Some of it felt all too familiar. The false start by right tackle Jordan Mills; a run for a minimal gain; a three-and-out drive.
It was like 2014 all over again.
Yes, it was an inauspicious start for Ja Cutler and Bears’ offense Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field.
It looked even worse because the Dolphins –- a team with deep playoff aspirations — began the night with a 14-play, 85-yard touchdown drive.
“There was good and bad like any preseason game — especially the first preseason game,” Cutler said after the Bears’ 27-10 victory — of which the first-team offense was responsible for only three points.
“We’ll look at the film on Saturday, make some corrections and move on.”
It was just an exhibition, and Cutler didn’t have running back Matt Forte or receivers Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White on the field with him.
Still, Thursday was the beginning of the proverbial last stand for Cutler. Don’t forget that it took weeks for the new Bears regime to vocally support Cutler or that coach John Fox made it a point to say that Cutler has to compete for his job.
Cutler’s production, not his natural talents are what Fox, offensive coordinator Adam Gase and general manager Ryan Pace will judge him by if he’s to remain the starter.
It may have only been a dozen or so plays on Thursday, but Cutler’s progress is worth charting all the way into Week 1. That’s when Super Bowl-worthy Green Bay Packers visit.
“I thought we functioned OK,” Fox said when asked about how Cutler performed in his limited playing time. “I think they know it and I know it. We’ve still got a whole lot of work, and they know it. They’ll come back ready to work. The thing that they’ve been — all of them, Jay included — [is] very receptive, and they’ve worked very hard.”
Against the Dolphins, Cutler wasn’t good or bad. He completed 4 for 7 passes for 42 yards. Cutler was sacked by defensive end Cameron Wake for a six-yard loss on third-and-six from the Bears’ 13, but offsetting penalties gave him another opportunity. The ensuing play was a 17-yard catch-and-run by tight end Martellus Bennett.
Cutler said there wasn’t much game-planning involved. They were running basic plays from Gase’s offense. The entire unit still has to get adjusted to the high speed that Gase wants them to play at.
“We’ll get more game-like as we go,” Cutler said.
It’s doubtful that a real quarterback competition will surface this preseason. But backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen had a steady night, completing 17 of 27 passes for 151 yards, while directing the offense to 17 points with the help of some turnovers.
Right now, it’s just back to work with Cutler, who has been praised by Gase for his progress at camp.
“It’s not always going to go smoothly, and it’s with a new group, new coaches, some new players out there,” Cutler said. “So we’re all kind of adjusting of how it will go if we go three-and-out, if we get a sack, if we’re 2nd-and-15. What are we going to do to bounce back? That’s part of the growing process that we’re going through right now.”
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