Fox very familiar with Osweiler
For four seasons former Broncos head coach John Fox helped lead the Denver Broncos to four straight AFC West titles and a Super Bowl appearance before parting ways with the Broncos on Jan. 12, 2015.
Now the head coach of the Chicago Bears, Fox will reunite with his former team this Sunday when Chicago welcomes Denver to Soldier Field.
With Fox just months removed from Denver and it's personnel, it's fair to assume that he has more of an advantage than other teams the Broncos have played this season. Even with Peyton Manning sitting out this Sunday's game, any other team would be struggling to find game footage of backup quarterback Brock Osweiler – but Fox was there when the Broncos drafted him in 2012.
"I think we're very familiar with him spending the last few years with him," Fox said of Osweiler. "I think that he's a smart guy. He's not afraid to work. I think from a preparation standpoint, he's learned from probably one of the better guys to play the game at the position. I'm sure he'll be very well prepared, and hopefully we will be too."
Though the Broncos' scheme has changed under Head Coach Gary Kubiak since Fox's time in Denver, and he doesn't expect to see much different from what the Broncos have done all season and what offenses under Kubiak have looked like in previous years.
"While I'm sure we'll see more quarterback under center, it's the same offense Gary has run for a long time," Fox said. "I think we're pretty much prepared for it to be more under center, a little bit more on a play-action as far from under center, but I don't think they're going to change much—maybe a few more boots and a few more play-actions, but probably more of the bootlegs."
Gase helping Cutler study defense
When preparing for the Broncos, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has the luxury of former Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase's knowledge at his disposal. Gase led the Broncos' offense from 2013-14 after starting off as the wide receivers coach in 2009 before moving to quarterbacks coach in 2011.
Cutler can use all the help he can get considering he's going against one of the NFL's top defenses. The Broncos rank first in net yards allowed per game (277.3), yards allowed per play (4.3) and net passing yards allowed per game (182.8).
"He was there for a long time. He knows these guys," Cutler said of Gase's familiarity with the defense. "That being said, it's a talented, talented group. There aren't a lot of weaknesses on that defense. You look at the pass rushers, the inside guys and look at the back end, if you put the ball in the wrong spot, it could be a pick-six."
Gusty winds forced the Broncos indoors for Wednesday practice at the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse at the UCHealth Training Center.
The Bears' offense has seen an uptick as of late as the team rides a two-game winning streak. Statistically, the Bears rank in the middle of the pack when it comes to offense. In net yards per game, the team is tied for 16th with an average of 352.7. The Bears' 14th-ranked rushing offense will have its hands full with Denver's seventh-ranked rush defense.
Cutler compared the Broncos defense to the Bears' last opponents, the St. Louis Rams, who were thwarted by the Bears' ability to break through for big plays and evade blitzes.
"It's a super talented group," Cutler said of the defense. "A lot like the team that we played last week in the Rams. They're highly ranked in all of the categories. They can get home with four [rushers]. I know they like to bring five. [They have] a talented back end and the linebackers can run. You have your hands full in about every category."
'No added value' for Cutler in facing former team
It's not just the Bears' coaches that have a history linked to the Broncos, and that starts with Cutler.
Drafted by the Broncos 11th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, he was traded to Chicago after the 2008 season and has been with the Bears ever since.
"It does go by fast," Cutler said. "There are times, like you said, you look back and you wonder where it all went because it seems like years four through nine really flew by. It seems like those first couple of years last forever then you blink and all the sudden you're in the back end of your career. It's been fun, obviously. There have been ups and downs, but I've enjoyed the ride."
A look at the last time the Broncos played the Bears, on December 11, 2011 in Denver.
The last time these two teams faced off, Caleb Hanie started at quarterback with Cutler sidelined with a broken thumb on his right hand. So Sunday's game will be the first time Cutler has faced his former team in a regular-season game.
"All that stuff is in the past," Cutler said of his history with the Broncos. "I think that everyone has moved on. A lot of the people aren't even there that I was there with. I've been in Chicago for a long time. I'm looking forward to the game, but there's no added value for me."
However, Cutler's experience as a rookie stepping into a starting role for Jake Plummer offers a look into what Osweiler might be going through as he makes his first start with Peyton Manning recovering from multiple injuries.
"I remember that our defense was playing really well, much like the current defense is," Cutler said. "Jake was great when we made the switch. He helped me out as much as possible and I'm sure that Peyton is doing the same for Brock. Replacing a guy like Peyton Manning isn't an easy job for anybody. I'm sure that Brock is up to the challenge."