Bears: Jay Cutler's time in the pocket

ESPN analyst Herm Edwards raised an important and relevant point in this discussion about how the Chicago Bears hope to elevate quarterback Jay Cutler this season.

"Sometimes he hangs on to the big play too much," Edwards said. "[He] wants to make the extraordinary play rather than moving the chains. …. You don't always have to hit the home run in the passing game."

Let's add some context to Edwards' analysis. Cutler averaged the second-highest total of air yards per attempt in the NFL last season according to ESPN Stats & Information. His average pass traveled 10.03 yards past the line of scrimmage. As a result, Cutler spent an average of 2.74 seconds in the pocket per pass, longer than 24 other quarterbacks who made at least two starts. The connection of those two statistics stands to reason: It takes longer for a deeper throw opportunity to develop.

By comparison, consider that the New England Patriots' Tom Brady (2.46) and the Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning (2.49) -- two quarterbacks who routinely avoid sacks via quick releases -- ranked No. 2 and No. 5, respectively, in that category last season.

Obviously, pocket timing is somewhat subjective in terms of the raw numbers. But as long as the same procedures are used for each quarterback, the rankings tell us everything we need to know.

These figures help explain one of the big changes coach Marc Trestman has already communicated during offseason workouts. As Cutler said last month: "We don't want to hold the ball. We don't want to sit in the pocket for long periods of time. Obviously there are going to be plays where we're going to have to sit in there and deliver it. But for the most part, we want it gone."

If the approach works, Cutler will reduce his time in the pocket, and probably his average air yards per attempt as well. Those two statistics seem to me a reasonable measure of the Bears' progress this season.