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Big receivers a big deal for Cutler

In Jay Cutler's first season with the Bears in 2009, 6-foot-2 Devin Aromashodu was his tallest receiver. When Aromashodu rejoined the team briefly last summer, he was among the shortest.

Early in training camp, Cutler has enjoyed throwing to a group of receivers that includes 6-5 Brandon Marshall, 6-5 Terrence Toliver, 6-4 Marquess Wilson and 6-3 Alshon Jeffery. Throw in 6-6 tight end Martellus Bennett and the Bears could field their own basketball team.


Jay Cutler prepares to take a snap from center Roberto Garza during practice.
"It makes it easy," Cutler said Monday. "You kind of just hang balls up there for those guys and they make the play. They all do a really good job of finding the ball in the air and knowing when the back-shoulder [throw] is coming. We've just got to keep everyone healthy."

Bennett, who played football and basketball at Texas A&M, starred in a red zone drill Monday, reaching up to haul in a pair of touchdown passes from Cutler on seam routes.

"In certain situations he's really hard to cover," Cutler said. "He's such a big guy that even some of the intermediate stuff over the middle, he's able to get separation. He played basketball, so he knows how to high-point the ball down in the red zone. We've just got to keep throwing different stuff at him and incorporating him in different ways."

Bennett has been working on his run-after-catch skills and knocked safety Danny McCray to the ground with a stiff arm Monday after catching a short pass over the middle.

Marshall and Jeffery have picked up in training camp where they left off last season, using their size advantage to pluck passes out of the air despite tight coverage. Jeffery was sidelined with a sore foot Monday, which gave Wilson more opportunities with the first-team offense.

The 2013 seventh-round draft pick from Washington State has had an impressive camp and is a leading candidate to be the Bears' No. 3 receiver this season.

"He's doing a great job," Cutler said. "We're asking him to do a lot. With some guys going down periodically, he's got to know a lot of positions. He's got to go with the ones, he's got to go with the twos, so I think he's done a really good job of getting in shape.

"He knows the plays, he knows where to line up. It's just working against press, going against T.J. (Tim Jennings) and Peanut (Charles Tillman) and even the young kid, Kyle Fuller, is doing a great job against him. So just getting the reps and getting the experience is where he's got to improve."

Get an up-close look at today's action from the training camp practice fields.

With Cutler operating the same offense for the second straight year, his familiarity with the system is evident on the practice field. The continuity has provided a major boost after the quarterback worked with four different offensive coordinators in his first five seasons with the Bears.

"It's obvious in practice that Jay is taking more and more control by the day," said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. "Not that he didn't before—he did—but with his comfort level with all of the things we're trying to get done, he's able to solve some of his own problems on the field, even when he didn't maybe have that answer taught to him yet.

"He's doing an excellent job, as well as the other quarterbacks. But it's really helped that Jay has studied really hard all offseason. He's worked on his technique. He's been one of the hardest working guys on the team this offseason."

One major difference in this year's training camp is that Cutler is getting extra snaps—working with the second team as well as the starting unit.

"There are a couple of benefits," Kromer said. "One is that he's getting more reps, and that's important to us that he takes the most reps because he'll be running the offense. No. 2, it gets him with other players that could be on the field with him this year and it gets him a feel for how those guys run routes, protect, and those sort of things."

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