Jay Cutler buying Mike Martz's deal
QB seems to be enjoying learning offensive coordinator's brand of passing
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith has brought back a "Monsters of the Midway" theme to reinstall a swagger in his defense. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz is trying to turn the offense into "Hellboys on the Hashmarks."Bears camp is one of the most interesting stops on this training camp tour. Everyone knows that Smith and anyone not tied to ownership is on the hot seat to win this season. Watching the Bears practice has convinced me they are better than some people think. Martz's play calling and quarterback Jay Cutler's right arm is a dangerous combination. Smith talks about re-establishing the intimidating presence of the Bears' defense, but something is scary about what Martz is doing to this offense. Understand, the Bears' offense is an interesting collaboration. It starts with former Vikings head coach Mike Tice establishing an attitude and a plan for an offensive line that has been lost since it grew too old three years ago. Tice preaches a smashmouth approach to his blockers. What Tice and Martz didn't know until they got together in meetings was that their protection concepts and running-game plan were pretty close. Tice teaches some of the old principles he learned when he was playing for Joe Gibbs on the Washington Redskins. Martz is a mad scientist with his unpredictable motion schemes. He believes in stretching a defense on almost every play. The former St. Louis Rams head coach is genuinely excited about what he considers diamonds in the rough at wide receiver and tight end. It will be hard to re-run his "Greatest Show On Turf" days with the Rams, but the Bears can be a "Good Show On Grass." Some observations from Bears camp: 1. Watching Cutler throw, I believe he's bought into Martz's offense. As much as he appeared to turn off last year's coaching staff and as much as he struggled all season, Cutler has settled into Martz's scheme easily. He's smart. He's got a great arm. He's accurate. That's all Martz asks of his quarterbacks, and those who played for him rave about how quarterback-friendly the offense can be. As a Denver Broncos star playing in 2008 for then-head coach Mike Shanahan, Cutler threw for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns. As discombobulated as the 2009 Bears' offense was in his first year with Chicago, Cutler still threw for 27 touchdowns. Barring disaster this season, Cutler should throw for at least 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards. The surprise is how well the receivers are doing in this offense. All of the potential Devin Hester has is emerging in Martz's scheme. His route-running always has been good, and he catches the ball well. Martz raves about his skills and even brought in former Rams receiver Isaac Bruce to work with Hester. The other surprise star is Johnny Knox -- the speediest Bears receiver streaks down the field. The sleeper of the group is Devin Aromashodu, a 6-foot-2, 201-pound slot receiver whom Cutler liked last season and Martz likes even more this year. My concern with the Bears' receivers will be durability. Hester is 5-11, 192 pounds. Knox is 6-foot, 190 pounds. They could take a pounding but this is a fast group, perhaps one of the fastest Martz has had a chance to develop. 2. A different Julius Peppers has emerged in Chicago. Peppers might have been the best player on the Carolina Panthers, but he operated quietly. He let other players handle the media on a daily basis. As they did their interviews, Peppers slipped out the back door of the locker room. That led reporters to speculate Peppers wasn't a leader.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.