BE: Cutler could be in for big season

Here are some Bears Essentials, as the team prepares to host the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Soldier Field:

-- Jay Cutler put up an 85.7 QBR score against the Bengals, which ranked as his fourth highest since joining the club in 2009, and he did that against one of the league's better defensive units.

To kick off Bears Essentials, let’s take a look at what ESPN.com’s Mike Sando wrote about Cutler’s potential contract situation. Remember, Cutler is in the final year of his contract, and if he keeps producing performances like Sunday’s, he’s in for a big pay day.

Sando wrote: "When the Bears' new leadership took a wait-and-see approach toward a new contract for Cutler, a salary-cap manager for another team surprisingly predicted Cutler would eventually command $20 million a year -- whether the quarterback deserved it or not. The thinking was that the Bears or some other team would feel lukewarm on the quarterbacks available in the draft and would see Cutler as the missing piece to winning a championship. It would take only one team to feel that way, the thinking went."

"The problem, of course, was that Cutler hadn't been very good recently. His QBR score since 2009, Cutler's first season with Chicago, stood at a sub-average 48.7 entering Sunday. That ranked 21st out of 30 qualifying quarterbacks over that span. What does such a figure mean? A score around 50 will result in roughly a 50 percent chance of winning. Sixty-five is getting into Pro Bowl-caliber play. Cutler was at 50.2 last season. Here is the fallout: 10 of the 11 starting quarterbacks with non-rookie contracts featuring at least $20 million in guaranteed money signed their deals after posting a single-season QBR score of 58.9 or higher. They were good right before they got paid."

So with a score of 85.7 in his 2013 debut, Cutler was playing at a Pro Bowl level. But can he sustain that for the entire season?

-- ESPNChicago.com’s Jeff Dickerson and Jon Greenberg debate the Week 1 debuts of Julius Peppers and Henry Melton in answering a Hot Button question which asks whose play was more concerning between the two. I agree with Dickerson that it’s the easy argument to point a finger at Peppers because of his age, and the fact he didn’t dominate backup left tackle Anthony Collins (who is actually one of the more athletic tackles you’ll see this year). But Peppers has dominated for years and is coming off back-to-back seasons in which he posted 11 and 11.5 sacks. For me, Melton is the player to be concerned about. Why? He’s never been in this position, having been paid big money due to the franchise tag.

Dickerson writes: “This can go one of two ways. Either Melton plays his heart out this year in order to increase his chances of securing a big deal in free agency, or he coasts through the regular season in order to reach free agency healthy, figuring he's already done enough to get a contract from someone next offseason.”

Check out the debate, and answer the poll question. I’m anxious to see how the voting goes in this one.

-- CSNChicago’s John “Moon” Mullin explains why Chicago’s rushing attack needs to show marked improvement for this team to keep winning. Matt Forte gained 9 yards on his longest run against the Bengals. That’s not good enough.

-- Chicago’s defense gave up too many explosive plays against the Bengals, and Marc Trestman wants the team to tighten up in that area. Cincinnati finished the game with five plays that gained 17 yards or more, including three A.J. Green receptions that gained 19 yards or more. That’s too much. In allowing some of those explosive plays, the Bears missed too many open-field tackles. Conditioning seemed to be an issue, as several players seemed to be gassed throughout the game. I anticipate the conditioning will improve as well as the tackling with more live repetitions.