The “loss” of Kevin White, if you can actually be said to lose something you never had, will have obvious ripple effects, both during his absence and even when/if he returns this season, since he will be far back on any learning curve for rookie wide receivers.
The all-too-obvious upshot is the underscoring of the importance of offensive coordinator Adam Gase making good his and John Fox’s stated commitment to running the football. That was going to happen anyway, but consider it a survival skill now, with simple things like a return to health of the offensive line and someone to share the carries load with Matt Forte.
But for any of that to work at all starts with one simple thing from one often not-so-simple Bear: Jay Cutler.
The absolute focus this offseason has been cutting into Cutler’s career-defining propensity for turnovers. That’s why his near-interception-free training camp has been of more than just amusing interest.
Because without White, the Bears lose their projected best home run threat, meaning they become less able to play from behind, which is where Cutler interceptions will help put them. And it puts a still-forming defense on a short field, which it absolutely cannot afford.
Cutler played his best football – 17-8 regular season – in a stretch from 2010 through the 7-3 start in 2011, when Mike Martz trimmed Cutler’s decision-making. Cutler ultimately clashed with Martz but the formula, with the Bears running more than 44 percent of the time in 2011 worked. And more than a little coincidentally, it worked because Cutler was on the way to the lowest interception percentage (2.2 percent) of his career.
The Bears don’t need the cliché’d gunslinger; they need a game manager, more than ever. Besides tight end Martellus Bennett, Cutler will be working with just two starter-grade wide receivers - Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal - and if the Bears muscle up run blocking with an extra tight end, Cutler will be working with second-tier talents there as well.
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Be in no doubt as to the importance of how Cutler fares over three days (two practices, one game) against the Indianapolis Colts. The Bears aren’t.
“When we get to practice against Indy, that’s a whole different animal,” Gase said. “Now you’re going against those guys twice and then playing in a preseason game. All that’s good development for us, to see where we’re at, so we have a better idea when we head into that first game of who we are, of what we need to be, how we want to play. And to see where [Cutler’s] growth is overall in the next five weeks.”