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Bears: A path around poor pass protection

KC Joyner was kind enough to cull and share a few NFC North nuggets from his annual fantasy football draft guide. Many of them provide real football context, and I'll be sprinkling them into the blog throughout the preseason.

We'll start, fittingly, with Joyner's insight into how the Chicago Bears adjusted to the collapse of their pass protection last season -- a lesson they might have to utilize again in 2011. The Bears, of course, will play Monday night at the New York Giants, who ravaged them for nine sacks in the first half in the teams' Oct. 3 meeting last season.

Last season, the Bears responded by putting a dramatic and ultimately successful emphasis on the short passing game. According to Joyner, the Bears had the NFL's third-best production on throws that traveled 10 yards or fewer in the air. Quarterback Jay Cutler averaged 7.3 yards per attempt on such throws.

The Bears hope to be more explosive this season, because last year Cutler ranked No. 20 in yards per attempt on passes of 11 or more yards and No. 28 on passes of 20 or more yards. But if their pass protection doesn't allow it, the Bears at least know they can fall back on the short-range game they worked with tailback Matt Forte, receiver Devin Hester and others last season.

That dynamic has obvious fantasy implications, but I think it also foreshadows the Bears' likely alternative if they aren't able to stabilize their pass protection before the start of the season.