Jay Cutler woke up in the Miami Dolphins team hotel Tuesday morning and initially didn’t know where he was. Luckily for the Dolphins, once their quarterback got his bearings he felt no misgivings about postponing a broadcasting career and agreeing to play again.
Because hours later when Cutler went out for his first practice he performed like the best quarterback on the field.
He looked the part of an elite thrower.
He clearly showed a command over an Adam Gase offense that he has already had two years of experience running.
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“It’s kind of a crash course if you already took the course before,” Cutler said after practice. “Some of the running game stuff has changed. The passing game is kind of relatively the same. Protections have changed a little bit ... It’ll come back real quick.
“Going into work and getting here and going through the motions of the practice, it felt good. I told Adam thanks for bringing me in. It’s fun to be back out.”
On Monday night, Cutler and Gase went over the entire offense. In working on the passing-game calls, Gase found himself flipping past page after page of work because Cutler already knew the calls. On run-game and line protection calls, the two had to do a little bit more work because Gase has changed the terminology since the two were together with the Chicago Bears in 2015.
But by the time the meeting was over, Gase was satisfied the new guy knew the offense.
“It’s his third year in this offense,” Gase said. “They kept pretty much the same system last year in Chicago, so he knows it.”
We don’t know Jay Cutler.
Dolphins fans have been busy keeping up with the 17 different quarterbacks who have started games since Dan Marino retired, so excuse them if they weren’t monitoring every Cutler update out of Denver and then Chicago.
But allow me to give you a partial synopsis: Cutler has great physical ability. He can make every throw. He has great pocket presence. He’s everything you want in a quarterback from the neck down.
That was obvious this practice. He threw a 40-yard touchdown to Jakeem Grant down the right sideline. The pass caught up to perhaps the team’s fastest receiver and he never had to break stride. Cutler also threw a line drive to tight end Julius Thomas down the seam of the field for a touchdown.
Some passes had such impressive velocity they might as well have had vapor trails behind them.
And, please remember, this was Cutler’s first NFL practice since last November when he injured the labrum in his throwing shoulder — an injury he was cleared from in March.
“It’s good,” Cutler said of his arm. “I think a couple more days out here and I’ll be back and be 100 [percent].”
Now this is about the time where you’re asking questions: If Cutler can look so good in his first NFL practice in nine months why has he put up such ordinary statistics throughout an 11-year career?
Gase doesn’t care what Cutler was when he was outside the coach’s reach. So let’s concentrate on that 21-touchdown and 11-interception season Cutler had under Gase in 2015.
Tape of that season shows Cutler had no less than seven touchdown passes that simply never happened because his receivers either fell down or allowed themselves to be tackled inside the 2-yard line after catching a Cutler pass. Another couple of potential touchdowns never happened because of end zone drops. So Cutler might have had a 29- to 30-touchdown season.
But he also might have thrown more interceptions. There were at least four passes Cutler threw directly to defenders that would have been interceptions had they simply held on.
So do the math: Thirty touchdowns and 15 or so interceptions is what Cutler might have been for the Bears under Gase. The Dolphins would happily take that this year. There would be a celebration.
But first Cutler has to get past his first practice jitters and knock off some rust.
“You kind of want to catch up pretty quickly but you know these guys are a few weeks ahead of you,” Cutler said. “I just have to put in a little bit of extra work. We’ll get caught up pretty quick.”
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero