BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is trying to be a more efficient passer in an offense that demands it.
No stranger to learning new offenses, Cutler believes the attack he is becoming more familiar with each day at training camp can take the team down a different path — even though it's been slow going against a strong defense each practice.
"Any time you go to a new offense, guys are going to be in similar positions on the field," Cutler said. "It's just learning the verbiage and being able to spit it out."
Cutler is looking at his fourth Bears offense in five years and a fifth different offense in six years overall. He has never had a passer rating higher than 88.1 as a full-time starter, and as a Bear his average rating is 81.9. The latest offense is one requiring high efficiency and ratings of 90 or higher.
New coach Marc Trestman is often associated with a traditional West Coast style offense, but the Bears new offense seems to be a blend, with parts borrowed from new coordinator Aaron Kromer and his former team, the New Orleans Saints. There's even a CFL influence from Trestman's time as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.
"I think that what we did up north was we played the game like it's played down south, played in the NFL," Trestman said. "We put the same system of football in there. We had a little more fun with motions and we had a little wider field and a little more space."
The offense requires a quick release of the ball, usually on five-step or three-step drops. Trestman takes issue with the premise that Cutler is just now developing a quicker release.
"I don't know that we've seen a quicker release — he's got a quick release," Trestman said. "I think he's practicing very efficiently, he's throwing the ball away (when receivers are covered). There's nothing wrong with that with the defense that we have. ... We're working hard every day to just try to continue to become more efficient at our mechanics and fundamentals, and to develop and distribute the ball the way he has is good at this time."
Cutler credits his performance so far to working daily under Trestman, Kromer and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.
"They're quarterback friendly and they want to make it as easy as possible on myself and the other QBs," Cutler said. "So it's fun to work with those guys. They understand offense, they understand what we're going through and they want to put us in a position to be successful."
The basis of the offense is to get the ball quickly to tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
"It's similar to what we did in Denver: Get back and get it to those guys," Cutler said. "I've got a lot of talent on my outside, so the faster we can get it to them and let them work, the better."
The Bears were just 22nd in the league when it came to scoring touchdowns inside the opponents' 20-yard line last season. At Wednesday's practice, the offense scored on three consecutive passes from inside the 20 to its group of tall receivers: Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett.
"It's good to have a situation like that where you can throw some fades into the side of the end zone, and when (the defenses) have to cover 53 yards in the end zone (from sideline to sideline) it makes it tough," Kromer said.
While the Bears have traditionally been a running team, Cutler once threw it 616 times in Denver in an offense similar in style to this one. However, Cutler doubts he'll be required to ignore running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush.
"Ideally, you want to be as close to balanced as you can," Cutler said. "I know Trest likes to air it out. But with our backs, and our ability to run the ball, the 616 (passes) or whatever it was, that's probably a high number, I would think."
Cutler displayed one other aspect of the multi-dimensional offense with a read-option style, somewhat like Seattle and Washington used extensively last year with their running quarterbacks. Trestman thinks Cutler makes up for a lack of speed with his football smarts when it comes to running a read-option.
"There are moments where a quarterback has to give it up for the cause, so to speak, but (Cutler is) a smart player," Trestman said. "He knows when to get down. He knows when to get out of bounds. And I think he can handle those types of things."
NOTES: A day after left tackle Jermon Bushrod went down with a calf injury, backup Jonathan Scott was out with knee soreness. Both players were day to day. ... Middle linebacker D.J. Williams strained a calf and was in a soft cast after practice. His injury could take more than a week to heal, according to the team. Rookie second-rounder Jon Bostic took Williams' place with the starters. ... Cornerback Tim Jennings missed practice for undisclosed personal reasons.