Chicago Bears: Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman checked in at No. 66 in our NFLRank project, which kicked off Day 4 on Thursday with ESPN ranking the Top 100 players around the league on both sides of the ball.

 The latest rankings grouped players between Nos. 70 through 61. Bears tight end Martellus Bennett made the list on Tuesday with a No. 82 ranking, while defensive end Lamarr Houston became the club’s first defender to crack the top 100 (No. 80)

Tillman’s 42 forced fumbles is tops by a defensive back in NFL history. Tillman has forced at least three fumbles in seven consecutive seasons, which ties as the longest such streak in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Playing on a one-year contract signed back in March, Tillman, 33, could be entering his last season with the Bears. They signed Tim Jennings to an extension during the offseason and used a first-round pick to bring in Kyle Fuller.

“Charles is one of the NFL’s great players and a true leader on and off the field, and we’re happy he will be staying in Chicago,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said after Tillman re-signed. “He remains the best in our game at forcing turnovers and always has brought a tough, physical presence to our secondary. Charles also has a special connection to the people and community across Chicago, and we’re excited for that to continue.”

The 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner, Tillman started just eight games last season before finishing on injured reserve due to torn triceps, but he still forced six takeaways (three interceptions, three forced fumbles).

Tillman’s 36 interceptions rank No. 3 in franchise history, and he owns club records for interception return yards (675), interception return touchdowns (eight) and defensive return touchdowns (nine).

Jordan Palmer will be No. 2 QB in Seattle

August, 20, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – With the No. 2 quarterback spot still up for grabs, Jordan Palmer will be the first quarterback off the bench to replace starter Jay Cutler when the Chicago Bears travel to Seattle on Friday night to face the Seattle Seahawks.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced on Wednesday he planned to switch the quarterback rotation after Jimmy Clausen relieved Cutler last week at Soldier Field against Jacksonville.

Palmer
Clausen went 11-of-15 for 94 yards and one interception before giving way to Palmer, who completed 6 of 9 throws for 73 yards and one touchdown.

“Jay will work certainly into the second quarter and we'll make a decision during the second quarter what we're going to do with him,” Trestman said. “That will be dependent on a number of different things. And then after that we'll have Jordan, so expect Jordan to play the third quarter and Jimmy to play the fourth. We'll continue to rotate these guys around. We've got another week after this one and that's the way we'll operate this week.”

Trestman hinted the quarterback competition might run through the final preseason game next Thursday in Cleveland. NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 30. It’s unclear if the Bears plan to keep both Clausen and Palmer on the final 53-man roster. One might have to go if the Bears decide to keep just two quarterbacks, and perhaps rookie David Fales could make the 10-man practice squad if the rookie clears waivers.

Jordan Mills limited in practice

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears right tackle Jordan Mills returned to practice for the first time since injuring his left foot two weeks ago, the same foot that required offseason surgery on a fractured metatarsal in January.

Mills had been in-and-out of a walking boot since he hurt the foot, but he participated in selected individual drills on Wednesday, with the hope of being back to full-speed early next week.

"I feel great," Mills said. "I got back in and did a few individual drills with the offensive line and it's great to be back. I'm still part of the team, it just felt even more part of the team to be out there with my teammates and not be on the sidelines watching. Hopefully on Monday I'll get back out there with the team and go against the defense and everything like that."

Mills is expected to be held out Friday night in Seattle, but he could be ready for next Thursday's preseason finale versus the Cleveland Browns. Although the starters play sparingly in the fourth preseason contest, it should benefit Mills to experience live game action, however brief it may be, prior to the regular season opener against Buffalo on September 7.

"Yeah, I'd like to get in there [next week]," Mills said. "But if the trainers say I can't go, I can't go. If that happens, the first game I will go in is the first regular season game, and that's it. But if they say I can go, I will go."

Chris Conte ready for preseason debut

August, 20, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Nearly five months since undergoing shoulder surgery, Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte will make his preseason debut Friday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

“I feel good. I’m excited to go out there and play,” Conte said Wednesday. “I can’t wait to get back out there on the field and play football.”

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Conte
Conte, along with fellow safety Craig Steltz, were activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 10, but both sat out against Jacksonville. Safety remains unsettled, although Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray have started in each of the two previous preseason games. Veteran Adrian Wilson is another candidate in the mix, but no final decision can be reached at safety until the Bears determine if Conte can bounce back from a difficult 2013.

Conte has been a mainstay in the Bears’ secondary the last three seasons, recording 230 tackles, six interceptions and one forced fumble in 40 career starts.

