Apr 18, 2008
I was a little scared off my boy Jay Cutler this year, but I’m feeling better now. I’ll feel a lot better if they address the offensive line in the draft, which they likely will.
Too often in the NFL we see high expectations for a player or a team for a given year only to see the player or team fail to meet those expectations. Then, the next year, while expectations are low, the player or team seemingly surprises and plays very well. That could be the case in Denver this year. After all, coming on and performing well when no one expects you to is a classic Travis Henry move, one he did last in 2006 in Tennessee.
I am still concerned about the line, so it’s not all rosy in Denver, far from it. But after being concerned about Cutler’s Broncos a few weeks ago, especially after the Brandon Marshall fiasco, I am feeling better. I’ll assume for now that Marshall will be okay for at least the start of the season (remember that he missed a lot of training camp last year). And now, teamed with Darrell Jackson, Denver’s receiving corps looks pretty damn solid. Yes, he’s not as talented as Javon Walker, but the veteran Jackson was a great pickup for the Broncos. He is still an injury risk, but he’s still only 29, he knows the west coast offense, and the bottom line is he produces. He has a knack for slipping past the defense and making plays down the field. Teamed with Marshall and slot guy Brandon Stokley, not to mention a dynamic TE in Tony Scheffler, Cutler’s going to have the weapons he needs to put up healthy numbers and take a step forward in his 3rd season if they remain relatively healthy. They also added Keary Colbert and Samie Parker, which gives them unusual depth at receiver.
Here’s our magazine writeup on Cutler, unedited and unfinished:
Jay Cutler (Den, 25) – Cutler’s an athletic player who can move around pretty well, and there is no question he has the physical and mental skills and toughness to develop into an elite quarterback. He has a cannon for an arm, and he has major zip on his passes, even when throwing on the run. He does still have a tendency to lose his accuracy, composure, and judgment, start gunslinging, and throw multiple picks. There were times last year, perhaps because he was forced to throw it more than they wanted, that he wasn’t as firm in the pocket as he should be, and he even added the dreaded “drift-back” to his repertoire, which is a concern. But you can’t be a great QB in this league without the willingness to make stick throws and toss it down the field, and Cutler definitely has that. He has no conscience; if he throws a back pick, he’ll go right back out there and try to make any throw at all times. He has no problem pulling the trigger, even in the tightest spots and in the toughest situations. In just his second season, Cutler managed a useful and fantasy-friendly 3,497 yards, 20 TDs, and 14 INTs in 2007, and he did so without Javon Walker and a consistent running attack for much of the year. So suffice it to say he should be on your radar this year, especially now, entering his key third season. Were it not for the issues at the running back position and especially on the O-line, we’d be much higher on Cutler, but alas those are two serious concerns. Walker is gone, too, but between stud Brandon Marshall (assuming he’s healthy in August), the emerging TE Tony Scheffler, and veterans Darrell Jackson and Brandon Stokley (plus Keary Colbert and Samie Parker), Cutler’s receiving corps is above average with the potential to be very good. If the team can string together successful efforts on the ground and take some pressure off him, it’s entirely possible that Cutler emerges as this year’s breakout candidate. After all, he did make the most of a poor situation last year, and he did get better as the year wore on. He threw a lot of INTs early, eight in six games, but cut down on the mistakes as the year went on, and only threw 14 for the year as a whole. With INTs on 3.0% of his pass attempts, he beat the NFL average of 3.2%. He got sacked less often than the league average as well and chipped in with 205 rushing yards and 1 TD. He was 7th in total fantasy points among QBs from Week 10, which is the kind of development from a young QB that could be a signal of a bigger breakout in his next season. No one will draft Cutler as his or her starter, so he’s the perfect guy to target if you hold off a while on taking your starter, or if you want one of best backups in the player pool in case your starter disappoints.