem did.
Cutler has missed at least one game in each of his last seven Bears seasons. Accordingly, the roster overhaul included signing Brian Hoyer for one year, bringing in a No. 2 with a winning career record as a starter (15-11). Hoyer has been in playoff situations and gives the Bears arguably the top backup at the position where teams can least afford falloff from the starter.
David Fales remains on the roster despite going into his third Bears camp without yet playing in a regular-season game. The Bears brought in competition for that No. 3 spot, claiming Connor Shaw off waivers.
QB1 Jay Cutler
QB2 Brian Hoyer
3 questions camp will begin to answer…
1. Was Cutler’s improved ball security a blip or the way of his future?
The Bears’ premium on reducing interceptions was evident from day one of training camp, even before, with Cutler going effectively the first two weeks of practices without a single interception.
2. Exactly how will the Cutler-Loggains relationship unfold?
The chemistry between Gase and Cutler was so good, it is almost difficult to envision an improvement there. But Cutler’s performance has plummeted at times in the past when his relationships with coordinators deteriorated, and Loggains needs to have total buy-in from his quarterback for the offense in general and Cutler in particular to take a next step.
“Most of the time when you have turnover like that, it’s going to be learning a whole new language, you’re back at Square 1,” Cutler said. “With Dowell, we didn’t want to do that. The coaches didn’t want to do that. They didn’t want to that to the players. And I certainly didn’t want to do that.
“So we took the normal course of action from Year 1 to Year 2 that you would do if he had the same coordinator — that is, go back and look at what you did well and look at what you didn’t do and kind of tweak some things. The majority of the offensive backbone of what we do is staying the same.”
3. How well will Cutler mesh with an offense that has lost Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, has no offensive lineman starting where they did last year in Week 1, and projects to have Kevin White as a Cutler weapon?
Cutler needs to have confidence in every member of his huddle, meaning his backs in blitz-pickup, his receivers to be precise in routes and his line to give the offense a credible run game.