Jay Cutler had an outstanding performance at the Senior Bowl practice week, drastically improving his draft value. Cutler heard his name called with the 11th pick of the draft, going to the Denver Broncos. He has been named the quarterback of the future for the Broncos. However, the future may be now. Is it possible Cutler could find himself leading the Broncos to a playoff run? Spending a first round pick on a QB could mean the Broncos are worried about Jake Plummer. While he did play splendidly to finish the regular season, his playoff performance left some to be desired. If Cutler was thrown into the starting gig, would he be capable of getting wins? That is the real question.
Cutler made sure he was able to get to camp on time signing a six year contract, with $11 million in bonuses and a possible value of $48 million. Signing a contract early is something Phillip Rivers failed to do, and he may still be regretting that decision, having to keep the bench warm for two years. Cutler has also been performing well in practice and the preseason. Getting a lot of snaps towards the end of the first preseason game, Cutler was 16 of 22 for 192 yards and 1 TD. While it was not with the 1st team, it was still an impressive performance. Coach Mike Shanahan recognized Cutler’s performance by promoting him to the 2nd team. That is a big step for the rookie QB.
It is hard to tell if Cutler would have the leadership and skills to take the Broncos into the playoffs. Considering he was playing with the lowly Vanderbilt Commodores, Cutler never truly got to play in a big time game. He failed to receive legitimate pass protection in his four years, and one would have to think his numbers suffered because of it. Even with all of this, Cutler was a three year captain, still bringing his effort week in and week out. Once Cutler got a chance to play against the best seniors in college football, he showed his stuff in the week leading up to the Senior Bowl. He had great practices and draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. said Cutler might have been the best quarterback in the draft. Whatever he saw quickly vanished after game day. Cutler was a disappointing 6 of 19 with 1 TD and 1 INT.
Considering how big the leap is from college to the pros with the speed of the game, it is tough to expect Cutler to be successful in his rookie year. Cutler was impressive with his 4.81 40 yard dash, and at his private workouts he hit nearly every pass with great precision. He is used to dealing with a poor offensive line so the blitzes may not scare him as much as they might for other rookie quarterbacks. It should be interesting to see Cutler’s progression through the rest of training camp and the preseason. Denver is known for having a solid offensive line and the addition of Javon Walker is huge for the receiving corps. Shanahan may be put in a tough spot if Plummer gets off to a rocky start a turns the ball over a lot. Cutler seems to fit the Denver offense well since his speed should allow him to roll out similar to the way Plummer does on the play action. At least he has that going for him.
It would be strange to see the Broncos organization use a first round pick on a QB if they were not worried about Plummer and that they may need a replacement. The Broncos could have tried to draft a WR to help Walker and the aging Rod Smith since Ashley Lelie is causing trouble and asking out of Denver. Maybe the Broncos could have even spent the pick on bulking up the defense that is also aging pretty quickly. The bottom line is Plummer is a capable quarterback that led the Broncos to the playoffs last year. But, if he has trouble in the first month of the season, Cutler may be asked to fill the void. While he was a first rounder Denver fans still may find themselves frustrated with the play of Cutler and the overall result which may be missing the playoffs. That would be a shame for a team with so much talent.