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Kyle Long: Jay Cutler Shining As Bears' Leader, Quarterback

By Chris Emma--

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) -- In the two-and-a-half years that tackle Kyle Long has been in Chicago, he's held a strong belief in Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

This season, Cutler is getting high praise for his work with the Bears' offense, different from a past largely filled with criticism.

"In my book, Jay's been lights out since I've been here," Long said. "People haven't been able to recognize that, because guys haven't been held accountable or held themselves accountable. But this year, you get to see Jay shine in his true role as a leader, a quarterback and a captain of this team."

Cutler has a 95.3 quarterback rating, which is about 10 points better than his career average. This has statistically been one of Cutler's best seasons, as he has thrown for 2,045 yards and 13 touchdowns with just five interceptions in eight starts.

In addition, Cutler's getting deserved credit for making the most of an offense that's dealt with injury issues throughout the season. Cutler has clicked with the Bears' new coaching staff, specifically offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, and has a great comfort in the new schemes.

Long sees the way that Cutler absorbs knowledge and spreads it to teammates as a key part of the Bears' success.

"Jay is a whiz," Long said. "He's a bit of a nerd.

"He's very cerebral. Everything is thought out with him. He's a very smart guy. I don't think he gets enough credit for that. Everybody wants to talk about his arm and his ability to run. But he's a guy that's a total package."

Last season, Cutler threw for 3,812 yards, with 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Former Bears coach Marc Trestman benched Cutler in Week 16, playing backup Jimmy Clausen instead. Clausen suffered a concussion in the game, and Cutler was forced to return to his starting role for Week 17, in what would be Trestman's final game in Chicago.

Throughout Cutler's career in Chicago, he's dealt with constant change around his offense. With that have come struggles and heavy criticism. Long said he gets "riled up" when a friend and teammate like Cutler takes heat.

The 2015 season has shed a different light on Cutler, something no different than what the Bears have seen internally the past few seasons.

"We all love it," Long said. "We're all behind him, and we've all been behind him."

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.

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