“Chris had a good week of practice,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “He's running around. He's involved in terms of what we're doing. So we'll see. He's going to play. It looks certainly that he's going to play. And we haven't decided how much yet. But he'll be out there and he'll be competing and he's back in it to try to show us what he can do and we're excited to have him back.”

Barring a setback, Steltz is also expected to play on Friday, along with wide receiver/kick returner Chris Williams, who seems to be recovered from a hamstring injury that he suffered in the preseason opener.

The Bears held five players out of Wednesday’s practice: cornerback Kyle Fuller (ankle), guard Eben Britton (hamstring), center/guard Brian de la Puente (knee), cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Mundy (excused).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Santonio Holmes expects to see action in some spots Friday night when the Chicago Bears face the Seattle Seahawks, but the staff wants to make sure to put the receiver into positions he’s comfortable with as he learns the new offense.

Holmes
“I’d like him to dress,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to him and see where he is. As I said yesterday, we want to get him in there as quickly as possible. We also want to respect him and do the right thing.”

While Chicago’s offense is very similar to what Holmes executed as a New York Jet, the terminology is substantially different, he said. So the Bears want to make sure to use Holmes in situations that will allow him to excel.

“We don’t want to put him in a situation where he can hurt himself or hurt our football team,” Trestman said. “We’ll have that talk. I’ll talk to [receivers coach] Mike Groh about it, and I’ll talk to Santonio about it, and see how he feels about getting some playing time on Friday night.”

Holmes welcomes the opportunity, and said he respects Groh and Trestman’s handling of the current situation as he continues to learn Chicago’s playbook.

A ninth-year veteran and MVP of Super Bowl XLIII, Holmes has caught 381 passes for 5,963 yards in eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2006-09) and New York Jets (2010-13).
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Houston
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A Chicago Bears defender finally made the cut in our NFLRank project, which commenced with Day 3 on Wednesday as ESPN continued to rank the top 100 players on offense and defense, with defensive end Lamarr Houston checking in at No. 80.

The latest rankings grouped players between Nos. 80 through 71. Bears tight end Martellus Bennett made the list on Tuesday with a No. 82 ranking.

Read more on Bennett and his ranking, here.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Oakland Raiders posted a sack on 7 percent of pass attempts with Houston on the field, compared with 4.5 percent of attempts when he wasn’t on the field. Perhaps that’s why the Bears made Houston the jewel of their class of free agents, signing him in March to a five-year deal worth $35 million.

Bears general manager Phil Emery believes Houston is starting to come into his prime as a defender.

“Obviously watching tape of him, Lamarr has matured into a very versatile, powerful, tough, physical, productive player, and we’re very happy to have him as a member of the Chicago Bears,” Emery said after the signing.

A fifth-year veteran, Houston is coming off a 2013 season in which he racked up a career-high six sacks for 52 yards in losses. Houston led Oakland’s defensive linemen last season with 71 tackles, forced two fumbles and collected 10 tackles for lost yardage.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler's interactions with teammates and the media always seem to creep into the narrative about the quarterback, and on Tuesday Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said "we've absolutely noticed a difference in Jay."

Cutler admits he's changed, too.

Cutler
"It might be true. Anytime you are in an offense and have the same group of guys around you, it's going to be more comfortable. It is for me anyway," Cutler said. "I like the group of guys we have in the locker room, understand what we are doing offensively. And it's early. It's still preseason with you guys."

Described as petulant to the media in the past with televised on-field blowups with teammates and coaches as evidence that he's been difficult to get along with, Cutler hasn't displayed such qualities so far. But to Cutler's credit, he didn't in 2013 either.

Going into 2014, Kromer believes Cutler is taking on more of a leadership role. He's moved on to a new staff led by an offensive-minded head coach in Marc Trestman. He's finally protected well, and not taking unnecessary punishment every time he drops back to pass. He's surrounded by a bevy of weapons on offense, and playing in an offensive system he believes in strongly on a new seven-year contract.

"I think everyone in the building has noticed a difference in Jay," Kromer said. "None of us knew Jay very well before getting here last year, and we worked through the year and that first year is always hard on everybody. But what I see in Jay Cutler right now is a guy that's the leading the group; a guy that is approachable, and is working to make everybody better because he realizes it's important that everybody is on the same page with him."

New receiver Santonio Holmes admitted as much Monday, saying the quarterback has "taken me under his wing, talked to me, and kept me close." The expectation is Cutler's approach will translate into victories this season. During training camp, Brandon Marshall called Cutler "a totally different person," adding that "I think he has great balance in is life now."

"He's talked with receivers. He's talked with linemen. He's working with running backs constantly," Kromer said. "That's a maturity on his part of knowing the offense, knowing what we want as coaches and feeling good about being the leader that he is. It's been a very good start of the year that way."

