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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
Lions represent tough test for Sammy Watkins
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:03 pm ET) The Lions have been able to clamp down on opposing passing games so far, which does not bode well for Bills receiver Sammy Watkins' chances of thriving with new quarterback Kyle Orton in Week 5.

The Lions have allowed just two wide receivers to rack up double-digit Fantasy points through four games, and have held big names like Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Victor Cruz and Kelvin Benjamin to five points or fewer in their matchups. In fact, Eric Decker is the only No. 1 receiver to find the end zone against the Lions, who have done a good job locking them up otherwise.

We are hoping the switch from EJ Manuel to Orton at quarterback opens up the Bills passing game, but we might not see the results of that right away. Watkins' upside got higher with this move, but Week 5 represents a tough enough matchup that he should be considered a risky starting option in most Fantasy formats.  


Cowboys LB Bruce Carter 'probably down' against Texans
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:01 pm ET) Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter appears doomed to inactivity for the Week 5 clash against Houston. He was sidelined from practice Wednesday with a quad strain and is expected to be out for up to two weeks.

"Yeah, I'll probably be down," he conceded to the Dallas Morning News. "I rehab all day pretty much. Ice and elevation and compression and pretty mjuch the same cycle over and over. Get some of this swelling out."

Carter sustained the injury in the Sunday defeat of New Orleans.


No reason to stray from Nick Foles
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:58 pm ET) So Eagles quarterback Nick Foles had a clunker Week 4 at San Francisco. It happens to the best of them. At least in his case, it came against one of the league's most imposing defenses -- one that has allowed the fifth-lowest passer rating of any team this season.

It shouldn't overshadow the fact that he was the only quarterback to throw for 300 yards in each of his first three games and is still one of only two (Andrew Luck being the other) with three 300-yard games this season. The Eagles are built to throw the ball, and throw the ball they shall.

In theory, they don't have the best matchup for throwing the ball Week 5 against the Rams, who rank third against the pass, allowing 187.3 yards per game, but the Rams have also allowed the fourth-highest passer rating of any team this year. The Cowboys' Tony Romo threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns against them when they last played in Week 3.

I'm thinking the design of the Eagles offense will make Foles an advisable Fantasy option this week despite teams' tendencies against the Rams so far this season. Jamey Eisenberg ranks him only 15th among quarterbacks, but I'd start Foles over Ben Roethlisberger, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Tony Romo and Cam Newton.


Report: Kyle Williams misses practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:53 pm ET) Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams did not practice Wednesday as Buffalo prepared for its Week 5 visit to Detroit, reports ESPN.com. Williams left Sunday's loss to the Texans with a knee injury. He has 11 tackles, a sack and an interception this season.

Eagles RB LeSean McCoy: 'I'm just not getting it done'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:51 pm ET) Eagles featured back LeSean McCoy is at a loss to explain his recent struggles.

"I'm just not getting it done. I don't know what to tell you," he said to CSNPhilly.com.

McCoy performed well enough in the first two games, but has proven ineffective since. He has just 39 yards in 29 carries for a 1.3 YPC average over the past two games. He has also not caught a pass after snagging 10 in the first two games combined.


Chuck Pagano pegs Sergio Brown as new starter
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:48 pm ET) Colts coach Chuck Pagano told ESPN.com that safety Sergio Brown will start Sunday in place of LaRon Landry, who was suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Brown mainly has played on special teams. He has one tackle in three games played.

Falcons WR Harry Douglas still a no-go Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:45 pm ET) Mike Smith has stated that he anticipates Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas will return to practice this week - but it didn't happen Wednesday.

Douglas remains sidelined with a foot injury that prevented him from playing in Week 4. He has snagged 12 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown in three games, though much of that production was achieved in the season opener.


CB coach warning Packers about Vikings WR Greg Jennings
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:40 pm ET) Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt has sent a word of warning to his players through the media - Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings has returned to form.

"Greg is back, OK?" Whitt said via NFL.com. "I don't know if he was hurt or what happened last year. He looks like the old Greg Jennings. He's fast, he's quick, he's elusive, he's really creative in his route-running. He's fun to watch run routes. The quarterback can get him the ball. So we really have a challenge."

The ex-Packer has not stuffed the stat sheet - he is on the same statistical pace as he was in 2013. But he has come on recently with eight catches for 142 yards over the last two games combined. He has not scored, however, since Week 1.


Torrey Smith leads NFL in drawing interference flags
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:39 pm ET) Ravens receiver Torrey Smith has drawn five pass interference penalties, most in the NFL, notes ESPN.com. Smith also led the league in 2012 when he drew 16 such flags.

"If [pass interference] counted as points, we probably would have won by 100," Smith said of the Week 4 win over Carolina. "It happens every game, which is frustrating for me individually, but it's great that we continue to move the ball."

The interference flags Smith has drawn this year have led to 98 yards. He has eight catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.


Shonn Greene on the outs
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:37 pm ET) In my recap of everything that stood out to me in Week 4, I had a simple take on Titans running back Shonn Greene:

Forget about him.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt paraphrased Wednesday, saying rookie running back Bishop Sankey would get more playing time beginning Week 5 against Cleveland and pointed out that he's already started to, playing more than 40 percent of the team's snaps the last two weeks. By comparison, Greene has played barely 20 percent.

Greene did play 41 percent of the snaps way back in Week 1, when he had 15 carries for 71 yards at Kansas City, but with Whisenhunt only promising more for Sankey, it's safe to say Green is being phased out.

Even against the Browns, whether or not to sit him shouldn't even be in question. In 12-team leagues, I consider him to be a waste of a roster spot.


 
 
 
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