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Top receiver Devin Hester struggled adjusting to a bigger role on offense last year and saw his production fall after two record-setting seasons as a return specialist. Cutler's college teammate Earl Bennett is now the No. 2 receiver even though he didn't catch a pass last season after the Bears drafted him in the third round out of Vanderbilt.
So it's not hard to see why, in the face of all this optimism, Cutler was asking for patience.
"Any time a quarterback comes into a situation like this -- new offense, new receivers, new coaches -- it's going to take time," he said.
Yet there's little to spare.
Particularly for a defense that's trying to keep its window as a contender propped open. As Harris put it, "I feel like we don't have that much time. This is our time to really do it."
Even with the arrival of Cutler, the defense has to bear more of a resemblance to the dominant unit that led the way to the playoffs in 2005 and the Super Bowl the following year. Since then, it's been wrecked by injuries and general poor play, and coach Lovie Smith decided to give his staff a makeover in the offseason. He took the play-calling duties from Bob Babich and brought in Rod Marinelli as defensive line coach and Jon Hoke to coach defensive backs, hoping to boost a defense that ranked 21st overall and 30th against the pass.
One good sign for Chicago is that Urlacher appears to be in better shape than he was a year ago, when he spent that offseason rehabilitating a neck injury. The Bears continued to limit Harris' participation because of the knee and hamstring problems that have haunted him the past three years, and Tillman sat out training camp and the four preseason games while recuperating from back surgery.
"On paper we like what we have at each position," Smith said.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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