Will it continue? Well, it did in 2013 despite the Bears finishing 8-8 in a season in which Cutler was forced to miss time due to injuries on two occasions.

Cutler seems to now totally understand the value of making everyone else around him better, which is part of the reason that within an hour of Holmes signing his contract on Saturday, the two were on the field together working on plays to develop a rapport as quickly as possible. Cutler displayed similar qualities in 2013, too.

"If Santonio Holmes is going to play, Jay's going to rely on him," Kromer said. "Jay knows he has to be on the same page with him. So the faster he can get to know him, the better off he's going to be and that's Jay's goal."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears continue to ponder whether to play recent signee Santonio Holmes on Friday night at Seattle due to the receiver's limited exposure to the offense.

Bears coach Marc Trestman said he hasn't yet made a determination.

"I can't say that right now," Trestman said. "I think we're trying to get him to that place. I think I'll know a little bit more after practice tomorrow. We'll see where he's at. We'll talk to him and we'll see if he's ready to go and get some playing time."

Holmes
Holmes participated in the club's Tuesday workout inside the Walter Payton Center and Trestman "thought he worked positively today." Within an hour of signing his contract with the Bears on Saturday, Holmes and quarterback Jay Cutler were on the field working together; the quarterback administering a crash course to the receiver on the nuances of the club's offense.

What Cutler notices is Holmes still possesses the speed and explosion that made him one of the league's most feared deep threats at one time, but it might be too lofty an expectation -- despite recent efforts -- for the duo to strike on-field accord by the time takes the field to face the Seahawks.

"He obviously knows how to play football," Cutler said. "He's been around a long time, been in a few different systems and been successful. It's just a matter of getting him caught up with our verbiage, how we like to do things, the little tweaks we like, and just kind of get in a rapport with him timing wise. It just takes time. He's explosive. He'd probably be honest [and tell you] he's a little bit rusty. He's been out of football. But getting in and out of cuts, [he] catches the ball well, extremely explosive, fast. He's exciting. It's hard coming in where we are offensively and just kind of throwing him into the mix."

With second-year receiver Marquess Wilson out of action due to a fractured clavicle suffered in training camp, the Bears hope to find a suitable slot receiver to complement Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Trestman said veteran Josh Morgan deserves the first opportunity to work with the starters Friday at Seattle, but Cutler believes the team could have Holmes ready to play by the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against Buffalo.

Morgan has caught five passes for 77 yards through the first two games of the preseason, and outside of Holmes, appears to be the most capable fill-in option at the No. 3 receiver spot.

"He's had two good weeks of practice, two good games, productive games," Trestman said. "He's made plays out there. I think he deserves a chance to step up now and get the first opportunity to do that. He's a powerful guy. He's explosive. He's got straight-line speed, and he's got experience. He's the most experienced, other than Santonio, of any of the receivers that we have."

If Morgan falters, the club appears confident it can get Holmes up to speed quickly enough for him to have an immediate impact in the regular season. Kromer said Holmes "has been impressive in practice. Especially today, he stood out."

Still, Trestman wants Holmes to develop enough of a comfort level with the system before the club rushes him out onto the field.

"I just want him to feel comfortable to be able to go in there and perform and not put our team in a position where his mistakes would create mistakes around him," Trestman said. "We want to give him the best chance to succeed on an individual basis as well."

A ninth-year veteran, and the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII, Holmes has caught 381 passes for 5,963 yards over eight years with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2006-09), and New York Jets (2010-13). Holmes could also become a contributor on special teams, as he's returned 66 punts for 636 yards and a touchdown in addition to 18 kickoffs for 436 yards.

But do the Bears have enough time to prepare Holmes for the limelight?

"We'll find out," Cutler said. "I think [we do]. We might have to help him along in the huddle and make sure he knows what he's doing. But we've got enough veteran guys. We can get him to where he needs to be."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held out six players from Tuesday’s workout inside the Walter Payton Center, as the team continued preparation for Friday’s road matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

Guards Brian De La Puente (MCL sprain) and Eben Britton (hamstring) didn’t participate in Tuesday’s session along with cornerbacks Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Kyle Fuller (ankle), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) and defensive end Jared Allen (bruised shoulder).

Linebacker Lance Briggs (knee bruise) also returned to practice Tuesday after being held out of Monday’s workout.

Bears coach Marc Trestman has called Fuller and Mills day to day, and said Allen was held out as a precautionary measure. Mills hasn’t yet played in a preseason contest, leading to questions about whether he’ll be available for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills.

The team continues to take a conservative approach to Mills’ recovery. The second-year veteran underwent surgery in January on a fractured metatarsal in his left foot.

