Bears

Bears Jay Cutler wishes Tom Brady good luck with Martellus Bennett

Bears Jay Cutler wishes Tom Brady good luck with Martellus Bennett

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Martellus Bennett produced the best year of his career (2014) with Jay Cutler as his quarterback, catching 90 passes and winding up in the Pro Bowl.

Now with the New England Patriots after the Bears traded him away this offseason, Bennett joined brother Michael, a defensive end with the Seattle Seahawks, in denigrating Cutler.

Michael declared Cutler the "worst quarterback in the NFL,” while Martellus claimed, "I'd be open and he'd throw into double coverage."

Considering that Cutler targeted Bennett 128 times in 2014, or about one-fourth of all Cutler’s attempts, Bennett’s declaration is…interesting.

But Cutler declined to fire back at either of the Bennetts, instead hoping that Martellus’ current quarterback – Tom Brady – would be better at finding the always-open tight end.

And as for whether the chemistry of the offense is better off without the volatile Bennett, “I don’t know,” Cutler said. “I’m really not gonna get into that. Most receivers and tight ends are always open.

“So hopefully Tom I guess can do a better job of finding him than I did.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

On the other end, former teammate Brandon Marshall mused that Cutler could be the league’s MVP this year.

“You can’t please everybody,” Cutler said. “We’re at both ends of the spectrum here. We wish both those guys good luck. I had fun playing with them here, and that’s just kinda how it goes. Guys play for different teams, and we wish them both the best of luck… .

“I don’t know, man. I could say something clever and smart, but I’ll just pass.”

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

There's a lot of optimism about the Chicago Bears in 2018  because of the incredible offseason had by GM Ryan Pace. It started in free agency with several big-name additions on offense and continued in the NFL Draft with the selection of Roquan Smith, arguably the top all-around defender in the class.

Pace now finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He's entering a season with actual expectations. While those expectations vary, one thing is consistent: Improvement is expected.

According to Pro Football Focus, Chicago should end up challenging for a playoff spot.

No less than five additions on offense this offseason could make key impacts for the Bears, including wide receiver Allen Robinson who was one of the NFL’s best in 2015 before a down year in 2016 and essentially missing all of 2017 through injury. He’s joined at the position by Taylor Gabriel, who had three touchdowns on throws 20 yards or further downfield in 2016 and rookie Anthony Miller, who was tied for fourth among wide receivers in this draft class with 19 missed tackles forced on receptions. Add in tight end Trey Burton, who had three touchdowns from just 16 targets when lined up in the slot and rookie offensive lineman James Daniels from Iowa and it’s easy to see why this offense led by Mitchell Trubisky has the potential to trend upwards big time in 2018.

The Bears were one of five teams PFF listed as a surprise wildcard candidate. The road to the post-season will be challenging, however. Not only do all of the new pieces have to gel, but they have to do it while playing in one of the toughest divisions in football.

The NFC North could have three teams -- not including the Bears --  playing in January. The Vikings may be the most talented club in the NFC and the Packers will always be a contender with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The Lions have some vulnerability, but they've had more success than Chicago in recent seasons.

Still, Pace deserves credit for winning the offseason.

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:

With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.

The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team. 

For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.