Our daily countdown to training camp is being thrown off schedule just a little bit by some more company-imposed breaks, and Saturday is one of those days. So we'll post another countdown to training camp right now and get back to it on Sunday when we're welcome in the office again.
Once again, Jay Cutler dominated the conversation in an online chat hosted by KC Joyner. Talking football for an hour on ESPN.com on Thursday, Joyner got hit from many angles on Cutler. As you might imagine, he stuck to his theory that Cutler will win some games for the Bears but he will also lose some because of his risk taking. If you want to take a look at the entire chat, it's right here. Joyner watches as much tape as anybody doing statistical analysis out there.
"I've said it many times and I'll say it again, Cutler will make Bears fans remember Rex Grossman,'' Joyner said. "He'll make just as many crazy passes but won't suffer the Grossman fate because Chicago's fan base is so in love with him that they will forgive the nutty throws he makes in ways that they never forgave Grossman."
Think it could be so? Grossman came under fire during 2006 even when the Bears were winning. Could the same thing happen to Cutler? Our bet would be that he will have an extended honeymoon.
So, one chat follower responded, "That's the craziest assumption I've ever heard in my life. If Cutler is as bad as Grossman, you'll get promoted and Jay will be run out of town with JA [Jerry Angelo], Lovie [Smith] and company.''
Responded Joyner: "It's funny. Whenever I say Cutler will remind Bears fans of Grossman, they get all up in arms. All Grossman did was take Chicago to their first Super Bowl in years and the Bears fans couldn't run him out of the starting spot quick enough. They'll win with Cutler but man will they grit their teeth when he blows a game or two with his over the top risk taking.
"You know what really bothers me about Cutler? The idea that fans can't comment on him in a non-emotional manner. Every Bears fan thinks he is the next coming of Jim McMahon. When I point out that he has performance issues and that Grossman had those same issues, they just go overboard instead of saying, `Hey, that's a good point, can he improve in that area?'
"I'm basing my Cutler comments on three seasons of Denver tape breakdowns. He's a huge risk-taker and that equates to about 1 in 20 of his passes being an [interception] or near [interception] because of a mistake on his part. He'll win games in the Windy City and when he does, I'll hear it from Bears fans. I just want to hear from those same fans when his risk-taking costs the team a big game and I'll all but guarantee that will happen.''
If that wasn't enough Bears chatter for a one-hour session, Joyner was also asked about running back Matt Forte.
"Forte will be this generation's Brian Westbrook,'' Joyner said. "He'll have a great year no matter who is behind center for Chicago."
That stopped us for a minute and got us thinking. Typically, Forte has been compared to other tall running backs, Eddie George is the first that comes to mind. Running backs Tim Spencer, who coached George at Ohio State, has even drawn the parallels. We've heard people use Marcus Allen and Eric Dickerson as comparables also but think linking a second-year back to Hall of Famers is a little premature, maybe a lot premature. But Westbrook has been a dominant force in Philadelphia for some time. He's been an integral part of the Eagles' offense since coming into the league in 2002, and he topped 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards in 2007.
Let's look at the numbers:
2008--316 rushes, 1,238 yards, 3.9 avg., 8 TD, 63 receptions, 477 yards, 7.6 avg., 4 TD
2008--233 rushes, 936 yards, 4.0 avg., 9 TD, 54 receptions, 402 yards, 7.4 avg., 5 TD
2007--278 rushes, 1,333 yards, 4.8 avg., 7 TD; 90 receptions, 771 yards, 8.6 avg., 5 TD
2006--240 rushes, 1,217 yards, 5.1 avg., 7 TD; 77 receptions, 699 yards, 9.1 avg., 4 TD
2005--156 rushes, 617 yards, 4.0 avg., 3 TD; 61 receptions, 616 yards, 10.1 avg., 4 TD
2004--177 rushes, 812 yards, 4.6 avg., 3 TD; 73 receptions, 703 yards, 9.6 avg., 6 TD
2003--117 rushes, 613 yards, 5.2 avg., 7 TD; 37 receptions, 332 yards, 9.0 avg., 4 TD
2002--46 rushes, 193 yards, 4.2 avg., 0 TD; 9 receptions, 86 yards, 9.6 avg., 0 TD
Forte had 1,715 total yards last season. That's a figure Westbrook has eclipsed twice. They're certainly different runners. Westbrook is more compact and shiftier, and when he's at his best he's averaging close to five yards per carry. Westbrook is probably a little better in the open field as a receiver. He's averaged 9.0 yards per catch throughout his career. The Bears are hopeful that a rebuilt offensive line and the arrival of Cutler will make Forte more efficient and get his average yards per carry up, closer to 4.5 than the 3.9 he has last season. It's a compelling comparison by Joyner, that is for sure, and it will be interesting to see how Cutler uses Forte as a target in the passing game.
*** Saw an interesting story earlier in the week from Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports. He detailed how few of the first-round picks from the draft class of 2005 have received extensions from their teams. Only three players from that round have been extended and Cole draws the link to the upcoming labor negotiations. These players will have five years of service in after this season but without a new CBA they will be restricted free agents following the season, the ones on five-year deals any way.
It's a good read and the accompanying list of players in the round got us to thinking just how bad the first round of this draft was. We're not making an excuse for the Bears bombing out with Cedric Benson at No. 4 overall, but picking the best player in the top 10 is a lot easier than picking the biggest bust. Benson has loads of competition.
1. San Francisco, Alex Smith 2. Miami, Ronnie Brown 3. Cleveland, Braylon Edwards 4. Bears, Cedric Benson 5. Tampa Bay, Cadillac Williams 6. Tennessee, Pacman Jones 7. Minnesota, Troy Williamson 8. Arizona, Antrel Rolle 9. Washington, Carlos Rogers 10. Detroit, Mike Williams
Edwards and Brown have probably been the best players from the group and they've had serious injuries. DeMarcus Ware, selected 11th, and Shawne Merriman, selected 12th, have been far more productive than any of the top 10. Scan the rest of the round and most of it goes from bad to worse. Consider this, though, the best of the bunch ultimately could be Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, selected 24th overall. It's not out of the question.
If you're not doing back flips over Joyner's assessment for Cutler, we've got some other projections to break out when we return for business on Sunday.