After a record-breaking first season in coach Marc Trestman's offense, quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears are eager to see how their second year in the system unfolds.
The offense returns all 11 starters after helping the Bears rank second in the NFL in 2013 with 445 points and setting franchise records with 6,109 total yards, 4,450 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, a 96.9 passer rating and 344 first downs.
"We have the same guys we had last year, which is always good," Cutler said Tuesday. "Talent-wise it's hard to top our o-line and some of the guys we have on the outside and Matt Forte, who is hugely underrated. Talent-wise and being in the system two years and the way the guys work, all that adds up. Hopefully we can stay healthy and see where this thing goes."
Working with his fourth coordinator in five seasons with the Bears in 2013, Cutler posted a career-high 89.2 passer rating in 2013, completing 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,621 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games.
"Going into my ninth year, I think this is only the second or third time I've been in an offense multiple years," Cutler said. "We're still in the learning process, but guys have much more familiarity with what the concepts are and the formations and everything, so that's definitely going to be a help; less thinking and able to go fast."
Trestman feels that with a year in the system under his belt Cutler will enjoy more flexibility at the line of scrimmage and be better equipped to put the offense in the best position to succeed.
"Each of these plays we have, there are a lot of different answers against a lot of different types of looks and coverages," Trestman said. "I think he's at a place now, because he's had so much experience on these plays, he can utilize the entire play to find the right answers."
Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer also believes that the experience Cutler gained in his first year in the system last season will benefit him in 2014.
"The beauty of continuity in football is learning the system and understanding where the
problem lies in each play and each down and distance, and having the answer for that," Kromer said.
"The more you know about each play, the more you know about the offense, the more problem-solving you can do as opposed to just running the play. When you're in a new program, things come up during the game that make a big difference in the game but seem like such a small thing.
"Whether it's not seeing a blitz and knowing how to new 'Mike' it or whether it's a coverage read—those kinds of things—that's where Jay has grown through his study, just understanding where we're trying to go with the offense and him being the field general, not us."
Entering their second season together, quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh has been impressed with how Cutler has improved his fundamentals as well as his willingness to learn.
"I've seen incredible progress," Cavanaugh said. "When we got here last year and evaluated him, we had a real good conversation with him about certain things we think every quarterback should do. [We said] 'Jay, it might not be natural to you, but we want you to try it,' and he did.
"To his credit, he's taken every bit of suggestion that we've given and he's embraced it; everything from how he holds the ball to how he lines up in the gun pre-snap to how he drops back to his throwing base to his follow through. Every little fundamental we have considered talking to him about, he's embraced and he's worked real hard at it."
In just five seasons with the Bears, Cutler has become the franchise's all-time leader in most passing categories with 1,258 completions, 2,090 attempts, 14,913 yards and an 83.1 rating. His record as a starter since arriving in 2009 via a blockbuster trade with the Broncos is 39-28.