Bears' offense gets high marks so far
The Bears' offense has yet to display consistency for a full 60 minutes, but even while playing in spurts it has piled up yards and points at a franchise-record rate.
The Bears are on pace to score 489 points, which would be 33 more than the record set by the 1985 Super Bowl team. At its current rate, the offense will finish with 5,883 yards, 46 more than the standard set by the '85 team.
After seven games, the defense has a report card that a grade-school child would conveniently "lose" on the way home.
But most of the offense gets grades that any kid would rush home to show his parents.
Jay Cutler's 91.7 passer rating is nearly 10 points higher than his average in his first four years as a Bear (81.9) and almost 8 points higher than his career mark of 84.0 heading into this season.
He has distributed the ball judiciously among the top targets and done a much better job of avoiding sacks than in the previous four seasons, when he was dropped an average of 37 times a year. That was in large part because he often held on to the ball too long.
Under the tutelage of coach Marc Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh, Cutler has made wiser decisions and displayed better mechanics. His game-to-game consistency has been much improved as well, with passer ratings of better than 90.0 in five of the six games he started and completed.
For at least the next four weeks, Cutler hands the reins over to Josh McCown as he recuperates from a torn groin muscle. The veteran backup was nothing short of brilliant in relief Sunday. Grade: B.
Trestman's offense clearly suits Matt Forte, who is on pace for a career-best 80 receptions and 1,218 rushing yards, which would be 20 short of his personal best.
He's averaging 4.6 yards per carry, which would be the second highest of his career, and already has scored 6 touchdowns, halfway to his career high set during his rookie season (2008).
Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer are loath to take Forte off the field because of his versatility and productivity. That has greatly diminished the role of short-yardage option Michael Bush, who has just 24 carries for 44 yards (1.8-yard average).
But it makes no sense to replace Forte other than to get him an occasional breather. Grade: B-plus.
Brandon Marshall is having a Brandon Marshall-type season, which means, for the most part, he's getting enough attention to keep him happy and putting up big numbers.
Alshon Jeffery has stayed healthy and taken a huge step in Year 2, becoming a dangerous complement to Marshall. On 33 catches, 13 fewer than Marshall, Jeffery is averaging 17.0 yards, 5.3 more than Marshall. Jeffery leads the four-time Pro Bowler in yards 561-540.
Both, especially Marshall, have dropped a few more passes than someone with their talents should.
Earl Bennett remains a reliable, though rarely utilized, underneath option.
It doesn't show up on the stat sheets, but all three have been exceptional as blockers. Grade: B.
Martellus Bennett has provided the receiving threat at this position that Cutler has missed since Greg Olsen was traded. He probably could be utilized even more in the passing game.
Bennett has displayed exceptional blocking ability in the run game and in pass protection when healthy. But that part of his game was greatly diminished by a shoulder injury earlier in the season.
Steve Maneri started with Bennett in the opener but was waived earlier this week. Dante Rosario has stepped into the No. 2 spot, but his role is limited since the Bears signed Bennett to play every down. Grade: B-minus.
This may be the most protective group Bears quarterbacks have played behind since 2007, allowing just 11 sacks.
But it's too soon to hand out any awards. Sacks are way down from last year's 44, but the scheme of Trestman and Kromer, plus Cutler's improved ability to get rid of the ball, are factors.
Still, considering the right side is manned by rookies Jordan Mills at tackle and Kyle Long at guard, the early results are encouraging.
Mills continues to struggle in pass protection, but he hasn't been exposed the way J'Marcus Webb was in the past. Long also needs work in pass protection, but the rookies have been solid as run blockers. Forte has been most productive when running to the right side this season.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod has helped solidify the pass protection, but he has yet to play like a two-time Pro Bowler.
Left guard Matt Slauson and center Roberto Garza have worked well together, although they haven't been as effective in recent games as they were during the three-game winning streak to start the season, according to Pro Football Focus. Grade: C-plus.
•Next: Grades for defense and special teams. Follow Bob's NFL and Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.