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Offseason Primers: Chicago Bears

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Lovie Smith era ended with another whiff at a postseason berth. The Bears cleaned house as a result and went on the offensive with their next head coach, choosing Montreal Alouettes head coach and long-time NFL offensive assistant Marc Trestman. The theory behind the hire is that the Bears will finally have some stability on offense after having two offenses and three playcallers over the last four years.

Those last four years have been a nightmare for Jay Cutler as he's navigated through those scheme changes while playing behind a clumsy, unimproved offensive line. Many people will characterize Cutler as a malcontent through his actions and body language but the reality is that he's been stuck on a roster bereft of talent.

Not until last season did he have a legit No. 1 receiver in Chicago and he made the most out of throwing 193 passes to Brandon Marshall, affording the receiver to have a career year. Having Matt Forte in the backfield has been a perk for Cutler too, as the rusher recorded another year with over 1,400 total yards. The Bears' run game tallied 11 touchdowns but Forte only had five on the ground. In order for Forte's touchdown numbers to get better, Cutler will need to find him.

2012 Touches Leaders
757 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Matt Forte 292 (248 car., 44 rec.) 38.6%
Michael Bush 123 (114 car., 9 rec.) 16.2%
Brandon Marshall 119 (118 rec., 1 car.) 15.7%
Jay Cutler 41 car. 5.4%
Earl Bennett 29 rec. 3.8%
Alshon Jeffery 24 rec. 3.2%
All Others 129 17.1%

The rest of the Bears offense, for lack of a better term, stunk out loud. The offensive line struggled to protect Cutler, the receivers behind Marshall were either banged up or overmatched and the tight ends couldn't contribute much, be it as blockers or pass catchers. Trestman has his work cut out for him, but fortunately he has a modest track record going back to his days with George Seifert and the San Francisco 49ers. Though only twice in his NFL coaching career has Trestman fielded a quarterback that has thrown for over 4,000 yards, he has a solid history of being unafraid to throw often while developing versatile running backs.

While handing the defensive duties over to veteran coordinator Mel Tucker, who probably won't change much, Trestman should be able to breathe life into the Bears offense. In turn, Cutler should be able to perform to levels he hasn't had since joining Chicago. For a playoff-hungry team like the Bears, the plan better work out as good as it sounds.

Jay Cutler -- Late-round flier

2012 Target Leaders
485 pass attempts
Brandon Marshall 194 40.0%
Matt Forte 60 12.4%
Earl Bennett 49 10.1%
Alshon Jeffery 48 9.9%
Kellen Davis 44 9.1%
All Others 90 18.5%

It seems like every year we're labeling Cutler as a quarterback worth a late-round gamble. Well, this might be the last. Cutler is entering a contract year and the Bears could opt to go in a different direction, or at least not sign him to a long-term deal, if he doesn't perform to the expectations they had for him when the traded for him in 2009. To Cutler's credit, he's balanced so many schematic changes while dancing behind a brutal offensive line since he's started in Chicago, yet he's still led the Bears to one NFC title game, two 10-plus-win seasons and three non-losing campaigns. Many quarterbacks swear by Trestman's knowledge and play-calling abilities and there's little doubt he will lean on Cutler this season, so it should afford him the chance to put up 4,000 passing yards, a number he has yet to reach while in Chicago. Cutler sees Joe Flacco go from pumpkin to hero and could do the exact same thing in 2013. That's why he should be a late round consideration after the likes of Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger are off the board.

Alshon Jeffery -- Bust

It took the Bears an eternity to land a legitimate receiving threat, and now you think they're good enough to have two?! Marshall is going to get his targets, which means he'll get his numbers. The only way that doesn't happen is if he misses playing time, in which case Jeffery could step in and be a factor. Last year, Jeffery scored in three of 10 games and posted seven or more Fantasy points in four of eight games where he played at least 40 snaps. Those are decent jumping off points for a young receiver but they don't necessarily translate well to Fantasy. What's more, Trestman's track record suggests his offenses will tilt toward one receiver rather than aim for balance. In the last 22 years he's coached in the pros, college and in Canada, Trestman has had two or more highly productive receivers seven times (four in the pass-happy CFL).

Michael Bush -- Bust

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Jay Cutler Late-round pick
Matt Forte 13-22 overall
Michael Bush Late-round handcuff
Brandon Marshall 20-30 overall
Alshon Jeffery Undrafted
Kellen Davis Undrafted
Robbie Gould Late-round pick
Bears DST 125-135 overall

The only Fantasy owners who should spend time staring at Bush's name on Draft Day are those who spend a second-round pick on Matt Forte (or those looking for running back depth in Round 15). A year ago we were frustrated that Bush "settled" for a part-time gig in Chicago but it looks like NFL decision makers knew what they were doing. Over 114 carries Bush averaged a career-worst 3.6 yards per and paired it with a three-year low in receiving average (a still-good 9.2 but on just nine catches). About the only positive to Bush's game is his touchdown production and Trestman has shown a willingness in the past to use a fresh back at the goal line. All you have to do is figure out when Bush will score and you'll have yourself a Fantasy stud -- but that's obviously hard to do. Steer clear of him in drafts this summer.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Report: NFL upholds suspension for Steelers WR Martavis Bryant
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(3:29 pm ET) Martavis Bryant will be suspended for the first four games of the season, as the player's appeal was denied Monday, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bryant violated the NFL's substance-abuse policy, and his absence will leave the Steelers short-handed as they open the season next Thursday without Bryant and star running back Le'Veon Bell, who will also be serving a substance-abuse suspension. 

