Mailbag: Is 2012 draft class a bust?

Here is this week's installment of the Bears mailbag:

1. Jeff, are you worried the Bears' 2012 draft class is a bust? I don't like what I'm seeing. I know it's early, but is there a reason to be concerned? -- Dwight, Blue Island, Ill.

Dickerson: Let's start with the positives: 2012 second-round pick Alshon Jeffery is a quality No. 2 wide receiver who caught five balls for 107 yards and a touchdown last week against the Lions. Sixth-round selection Isaiah Frey not only earned a spot on the 53-man roster, but is currently the starting nickel back with 20 overall tackles. Unfortunately, the rest of the draft class has been underwhelming, Third-rounder Brandon Hardin is on injured reserve for the second straight year, which is a fortunate break for Hardin considering he struggled throughout the preseason. They likely would have cut him if he had been healthy. Fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez got released because he couldn't stay out of trouble and seventh-rounder Greg McCoy never made the team. The key for this group will be the development of first-round choice Shea McClellin. If McClellin eventually turns into a really good player, the class will be viewed in a positive light. Give it a little more time. But right now, I think it's fair to say that this year's current rookie class is superior to the 2012 crop.

2. I heard you on the radio say the Saints are a different team outside the dome. Are you serious? -- Matthew, New Orleans

Dickerson: That's exactly what I said. Players are able to make different cuts inside on artificial surfaces than outside at Soldier Field. Darren Sproles is shifty with the ball in his hands, but he's even more dangerous on turf. Most teams are a product of their environment. The Saints play eight home games indoors, practice indoors and travel to the Georgia Dome every season to face the Atlanta Falcons. Common sense dictates that New Orleans is tougher when playing in a dome. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is also known as a better player inside the Metrodome, although he did smoke the Bears at Soldier Field in 2007 for over 200 yards rushing. That's just reality. I feel the Saints will win on Sunday, but it won't be easy, and some of that is due to the fact the game is scheduled to be played in Chicago, and not the Superdome in New Orleans.

3. Why didn't the Bears cut Adam Podlesh on Monday? He was terrible against the Lions. You are the ultimate special teams' apologist, and I look forward to you defending this lousy punter. -- Mike, Park Ridge, Ill.

Dickerson: There's nothing to defend, really. Podlesh had a rough afternoon in Detroit. If he punts like that again on Sunday against the Saints, the Bears could have a new punter on the roster in Week 6. But keep in mind that Podlesh is a vested veteran entitled to termination pay if the Bears release him, and we all know the team does not have an abundance of salary cap space. Perhaps the Bears believe it would be too costly to cut Podlesh, but the bottom line is he needs to punt better. Now, as to your second point, if trying to be balanced when discussing a player makes me an apologist, then so be it. Podlesh has been effective for the majority of his two-plus seasons in Chicago. He set the franchise single-season record in net punting average (40.4) in 2011. Who holds the second-best net average mark in Bears' history? Podlesh, with a 39.4 net average in 2012. Podlesh also dropped 34 punts inside the 20-yard line last season. He had a solid four-year career in Jacksonville and signed a lucrative deal for a punter in free agency. It hasn't been all bad. Podlesh owned up to the fact he kicked poorly in Week 4 when he met with the media on Wednesday. If this continues, the Bears might be inclined to make a move. But I can understand why the organization wants to make it work with Podlesh. He deserves another shot, and he's getting it. Where the story goes from here is entirely up to Podlesh.

4. Brandon Marshall spoke in the offseason that he felt the Bears needed more weapons on offense, and that he attributed his hip injury last year to overuse. How is Marshall feeling and is he happy in the offense? -- Christina, Indianapolis

Dickerson: Marshall is dealing with a minor foot injury that has caused him to miss a couple days of practice this week, but the issue is not believed to be serious. Despite the Bears surrounding Marshall with better talent on offense, he still leads the team with 27 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns. On the surface, it seems Marshall should be happy; he's remained the No. 1 option in the passing game, but is also now surrounded by a better supporting cast. But I prefer not to speculate on Marshall's emotions. I do know for a fact that he wants the football, all the time. Regardless of what he said publicly in the offseason, Marshall does not want to be targeted less. He wants to be the focal point of the offense every single week. Through four games, he's on pace to catch 108 passes for 1,392 yards. Almost every wide receiver on the planet would be thrilled with the prospect of putting up those numbers. However, Marshall is a different breed. Maybe he still wants more.

5. Do you think Jay Cutler will be able to stay healthy all season? -- Cain, Green Lake, Wis.

Dickerson: Cutler hasn't played a full 16-game schedule since 2009. He's missed eight games, and half of the 2010 NFC Championship Game, in the last three seasons due to a variety of ailments. But much of that was due to all the hits Cutler took behind a subpar offensive line. He was sacked a combined 118 times from 2010-12. The Bears made several upgrades on the offensive line in the offseason, and the results speak for themselves. Cutler has been knocked down far less in the first four weeks, and that definitely improves his prospects of starting all 16 games. I think there is a good chance he stays healthy all year, or as healthy as any quarterback can stay in the NFL during a grueling 16-game regular season schedule.