“Jordan Mills had a lot of practice before being injured. So we believe that he could be ready physically and mentally due to the practice he had in training camp prior to getting hurt,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “Obviously we’d like him back as soon as we can. We’re lucky to be in a situation right now where the backup Michael Ola went in and played well in the game. So it’s really on Jordan to come back in and be ready.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The NFLRank project kicked off Day 2 on Tuesday as ESPN ranked the top 100 players on offense and defense, with No. 83 for the Chicago Bears making the cut at No. 82 on the list.

In the grouping of players ranked from Nos. 81 through 90, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett was the only player at the position to make the cut, registering one spot above Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris, and one slot below San Francisco offensive tackle Anthony Davis.

None of Chicago’s defensive players was ranked between 81 through 100, but more than likely some Bears are coming up.

Bennett tied for seventh in receptions (65) last season, ninth in receiving yardage (759) and 11th in touchdowns (5) among tight ends.

Surely, the gregarious Bennett won’t like where he falls in this year’s rankings. But hey, there’s always next season.

Quarterback Jay Cutler became the first player to make the list on Monday, cracking the top 100 at No. 93.

Bears sign two, waive two

August, 18, 2014
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The Chicago Bears announced they signed return man Darius Reynaud and cornerback Peyton Thompson on Monday to one-year contracts in addition to waiving long snapper Chad Rempel and punter Tress Way.

Terms of the deals weren’t disclosed.

Reynaud played in 48 games for the Minnesota Vikings (2008-09), New York Giants (2010), Tennessee Titans (2012-13) and the New York Jets (2013), returning 102 punts for 985 yards and two touchdowns and 104 kickoffs for 2,347 yards and a touchdown. Reynaud led the NFL in total return yardage (1,650 total; 1,240 on kick returns, and 410 on punts) and tied for the league lead in total return TDs (3) and punt return TDs (2)

Thompson, meanwhile, came into the league in 2012 as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. Thompson has spent time on the practice squads of the Falcons and the Redskins.

Rempel joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent after spending 10 years in the Canadian Football League.

Way spent each of the last two preseasons with the Chicago Bears, and apparently lost out in a competition with sixth-round pick Patrick O'Donnell for the starting punter’s job.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears kicked off a simulated regular-season game week Monday in preparation for Friday’s exhibition matchup against the Seattle Seahawks with a few players sitting out of practice due to injuries.

The Bears held out guards Brian de la Puente (MCL sprain) and Eben Britton (hamstring), cornerbacks Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Kyle Fuller (ankle), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) and linebacker Lance Briggs (knee bruise).

Bears coach Marc Trestman called Fuller, Mills and Briggs day-to-day. But Mills hasn’t yet played in a preseason outing, and there’s growing concern that his regular-season availability could be in jeopardy.

The team has taken a conservative approach in bringing along Mills, who in January underwent surgery on a fractured metatarsal in his left foot. Mills wasn’t wearing a walking boot on Monday at Halas Hall, but throughout camp the second-year tackle wore one sporadically.

“Day-to-day, that’s it,” Trestman said of Mills. “It’s really day-to-day. I can’t give you anything more than that. We’re hopeful it’s soon [he returns], but that’s all I’ve heard at this point and time and that’s the way we’ve looked at it: just day-to-day.”

Asked if Mills’ regular-season availability could be in jeopardy, Trestman said, “I’m hopeful that it’s not. I’m not trying to get you to insinuate anything. I’m just hopeful it’s not.”

In other Bears injury news, receiver Chris Williams returned to practice for the first time since injuring a hamstring while catching a 73-yard touchdown in the preseason opener. Tight end Dante Rosario also returned to practice after missing the team’s 20-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday due to calf soreness.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Veteran Josh Morgan receives his turn on the No. 3 receiver carousel Friday when the Chicago Bears face the Seattle Seahawks on the road for preseason game No. 3, according to Bears coach Marc Trestman.

Morgan
"It's still wide open," Trestman said of the club's search for a No. 3 receiver. "In terms of how we're doing it, Josh Morgan will get some work this week. We'll see where the other guys are as we move through the end of the week, but Josh will get the first shot at it as we work into this week's practice and as we work into the game."

Although the club signed Santonio Holmes on Saturday, it's expected he won't receive sufficient repetitions at practice this week to make an impact against the Seahawks. Holmes spent several minutes after practice Monday working with backup quarterback Jordan Palmer and receivers coach Mike Groh in an effort to quickly acclimate himself to Chicago's system.

But a week of practice won't be enough.

