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Durkin: Cutler Still Seeking Chemistry With Third Receivers

By Dan Durkin-

(CBS) A storyline that emerged during training camp was the Bears' offensive coaching staff's decision to give quarterback Jay Cutler repetitions with second- and third-team wide receivers.

This was a proactive move to create chemistry in the event injuries affected the wide receiving corps. Considering that both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery suffered injuries in the first game of the season, it appeared to be a prescient plan. Fortunately for the Bears, Marshall and Jeffery persevered through the pain to play in games, but Cutler is still seeking chemistry with all of his targets.

Just as it was last year, the majority of passes are targeted for Marshall, Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte. Through four games, 85 percent of the targets and receptions have gone to those four players. It's impossible for defenses to double team everyone on a given play, but given the Bears' preference for the 11 personnel grouping, it's surprising how seldom the third wide receiver has been utilized this season.

Josh Morgan and Santonio Holmes have been on the field for a combined 245 offensive snaps this season (the Bears have 297 total offensive snaps), yet they've combined for only 10 receptions and 83 yards. Considering the amount of single coverage both get, there are opportunities for both of them to have a greater impact during games, but Cutler mentioned it takes a while to get up to speed with the nuances of the offense.

"I'm still working things out with those guys," Cutler said. "It's hard. I remember last year working with even Brandon and Alshon and Marty, we were still working things out because it's just a new offense, it's new verbiage. It's new instruction for those guys on how we wanted to run things -- depth -- so it's a work in progress for those guys."

An example of the still-developing chemistry showed up against the Packers. In the third quarter, Cutler tried to squeeze a pass into a tight window to Morgan on a slant route that was deflected and eventually intercepted by Clay Matthews. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer mentioned that both Cutler and Morgan could've done more to help the play succeed.

"Everybody agrees on offense that it was a tight window throw and in that coverage, generally that is the guy that is open," Kromer said. "In this particular case, the two of them didn't work it out in the tight coverage that they showed, and the receiver finishing the route and then protecting the ball as a quarterback were both an issue in that case, so the ball got tipped and got intercepted. Those are the kind of plays we can't have in a game if we expect to win."

Dan Durkin covers the Bears for and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.

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