Did Jay Cutler help in the development of the Bronco pass catchers or did the Bronco receivers help in Cutler’s development? Jerry Angelo has been very adamant about it being the quarterback that make others better around him. If he’s correct then we could expect career years from the Chicago Bear wide out holdovers.
Last year Denver rookie Eddie Royal arguably was the top rookie receiver in the NFL. He was the 11th pick in the 2nd round, and the 5th WR off the board. Were the NFL experts expecting 91 receptions and nearly a thousand yards from the 5'10" 182 pounder from Virginia Tech? Royal started all 15 games he appeared in. I'm sure starting opposite Brandon Marshall really helped his game, but I'm sure having Jay Cutler slinging it around was a big help too.
Speaking of Brandon Marshall, in 2006 (both his and Cutlers rookie campaign), Marshall started showing the playmaking capabilities that would allow Denver to install him as the #1 receiver moving forward. He played in 15 games that year, but he didn't really start to produce until Cutler took the reigns... coincidence? Jay Cutler started the last 5 games of that '06 season and Marshall grabbed 14 balls for 233 yards with a TD during that time. In the previous 10 games he had only 6 catches for 76 yards and 1 TD. Brandon Marshall was a 4th round draft pick in '06, the 14th WR selected. Did Denver think he'd blossom into a 100 catch receiver his 2nd year? A Pro Bowler by his 3rd? I'm sure they hoped for the best, but honestly speaking, they'd say he exceeded their expectations.
Tight end Tony Scheffler was also in the '06 rookie class, and he also produced more numbers after Cutler took over. In 8 games before Cutler he caught 6 balls for 67 yards with no TD’s, in the 5 games he played with Cutler his numbers increased to 12 receptions, 219 yards, and 4 TD’s.
There were some other circumstances that led to Jay Cutler emerging as a franchise QB, the passing friendly offense the Broncos ran, the drafting of a premier pass blocking left tackle in Ryan Clady ('08 ), but Jay Cutler is a talented QB with all the tools you look for in a QB.
Next year I'd look for Cutlers passing yards to decrease, as the Bears still are committed to "get off the bus running", but the Bears passing game will improve. I'd be completely content if the Bears decided to not go after any scrap heap wide-outs. Moving forward with the guys they have now is fine by me. I agree with Angelo that the upgrade at QB will make the offense that much better. While there are some instances where a top flight WR can help out a QB, the QB still has to be able to get the ball to the playmakers.
You can easily pencil in 100 catches from the TE position (Greg Olsen will have a career year). Devin Hester will take another step forward as a receiver, and with a more accurate passer putting him in more opportunities for yards after the catch, I could see him approaching 1000 yards. Matt Forte may not approach the 63 balls he caught last year, but he'll be close to 50. Either Earl Bennett or Juaquin Iglesias (maybe both) will become a favorite target of Cutler.
So who made who? Honestly I think it’s a little bit of both, but I will say you can’t make chicken soup out of chicken crap, so hopefully the talent is there among the Bear receivers and Jay Cutler will assist in bringing it out.