Cutler adjusting to new 'leap of faith' offense
BOURBONNAIS - In the past, quarterback Jay Cutler would scan the field, find an open receiver and throw the ball to the man.
It's a little different this time around. In Mike Martz's offense the quarterback is sometimes asked to throw the ball to a spot, even before the receiver has made his cut. It's a leap of faith and then some.
"It's an adjustment," Cutler said. (In the) West Coast (offense) the last three or four years, it's been just seeing guys and kind of letting it fly, letting it develop. In this offense, you're throwing the ball before your guys are ready sometimes and before the defense is even expecting the ball to come out."
Theoretically, that makes it more difficult for defenders to make a play on the ball or even on the receivers they're covering. Saturday night's practice offered an excellent example of the new approach when Cutler fired a low pass to the middle of the field in 11-on-11 work and Devin Hester came flying in to make a sliding catch in front of the defenders.
"The defense can know exactly where the ball is going, but the way the ball gets up and down so quick, it's hard for them to react," Cutler said. "It took an adjustment for the receivers, but it's become a habit (to get rid of the ball quickly)."
In 11-on-11 work Saturday night, Cutler completed 10 of 15 passes without an interception, but he was nearly picked off by cornerback Zack Bowman, who had a pass clank off his hands, causing demonstrative defensive backs coach Jon Hoke to hang his head in disgust.
Changing it up: For his first seven years in the NFL, Charles Tillman was the Bears' left cornerback, usually considered the tougher side to defend, since that's an easier throw for most right-handed quarterbacks.
But in the off-season, Tillman was moved to the right side, flip-flopping with the younger Zack Bowman, who led the Bears with 6 interceptions last season.
Why the change?
"You've got to talk to coach Smith on that," Tillman said. "He's the boss man. I have no clue. But I just respect what he does. I do what he says; that's my job."
Injury update: Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and center Olin Kreutz both missed Saturday night's first practice in pads for unexplained reasons but are expected back Sunday for the 3 p.m. session.
Coach Lovie Smith said Urlacher's lack of participation was not due to the wrist he dislocated last season or to previous back problems. Kreutz had off-season Achilles' tendon surgery and was expected to occasionally be given a day off.
"It was just me keeping him out," Smith said of Urlacher.
Cornerback Tim Jennings (knee) missed both of Saturday's practices, and safety Chris Harris (back) did not work Saturday night after leaving the morning practice early.
"I don't think any of them are hurt really seriously," Smith said, "but we'll see what happens (Sunday)."