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updated: 1/31/2011 5:40 PM

Offensive line letting too many defenders get to Cutler

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  • Jay Cutler is sacked by Oakland linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on Saturday at Soldier Field. It was one of five times the Raiders sacked Cutler.

      Jay Cutler is sacked by Oakland linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on Saturday at Soldier Field. It was one of five times the Raiders sacked Cutler.
    Associated Press

 
 

If the Bears can keep Jay Cutler upright, which is a major concern at this point, he could put up some impressive numbers this year based on Saturday night's performance.

The explosiveness of Mike Martz's offense was on display whenever Cutler wasn't dodging the pass rush or running for his life.

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He completed passes of 17 yards or longer to Greg Olsen, Chester Taylor, Johnny Knox and Devin Hester. But Cutler was sacked five times, although one of his best plays of the night came when he was flushed from the pocket but eluded the rush long enough to find Knox in the end zone for a 22-yard TD. On that play, Cutler was pressured so quickly that it almost looked like a planned rollout to the left.

"It wasn't," Cutler said. "The front-side (protection) broke down a little bit. We talk about those things as an offense, and the receivers know whenever I'm on the move, they've got specific rules for each guy."

The Bears might want to spend a little more time on those contingency plans until the offensive line improves its pass protection. Cutler was pulled early in the first preseason game because the Chargers were blitzing, but the Raiders were able to get after him using a basic four-man rush. Cutler has never missed an NFL game because of injury, but his durability will be tested unless the pass blocking improves in a hurry.

"You don't want your quarterback to take any hits, but they're going to get hit from time to time," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He hasn't taken any hard shots. Last week he got hit that one time. That's kind of life in the NFL. We don't want him to get touched at all, but it will happen."

An injury to Cutler would be disastrous. There is a huge drop-off from Cutler to No. 2 quarterback Caleb Hanie, who has thrown just 7 NFL passes and is still sidelined indefinitely with a shoulder injury. There's another precipitous drop from Hanie to rookie Dan LeFevour, who has completed just 5 of 20 preseason passes for a passer rating of 18.8, and Matt Gutierrez, who has thrown just 2 NFL passes and has been with the team less than a week.

"When we get Caleb back, we'll be back to where we started," general manager Jerry Angelo said last week. "We're comfortable with that."

Chances are the Bears would be far less comfortable if they were without Cutler for any length of time. Fortunately for the leaky offensive line, there are two more preseason games remaining and a lot of practices. In Saturday night's third preseason game against the Cardinals, starters are expected to play into the third quarter.

Until then, Angelo says he'll "reserve judgment" on the group.

"We need to get the five guys working together," Angelo said, even before Saturday night's embarrassment. "That is paramount, and I feel right now we're going to have closure on that. We feel real good about seven, eight of them, but (it's) a work in progress."

And in the meantime, the Bears will work on keeping Cutler in one piece.

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