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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: Cardinals' Daryl Washington unsure of NFL standing
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:32 pm ET) Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington is approaching the one-year mark for his suspension though his NFL status is still in limbo. 

But according to a report from FOX Sports 910 in Phoenix, Washington is unsure about his status with the league. He was suspended a year ago on May 30, 2014 for being a multiple offender of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

However, he was expected to apply for reinstatement a month ago but did not do so. 

Assuming Washington is reinstated to the NFL at some point he will likely be subjected to punishment under the NFL's domestic violence policy. On March 24, 2014, he pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend. 


Titans' Massaquoi rehabbing shoulder, to miss OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:34 pm ET) Outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi will not participate in the Titans' first organized team activities, per ESPN.com.

Massaquoi, who was claimed off waivers from the Falcons earlier this year, is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had a bone spur removed from the area, but the procedure was categorized as a minor cleanup.

Massaquoi recorded 22 tackles in 15 games with Atlanta last season.


Entering third season, 49ers' Lawrence Okoye eyeing roster spot
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:04 pm ET) This might finally be the year Lawrence Okoye can crack a spot on the 49ers' roster, per the Bay Area News Group.

Okoye, a former British Olympics discus thrower and rugby player, is feeling confident about his improvements and feels like his potential is worth a roster spot.

“It’s very different from the first time I came here. I’m feeling very good about things,” Okoye said Thursday while sitting at his locker. “I’m just happy I was given the opportunity to stay here so long, so I could catch up. I have a good opportunity to show what I can do.”

Okoye has worked under new head coach Jim Tomsula for two years and with Justin Smith's retirement, his emergence might be rewarded.

“You’re going to get lots of people telling you things. But the main thing is to just keep yourself motivated, despite what people say about you," Okoye said. "People will write you off. People will say this or that. Just keep yourself motivated, keep going every day and you’ll be good.”

 


Bengals' Terrelle Pryor still dreams about winning it all
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:45 pm ET) Terrelle Pryor's chances of taking the Bengals to the Super Bowl and winning it are slim, but that won’t stop him from dreaming.

Pryor -- in his fourth year in the league -- dreams about winning the Super Bowl with quite some frequency, he just isn't sure what team he's doing it with.

“I don’t know the team. It’s always in black uniforms,” Pryor said. “I didn’t see any orange. No, it’s not the Raiders. But I believe it can happen because I can visualize it like that. I’m into visualization.”

Pryor hasn't played a down since the 2013 regular season, when he passed for 1,798 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 11 games.


Flowers' college position coach thinks he can fill in for injured Beatty
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:18 pm ET) Things are moving really fast for Giants offensive lineman Ereck Flowers. The eighth overall pick in the draft, because of an injury to Will Beatty, might have inherited a huge workload this season, per nj.com.

Art Kehoe, Flowers' offensive line coach at the University of Miami, thinks Flowers will be up to the task of protecting quarterback Eli Manning.

"I'm sure he raised his level up a notch or two, but I think he plays every week, I think he plays hard in practice," Kehoe said. "He's an unproven commodity at the next level, and he's a high draft pick, [the Giants] drafted him to be a fixer, so I'm sure he's going in there to do what he did in Miami — scrap his ass off every day in practice, and if you're supposed to be a badass the next weekend [against] your opponent, he's gonna be there and he's gonna bring everything he's got. That's what he does. He wants to know that there's a dude, and he has to take care of him, and he'll be up to the challenge.

Giants' 2013 first-round pick, Justin Pugh is also a top candidate to fill in for the injured Beatty.


Union: Goodell must back off hearing of Patriots QB Tom Brady
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith is growing impatient awaiting word from Roger Goodell on the request of the NFL commissioner to recuse himself as arbitrator of the appeal hearings ofPatriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The league suspended Brady for the first four games next season for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal, claiming that he likely knew that game balls were being deflated for his benefit before the 2014 AFC title game.

Smith is claiming that neither Goodell nor the Wells Report, which investigated the incident, could legitimately claim impartiality. He added that the NFLPA will "advance the volume" of the request if they don't hear from Goodell by next week. Part of the union's press release reads as follows:

Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the Commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as arbitrator in this matter. The players also believe that the Commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.

As for the Wells Report, Smith stated that "you can't really have credibility just because you slap the word independent on a piece of paper." He offered into evidence the findings in regard to NFL official Walt Anderson, who was a key figure in the investigation, citing one part of the report questions his memory and another credits it.


Zimmer happy with progress of Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:32 pm ET) Mike Zimmer has expressed optimism that underachieving Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson is gaining a better understanding of route-running and the nuances of playing the position in the NFL, which would allow his talent to result in greater productivity.

Patterson took a step back in 2014 after a mediocre rookie year. He played in every game, but managed just 33 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown. He has since stated that 2015 is his make-or-break year and is apparently acting like it in the offseason.

"He's done real well," Zimmer told Fox Sports North. "He's running routes good. He's working hard. So we just need him to continue to do those things and continue to keep getting consistent and keep improving. I've been impressed."


GM: Dolphins LT Branden Albert should be fine for Week 1
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:22 pm ET) Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has expressed optimism that left tackle Branden Albert will be ready to roll by the regular season opener.

Albert has been rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL sustained last November against Detroit. He had signed a five-year, $46 million contract the previous March and had been performing particularly well before going down.

"It's been a long rehab and he's really attacked it every day," Hickey told SiriusXM NFL Radio, adding that there was a "reasonable explanation" that he would be ready for Week 1. "We really like his progress. He's out there with his team working out. We're really encouraged by what we're seeing with him."

Ja'Wuan Williams was forced to move to left tackle following the Albert injury in 2014. But he struggled at that position and is expected to move to his more familiar right tackle spot this year.


Report: Bills still want to extend Marcell Dareus
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:15 pm ET) The Bills still want to extend the contract of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, according to a report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

Despite the one-game suspension levied by the league against Dareus on Thursday, the team still hopes to have an extension wrapped up before the start of training camp. 

2015 is scheduled to be the last season of Dareus' current contract. He'll make $8.06 million.


Shanahan: Struggles of Robert Griffin III unrelated to injury
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan does not believe injuries have prevented quarterback Robert Griffin III from maximizing his potential in the NFL. Rather, he feels it was the team not creating an offensive system that best fits his talents and his own belief that he could play a traditional role at that position.

Griffin sustained a serious knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. He then struggled in 2013 in an offense designed to transform him into a drop-back quarterback rather than one that took advantage of his mobility. He suffered another knee injury last year and did not perform well in the offense of new coach Jay Gruden.

"I don't think getting hurt has anything to do with it," Shanahan told 106.7 The Fan. "In college he didn't have a route tree, didn't have a playbook. That does take some time. ... If you take a quarterback like that you must run the kind of system that allows him to be successful. ... I really believe Robert thought he was more of a drop-back quarterback. He hasn't done things the NFL asks you to do. It does take some growing pains. You better really work on it inside and out."

Some have wondered why the Redskins went so hard after Griffin if they weren't willing to create an offense that maximizes his skill set.


 
 
 
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