Originally Published: September 1, 2013

Jay CutlerAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (21): Jay Cutler is hoping for big things in Marc Trestman's offense. As always, the question is whether the Bears can keep him upright.

Experts' Picks (Consensus: second)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Bears:

1. Another system for Jay Cutler: New Bears coach Marc Trestman brings in a new offense, which will be Cutler's fourth in five seasons with the Bears. That's a difficult challenge for any quarterback to prosper in, but Cutler is optimistic that this new system fits. Look for Cutler to get the ball out of his hands more quickly than he has in the past on shorter throws and crossing routes that allow the receivers to gain yardage after the catch. The key for Cutler in the new system is to produce success early, because if things go awry and the quarterback doesn't completely buy in, he's shown a penchant for bucking the scheme and doing his own thing.

2. Offense runs through Forte: If receiver Brandon Marshall catches another 118 balls in 2013, it's safe to say the offense has been somewhat of a failure. In 2012, the Bears got away from setting the tone with the rushing attack to knock opponents off balance. By relying too much on the pass in 2012, the Bears became predictable. In the new offense brought over by Trestman, look for the Bears to feature Matt Forte as a rusher in addition to feeding him the ball as a receiver out of the backfield. One of the game's most elusive backs, Forte was misused last season to the team's detriment. This year, the offense will run through him.

3. Improved protection: The Bears invested heavily in the offseason on improving Cutler's protection. They added left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson in free agency and used their first-round pick on guard Kyle Long to beef up the interior. The concern appears to be the right side, where the club could go into the season with rookies Long and fifth-round offensive tackle Jordan Mills as the starters. Early returns in the preseason have been positive for Long and Mills, and the team is optimistic they'll perform when called upon.

4. Pass rush is better: The Bears try hard not to manufacture pressure by blitzing linebackers and corners and rely mostly on the front four of Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and Corey Wootton. The foursome, which played a major role in the club's finishing 2012 with 41 sacks (eighth in the NFL), returns and appears to be improved. Melton is playing under the franchise tag, making 2013 an important season for him to earn a long-term deal. Paea put on muscle and added speed. Wootton dramatically improved his hands. Add improved rushers Shea McClellin and Nate Collins into the mix, along with some of the new wrinkles brought in by new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, and the Bears seem poised to improve on the 41 sacks generated last season.

5. The defense will score: The defense put points on the board in 2012 with nine touchdown returns off turnovers (eight interceptions, one fumble return) to tie for the second most in NFL history, and there's no reason to believe the Bears can't duplicate that feat this season. Outside of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach, the personnel for 2013 remains the same. Seven of the club's TDs off turnovers in 2012 came with the score within 10 points, six came with the score within seven, and three took place with the score tied or the Bears trailing. Simply put, Chicago's defense looks to score touchdowns, which is a huge complement to the struggling offense.

-- Michael C. Wright, ESPN.com

Inside The Numbers

Jay Cutler finished the 2012 season with a Total QBR of 22.0 when facing five or more pass-rushers. That number ranked 33rd out of 36 qualified quarterbacks.

Cutler's struggles against extra pass-rushers weren't limited to plays where he was actually put under duress. In fact, Cutler posted a better Total QBR (37.2) when under duress against five or more rushers than when he wasn't pressured (21.1).

Cutler's 21.1 Total QBR when avoiding duress in the face of added rushers was his worst since joining the Bears and a far cry from the 61.7 QBR he posted in those conditions in 2009.

Brandon Marshall was targeted on a league-high 41.4 percent of the pass routes he ran in 2012, the highest single-season percentage for a player over the past five years. Marshall also accounted for 57.9 percent of Cutler's targets to wide receivers.

• Bears tight ends finished last season with a league-low 33 receptions but ranked sixth with 10 drops. Martellus Bennett, who was signed in the offseason, had 55 receptions to seven drops last season.

• The Bears led the NFL with 139 points off turnovers in 2012. That made up 37.1 percent of their total points scored, the second-highest percentage in the NFL.

-- ESPN Stats & Information


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