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Cutler is not quite fantasy starter material

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Dan Parr
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Posted Aug. 05, 2011 @ 2:29 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

Entering his second season in Mike Martz's offense, Bears QB Jay Cutler and his receivers should be more comfortable in the scheme and better familiarity could lead to increased production.

Cutler, however, still lies in fantasy limbo. He can be a pleasant surprise or your worst nightmare in any given week, and the ups and downs could be enough to keep some owners away from Cutler entirely.

He's worth considering for a starting job in deep leagues (12 teams or more), but he fits best as a high-end backup.

Here's why:

1. The offensive line is still an eyesore

Cutler was sacked a league-high 52 times last season and was scrambling to avoid pressure far too often. Fortunately for the Bears, and Cutler, he's pretty good on the move. The Bears addressed the need for better protection in the draft, taking OT Gabe Carimi in the first round, but the rookie alone doesn't solve the problem. The O-line lost its leader, C Olin Kreutz, who decided to leave the team in free agency, and former Seahawk Chris Spencer was signed to replace him. Carimi and second-year veteran J'Marcus Webb are expected to be the starting tackles, with disappointing former first-round pick Chris Williams and veteran Roberto Garza at guard. Cutler will have a hard time playing to his potential if he doesn't get adequate time to go through his reads, set his feet and make good throws.

2. The Bears are committed to balance on offense

Balance between the pass and run isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a Mike Martz offense, but that's what Lovie Smith wants, and he's going to get it. Martz finally committed to the running game around the midpoint of last season and it worked wonders for the Bears. What's good for them isn't necessarily good for fantasy owners, however, especially those who had Cutler on the roster. He actually had fewer yards and touchdowns in Martz's offense in ’10 (3,274 yards, 23 TDs) than he did the season prior when Ron Turner was offensive coordinator (3,666 yards, 27 TDs).

3. Roy Williiams may not rekindle the Martz magic

Williams has history with Mike Martz — his best seasons came in Martz's offense when they were both with the Lions — and he has the potential to be the big, physical target the Bears have needed. Signing Williams to a one-year deal could help significantly — previously the only Bears wide receiver taller than six feet was NFL rookie Andy Fantuz, who is 6-4, 220 pounds and a former Saskatchewan Roughrider. But Williams was a major disappointment in Dallas and is far from a guarantee to make the 70-80 catches Martz has predicted he'll make this season.

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