Jay Cutler’s preseason is over since he won’t be playing vs. the Cleveland Browns this Thursday. The preseason doesn’t matter, unless you want to point to it as “See, I told you...” for either a positive or negative.
The Bears are 2-1 through three preseason games, exactly what they have been now in three of Cutler’s five preseasons. Since that has less to do with Cutler as the No. 1 quarterback because of reduced playing time, that’s probably more coincidence that significant. If the Bears had let the Raiders come all the way back last Friday, it wouldn't have been Cutler's fault.
But based strictly on passer results, Cutler already is producing better than at any preseason time since 2009, his first year as a Bear. Perhaps not coincidentally, his coordinator then was Ron Turner, and while the personal chemistry was lacking, Turner was a West Coast proponent, like Marc Trestman/Aaron Kromer/Matt Cavanaugh.
To that point, Cutler had receiving tight ends in Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen. And every principle “skill” position player (Clark, Olsen, Earl Bennett, Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Johnny Knox) had no fewer than four catches, a rate even above this preseason.
For purposes of simple comparison, here is the 2012 preseason “apple” compared to the 2013 one:
What exactly this correlates to doesn’t begin to form until Sept. 8 vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bears were 5-9 in the 2009 regular season before salvaging wins in the final two games.
What's been learned?
But for now, some takeaways (no, not those kinds) from the Cutler preseason:
Cutler’s 2013 results are all the more impressive because of a half-dozen catchable passes being dropped.
Cutler has not taken a sack in his last 28 pass drops. He ran twice at Oakland but the scrambles were more from coverage than poor protection, and his decisions to tuck and go were quick.
Cutler did not throw an interception at Oakland. The Bears were 5-1 last season when he went pick-less and should have been 6-0 but for defensive collapses vs. Seattle. He did not force throws vs. the Raiders, a significant element in the Trestman offense.
Despite the revolving coordinator carousel, Cutler has improved each of the last three preseasons from his first under Mike Martz.
Speaking of Martz, the “10” in the Sacks ledger is not a typo. In the first three games of that first preseason with Martz and his deeper drops, Cutler went down once to San Diego, five times vs. Oakland and the last against Arizona. Proving that preseason can sometimes indeed be a foreshadowing, Cutler was sacked nine times in the first half alone of the N.Y. Giants game in Week 4.
The tackles that preseason were Chris Williams on the left and Frank Omiyale at right. Cutler’s throwing is not the only part of the passing offense that has gotten better.