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Joniak's Journal: Cutler Could Be Back Sooner Rather Than Later

By Jeff Joniak--

First Impression
It sounds to me like Jay Cutler is determined to get back on the field sooner rather than later.
Admitting the torn left groin is the most "significant" pain he's had in his career, Cutler is also optimistic he can get back to playing quarterback before the four week minimum "window" offered up by doctors. While each game is valuable in trying to earn a playoff spot, a rush job is not something anyone wants to see. Cutler says he will "push it as far as he can", but that being said he understands it's ultimately a healing process that is out of his hands.

Josh McCown is more than ready to move the football team. He is experienced, has seen just about everything, and will be prepared for everything Green Bay could possibly muster up for the Bears. Several days of discussion about Cutler's possible time frame for a return, has shifted the attention off of McCown as he readies for his 34th career start. I'm certain that will change as of Thursday, when the Bears essentially begin their detailed work on the Packers.

Second Thought
Marc Trestman told us on the Bears Coaches Show Monday night that he would like to see more production from running back Matt Forte. He gets a lot of touches, but carrying a bit more of the offensive load with Cutler out would seem to make sense. An efficient running game chews the clock and time of possession is never more important to the Bears right now due to personnel attrition defensively.

The Bears are tied for 22nd in the NFL in average carries per game with 24, nearly three carries off the NFL average. The Bears are one of 18 teams averaging more than 100-yards rushing per game. Forte has three 50+ yard runs this season, a big reason the Bears are averaging 4.70 yards per carry, which is 5th best in the NFL. Forte is 10th in carries with 116. Four of those carries have topped 24 yards. On those carries he's picked up 182 yards. The other 351 yards have come on 112 carries for 3.13 yards-per-carry. In space, Forte is as dangerous as any running back in the NFL. It's the grind it out yards that will increase possession time and move the chains.

As a receiver, Forte is earning 7.5 yards per catch. That number could balloon due to Forte's skill set, the turn of the calendar, and corresponding field conditions that give an edge to the quarterback and the elusiveness of Forte.

Third Degree
Veteran Jermon Bushrod is most impressed with the two rookies on the right side of the line where Kyle Long and Jordan Mills are battling. It's not a finished product, but they are playing disciplined football for the most part. I know Pro Football Focus has the rookies graded differently, especially in terms of combined pressures on the quarterback. I've got to believe, teams are much more concerned about sacks and hits on their quarterbacks, not hurries. Long and Mills may be giving up some hurries, but they have not allowed many hits and to me that's a bigger story. I still think it is very impressive that Aaron Kromer has blended four new players with holdover center Roberto Garza and against multiple, and sometimes confusing fronts, has an offense averaging 25.5 points per game if you subtract the return touchdowns of the defense and Devin Hester and only one false start.

4th and Short
There are a number of issues still to being ironed out in terms of who starts at weak side linebacker for the Bears. Trestman wants to see how it plays out at practice this week. He wants to see it on tape before he offers up the best man for the job. While it's still likely Khaseem Greene, there are special team issues, the nickel package, and how Mel Tucker wants to deal with Aaron Rodgers.

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