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Cutler faces another big test as Bears prepare for tough front 7 when they face Jets

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LAKE FOREST, Illinois — Jay Cutler figures he won't see a better front seven than he will when the Chicago Bears visit the New York Jets on Monday night.

He hopes he doesn't, anyway.

Cutler faces another challenge after passing a big test last week, when the Bears rallied for a surprising win at San Francisco.

He showed his poise in that game, helping Chicago rally from 17 down to beat the 49ers and avoid a 0-2 start.

Cutler was at his best down the stretch, finishing with four touchdown passes.

The defense came up big, too, and the Bears pulled out a win that few saw coming after they opened with a loss at home to Buffalo.

The Jets present another obstacle with the way they mix looks, go after the quarterback and stuff the run. They have six sacks, are allowing a league-low 52.5 yards rushing and have a front seven that could pose all sorts of problems for Chicago.

"I hope we don't see one better than them," Cutler said Friday. "With the big guys, the big guys in that kind of defense are usually run stoppers, two-gap guys. These guys get up the field, they can rush the passer, they can move.

"Linebackers, they do a great job of showing different looks, disguising stuff, coming from one side, giving you looks on the other side. So it's challenging; you can tell that some of these guys have been in this defense for a while."

As solid as the Jets are up front, the holes in the secondary are as glaring.

They released top cornerback Antonio Cromartie for salary cap reasons in March.

The Jets addressed their offense after an 8-8 season, adding running back Chris Johnson, receiver Eric Decker and quarterback Michael Vick.

Promising cornerback Dee Milliner was limited against Green Bay after missing the opener because of a high left ankle sprain.

The holes in the secondary along with the one-on-one opportunities receivers have when the Jets blitz could mean openings for Chicago's Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

That's assuming they're healthy and that Cutler can get the ball to them in time.

Marshall (ankle) and Jeffery (hamstring) played through injuries against San Francisco, although Marshall caught three touchdown passes. He sat out practices Thursday and Friday, while Jeffery was limited.

"Every receiver just has one guy," offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. "There's no help with a deep safety. And we've seen more in those two games on that tape in studying them, than we saw all last year. So it is a one-on-one battle. But you have to get it off fast enough before the quarterback gets hit. Because they blitz one more man than you can protect."

That could mean shorter and quicker passes. Timing with the receivers could be crucial along with the blocking.

The same goes for Cutler and the poise he shows.

He kept his cool last week, helping the Bears rally when they looked as if they were ready to be blown out. This time, his poise could be tested again. But there could also be some openings for him.

"They're very, very good at mixing it up and not tipping what they're going to do prior to the snap," coach Marc Trestman said. "There's always going to be big-play ability when you leave the middle of the field open. When people bring those kinds of blitzes they know that."

NOTES: Cutler praised Marshall on Friday, a day after his longtime friend and teammate decided to defend himself amid attempts to link his troubled past to the recent controversy about domestic violence in the NFL. "I couldn't be more proud of him as a person, as a player, and as a friend of mine," Cutler said. He called Marshall an "open book" about his past issues with domestic violence and his fight against borderline personality disorder. ... Devin Hester had former teammates in Chicago cheering after he set a league record with his 20th return for a touchdown. Hester ran back a punt for Atlanta in Thursday's romp over Tampa Bay to break the mark he shared with mentor Deion Sanders. In a nod to his friend in attendance, Hester high-stepped with his hand behind his ear as he approached the end zone. "Seeing him do that Deion dance at the end, it was amazing to see that happen for him," the Bears' Roberto Garza said.


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