The Bears are set for their final organized team activities this week before a mandatory minicamp next week and adjournment until training camp. All of the offseason work comes with a CBA-mandated governor, limiting live action and offense-vs-defense work.
For a team with a new coaching staff and potentially as many as six new starters on offense, this is a concern, even with an extra minicamp for a new head coach.
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Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon has a solution:
When the preseason starts, leave Jay Cutler and his new No. 1 offense on the field a whole lot more than they might be used to.
“The guys have to come together,” Moon told CSNChicago.com during Monday’s opening of the second annual “Pro Football Hall of Fame Chicago Salute to Greatness.” “I would think you need to play them more in the preseason to get those guys playing together. Because when you start putting together new groups, talent is one thing, but chemistry and cohesion and all that is so important. That has to come together.
“I would play Jay more. I don’t know how he feels about that, and a lot of coaches are skeptical about playing their quarterbacks a lot in preseason. But I was never a guy who shied away from preseason.”
If history is any indicator – and Moon along with the more than a dozen Hall of Famers at The Glen Club are NFL history – the more Cutler there is in preseason, the better.
Last preseason, with first-time coordinator Mike Tice, Cutler threw a total of 34 passes – fewer than either Josh McCown (46) or Jason Campbell (39). He posted a 47 percent completion percentage and 77.8 passer rating. His regular-season passer rating of 81.3 was the second-lowest of his seven NFL seasons despite the reuniting with Brandon Marshall. The Bears missed the playoffs.
In 2011, Cutler’s 43 attempts were half of what Caleb Hanie and Nathan Enderle threw combined. Cutler finished the season on IR with a freakish thumb injury.
But in 2010, his first year under Mike Martz, Cutler threw 37 passes in preseason – more than Hanie (17) and Todd Collins (15) combined. The Bears finished the season in the NFC Championship game, a touchdown from the Super Bowl.
Coincidence? Probably. And preseason results rarely have any direct correlation to results that matter.
But Moon’s reasoning is that the Marc Trestman Bears offense needs more work, not less. And restrictions in the offseason work limit what Cutler and the offense will even see from working against Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman and a very good defense in practice.
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Besides, Moon said, “I felt like if you got ready to play a game, no matter how much it was, you still got ready the same. By the time you got a feel for what was happening, you were out of there. And you’d prepared and warmed up the same way you would have for a game.
“Preseason is where your guys need to get that cohesion. If they were a veteran group that had played together, you’d know what you’ve got. But this group, with a new staff, is different that way.”