Bryant had a breakout campaign in the second half of last season, grabbing 26 catches for 549 yards and eight touchdowns. 


Bills coach Rex Ryan officially tabs Tyrod Taylor as QB
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(3:19 pm ET) Bills coach Rex Ryan made the news official at a press conference Monday, naming Tyrod Taylor the team's starting quarterback, citing his "explosiveness" at the position, per The Buffalo News

Taylor has put up impressive numbers during the preseason, going 24-for-31 for 236 yards, but has not started a game since the 2011 Orange Bowl when he was the signal-caller for Virginia Tech. He has played in 14 games as a backup with the Ravens.

Ryan said that Taylor is "on top of what we are doing," and that with a team built to win now, Taylor gives them the best chance over fellow quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel. 

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Lions activate RB Joique Bell, DT Haloti Ngata
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(3:08 pm ET) The Lions activated two of their most important players Monday, removing running back Joique Bell from the physically unable to perform list and removing defensive tackle Haloti Ngata from the non-football injury list, per the team's website. 

Bell was recovering from knee and Achilles surgeries, while Ngata was dealing with hamstring issues. Both players practiced Monday and are expected to be ready for the team's season opener. 


Browns LB Barkevious Mingo (knee) returns to practice
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:48 pm ET) Less than a month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo returned to practice Monday, per Ohio.com.

Mingo participated in drills, but is not expected to play in the team's final preseason game. Browns coach Mike Pettie was optimistic, however, that Mingo could play in the regular season opener on Sept. 13. 

"I think that target is still up in the air, but it could be for the opener," he said. 


Colts WR T.Y. Hilton suffers concussion
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:01 pm ET) Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton suffered a concussion in Saturday's preseason contest and is currently in the league's protocol, per ProFootballTalk.com. 

Hilton reported symptoms of a concussion during the games, and he was evaluated by team doctors. The league will have the clear the Colts' No. 1 receiver in order for him to take the field in Week 1. 


Giants bring back S Stevie Brown
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:43 pm ET) The Giants announced Monday they have signed safety Stevie Brown, who was a member of the team from 2012-14 but was signed by the Texans in the offseason before being released. 

Brown had eight interceptions for the Giants in 2012 but missed the entire 2013 season and struggled to regain his form in 2014. Still, with the Giants' defensive backfield in flux, bringing back a familiar face was an easy decision. 

"Pretty exciting just being able to come back here," he said. "[It] seems like a position of need and it is a good fit [so] definitely exciting to come back."


Panthers S Colin Jones (groin) out for extended period
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:37 pm ET) Panthers pecial teams ace and reserve safety Colin Jones will miss an extended period of time due to a groin injury, the team reported Monday. 

Jones, who hurt himself at the team's penultimate training camp practice, will see a specialist to determine the severity of the injury. 

"That's much more than a tweak," coach Ron Rivera said. "He's going to see a doctor and we'll go from there."


Redskins name Kirk Cousins starter for 2015
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:48 pm ET) The Redskins made it official Monday, with coach Jay Gruden saying in a press conference that Kirk Cousins will be the team's starting quarterback in 2015, usurping former starter Robert Griffin III, per The Washington Post

"It's Kirk's team," Gruden said. "He's proven that he is the best quarterback on our roster at this time."

Cousins is entering his fourth season with the Redskins. In nine career starts, he is 2-7. Last year, he started five games and led Redskins quarterbacks in passing yards (1,710) and touchdowns (10), but also threw nine interceptions.


Dolphins C Mike Pouncey (knee) returns to practice
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:13 pm ET) After suffering a knee injury in Saturday's preseason game, Dolphins center Mike Pouncey didn't express much concern, a feeling that would prove to be valid, as an MRI came back negative and the lineman was back at practice Monday, per the Miami Herald.

Pouncey said that he expects to be ready for the season opener. He recently signed an extension worth more than $40 million. 


Raiders OL Menelik Watson ruptures Achilles, out for season
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(11:57 am ET) The Raiders' offensive line took a big hit Sunday, when starting right tackle Menelik Watson ruptured his Achilles tendon in the first half. He will miss the entire 2015 season, per the San Francisco Chronicle

"He was having a great camp for us and really playing well," Raiders coach Jack del Rio said. 

Watson will be replaced by sixth-year veteran Austin Howard, who started at guard for Oakland last season.


 
 
 
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