Holmes
"I don't know where he is right now. He's still learning the plays," Trestman said. "I can't invent the opportunity. We can't put him in there before he knows what to do, where to go, where to line up, and how to do it. We're going to try like heck to give him a chance to play, but it's just Day 1. I can probably give you a little better information as we move more into the week. Right now, I'm not quite sure where he's at, it was just Day 1."

Besides that, Morgan would seem deserving of the opportunity because he's been the club's most productive receiver thus far this preseason outside of tight end Zach Miller and Brandon Marshall. He's caught five passes for 77 yards through the first two games, and outside of Holmes, appears to be the most capable fill-in option at the No. 3 receiver spot until Marquess Wilson recovers from his fractured clavicle.

Asked specifically what the club seeks in a No. 3 receiver, Trestman said: "I don't know that we're looking for anything but guys that can get lined up, and be flexible to do it in different places. We've got guys who can do that. Certainly Josh can do that. Then, it's just to perform. When you have a target, have an opportunity to make a play, and that goes for practice as well: to do the things we need to do on the perimeter in our run game, and be as effective as you can be with what we're asking you to do."

Morgan feels he's perfectly capable of all that. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Morgan has caught 199 passes over six seasons in the NFL, finishing 2009 and 2010 with 52 and 44 receptions, respectively. He hauled in 48 passes for the Washington Redskins in 2012.

"If you need me to go down there and block a 330-pound defensive end, that's what I used to do a lot with the Redskins," Morgan said during training camp. "If you need me to be a big major part in the running game like I was in San Francisco for Frank Gore, I did all those types of things throughout my career. If you need me to make the big play or the tough catch -- the catch in traffic or the catch across the middle -- I think if you watch film of me over the years, I think I've done all of that."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino recently told Peter King of MMQB that the league doesn’t plan to compromise on its recent crackdown on defensive holding and illegal contact penalties, which is part of why the Bears remain vigilant about making sure their players execute proper technique.

Interestingly, officials flagged the Chicago Bears a total of three times so far this preseason for illegal contact or defensive holding.

“We talked to our guys, and we've actually reviewed some of the rules with them just to reiterate this is what's being called, these are the points of emphasis this season, and anticipate that it's going to be like that. It's not going to change,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “So coming out of the first game we said, ‘Hey, we had way too many penalties. Let's make sure we focus on eliminating the foolish penalties; things that we can control, the pre-snap penalties.’ So we eliminated those, but we still have some aggressive penalties.”

Accepted penalties have increased thus far this preseason, compared to the 2013 regular season, and Blandino told MMQB that “the way the game’s being officiated now is the way it’s going to be officiated when the season begins.”

Believe it or not, that could bode well for Chicago’s physical receiving duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but that won’t be the case for the club’s defenders. Bears coach Marc Trestman said last week the league’s crackdown won’t be a huge detriment to the team’s defenders because they rarely grab receivers’ jerseys and hold.

But that won’t stop Tucker from continuing to emphasize sound fundamentals, which will ultimately decrease penalties. Officials have flagged Bears defenders a total of 14 times so far this preseason.

“It really boils down to hand placement. That's really the focus this week: making sure our hands are in the right place, in terms of we want to make sure our hands are inside, they're not where they're supposed not supposed to be,” Tucker said. “From an illegal contact standpoint that's not a new rule. It's what it is, and we've got to coach through it. But we want our guys to be aggressive and play aggressively through their technique, and then we'll clean them up along the way. But obviously we've got to get those penalties cleaned up.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The #NFLRank project launched on Monday in which ESPN ranks the top 100 players on offense and defense, and Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler checked in at No. 93.

In the grouping of players ranked from Nos. 91 through 100, Cutler was the lone quarterback, ranked one spot above Minnesota offensive tackle Matt Kalil, and one slot below Cincinnati offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, and two places below Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. Interestingly, Cutler's ranking likely means multiple Chicago Bears offensive players register higher rankings than the quarterback.

None of Chicago’s defenders were ranked 91 through 100.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cutler comes off a season in which he put together his best total QBR (66.4) over five seasons with the Bears. Cutler’s 92.5 total QBR in the fourth quarter ranked as No. 1 in the NFL.

Bears fans probably won’t be pleased with Cutler’s ranking, but from this vantage point, the quarterback’s place is just about right. The truth is it’s probably better for Cutler to fly under the radar than to go into the season overhyped anyway.

Based on what we’ve seen from Cutler so far this preseason (123.3 passer rating and a completion percentage of 72.7), he figures to take a major step forward operating in Year 2 of Marc Trestman’s system.

That should mean more victories in 2014, and naturally a better ranking going into the 2015 season.

Where do you think Cutler should be ranked?

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