The Bears offensive line has been porous this year, allowing a league-worst 37 sacks and 64 quarterback hits through ten games. The constant pressure has been one of the key factors behind Jay Cutler’s decline since being dealt to Chicago before the 2009 season. After throwing for 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2008, the former Bronco was considered a hot prospect at quarterback.
In his first year with the Bears, Cutler threw for 3,666 yards, 27 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. This year, he’s on pace to see all of his numbers decline. Cutler has 2,064 yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for the 7-3 Bears. The 27-year-old has also fumbled eight times this year, losing four. Nevertheless, Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott sees Cutler as a bigger challenge this year than last.
“I think he’s playing with more confidence and he’s got really two ex-head coaches in Coach [Mike] Tice and Coach [Mike] Martz that are working with him and around him on a daily basis so I’m sure that’s helped his overall development and the development of the offense,” McDermott said. “So within that I think he’s playing with more confidence and a better feel for his receivers having been around a year plus now.”
Some changes since the Bears bye week have helped him improve as well, according to McDermott and the Eagles’ defense. Brandon Graham said the Bears have been using a lot more max protection over the last three weeks in order to help the offensive line. They’ve also worked to get the ball out quicker.
“They’ve changed just a little bit over the last three or four games from the seven-step drop, what we know about that system to move five-step, ball out and protect the quarterback,” said McDermott. “So they’re doing what they need to do to win games when you look at the overall team from a defensive standpoint, offensive standpoint and special teams.”
Since the bye, Cutler’s been sacked only six times in three games. High totals for any other team, perhaps, but not bad for a Bears team that was giving up 4.4 sacks per game before the bye. In that stretch, Cutler has completed 61 percent of his passes for just under 200 yards per game with five touchdowns and three interceptions and the Bears are 3-0.
Granted, the competition wasn’t tough, with the Bills, Vikings and Dolphins on the schedule, but the Bears still built momentum coming into Sunday’s game. Now the question will be whether they can prevent the Eagles defensive line from getting pressure and forcing errors by Cutler.
For Eagles news and analysis, follow Ryan Messick on Twitter.