BOURBONNAIS — The small sample size is one of the many dangers of analyzing an NFL preseason. But after six years of watching quarterback Jay Cutler with the Bears in various offenses at various points of development and under various coordinators, the eye test already reveals one discernible difference this season: Cutler is working with the wind at his back.
The Bears’ offense is just getting on its feet, like any other NFL offense in August. But there already are signs that its biggest upgrade for 2014 — being in the second year of coach Marc Trestman’s system — is the real deal, a benefit to Cutler most of all.
At this point in previous training camps, Cutler still might be looking for the instructions or trying to find a missing part. This season, he looks like a quarterback who has done this before.
‘‘He’s getting better,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘He understands what we’re doing. The dialogue is fast. We understand what we need to get done. Our communication is very, very good. It’s a blast to work with him on and off the field.’’
Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer offered a little more detail on Cutler’s improvement in his second year in the offense.
‘‘Jay has learned to solve his own problems on the field,’’ Kromer said. ‘‘He’s much quicker this year with his reads. He knew them last year — don’t get me wrong — but it’s happening even faster for him.
‘‘He’s understanding everything he’s seeing. He’s seeing the defensive line. He’s making the calls of who we want to Mike [identifying the middle linebacker]. He’s directing everything and then getting us in the correct call if we give him more than one play. It’s just happening at a faster pace, and that’s going to help our offense.’’
Cutler seemed to make the most of the additional reps he got with the second-team offense during camp. Even after a slow start in the preseason opener Friday against the Philadelphia Eagles, he finished 9-for-13 for 85 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions and wasn’t sacked. For what it’s worth, in the preseason opener last year, he threw an interception on his first pass and saw another drive falter because of a sack.
‘‘Having a good camp,’’ Cutler said when the final practice at Olivet Nazarene was completed Tuesday. ‘‘We’re not exactly where we want to be yet, but there’s still plenty of time. But we’re definitely heading in the right direction.’’
It’s dangerous to dissect two drives of a preseason opener, but the way the first-team offense performed against the Eagles shouldn’t be totally ignored, either. Cutler’s 10-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Zach Miller — a well-conceived and well-executed play for any time of year — was his first touchdown pass in six preseason openers with the Bears.
Where in previous preseasons Cutler futilely was trying to develop a rapport with Devin Hester — remember the infamous ‘‘back-shoulder throw’’ flap of the 2009 preseason opener? — this time he fired a 40-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery that looked like just another big gainer, not a revelation.
After that play was nullified by offsetting penalties, Cutler threw a 10-yard pass to Brandon Marshall, and the 13-play, 69-yard touchdown drive was on. That’s another day at the office for the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers or New England Patriots. Here, it’s progress.
Whenever Cutler has been asked about emulating those offensive powerhouses, his response has been hard to refute: Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have been in the same offense for years. We have no idea what an advantage that is.
He’s right about that. We have no idea what an advantage that is. But — even if it’s just a glimpse in the second year of Trestman’s offense — we’re about to find out.