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Cutler displays a poise beyond his years

DENVER -- From one snap to the next, baby-faced Jay Cutler can go from making a bonehead blunder befitting his youth to showing a poise way beyond his 24 years.

One moment, Denver's second-year signal-caller - and last of the "Big Three" quarterbacks drafted last year behind Vince Young and Matt Leinart - tosses a dangerous backward lob that rookie running back Selvin Young has to chase down and swipe out of bounds to save the day.

The next, he's calmly leading the Broncos down the field for the game-clinching field goal as time expires in Buffalo to win his first NFL season opener.

A week later, Cutler watches an interception returned for a touchdown and gets sacked for a safety as the Broncos blow a big second-half lead against Oakland. Then, he coolly leads Denver to another win at the wire.

"He has a lot of poise," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who handed Cutler the keys to his offense with five games to go last season. "Like most rookies, he's going to make some mistakes but he doesn't usually repeat the same mistake twice. He enjoys football. He loves his study and I think he has a great future."

And maybe a pretty good present, too.

Asked about the uncommon composure he shows at crunch time on the football field, Cutler displays that same mature-beyond-his-years poise on the podium, too.

"My supporting cast has a lot to do with it," Cutler said. "It helps when you have the big receivers outside, some good receivers running out of the slot and Daniel Graham playing better than ever. And Travis Henry Getting 120 or 150 yards a game. It makes things easy on me."

What Cutler wants to do now is turn that poise into more points.

The Broncos have piled up a league-leading 911 yards so far but they have just three touchdowns to show for it.


They're working in seven new offensive starters, have committed costly penalties, two of which negated TDs, guard Ben Hamilton has been out for six weeks with a concussion, tight end Tony Scheffler is still working his way back from a broken foot. The list is long.

And Cutler shares some of the blame, too, but he's also a major reason Denver is 2-0.

The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) believe they'll be able to rattle the "rookie," who has just seven NFL starts under his belt, when they visit Invesco Field on Sunday.

Linebacker Mike Peterson, for one, isn't that impressed by the former Vanderbilt star's fledgling NFL career.

"I'm not really worried about what they're saying," Peterson said. "He's got to show me for himself. He hasn't played us yet. What he's shown in the last two games and practice don't really matter against us."

Cornerback Rashean Mathis said Denver's system is a perfect fit for the strong-armed quarterback.

"He's definitely in the right system," Mathis said. "He can hurt you with his arm. He has good receivers to catch the ball. They always had a great running game. And he can hurt you with his legs when it's time for it."

Defensive end Bobby McCray said the key is to get to Cutler early so that his confidence doesn't grow.

"Once they get some momentum, they get a little swagger about themselves and they tend to take more (chances). When you got a quarterback that can do that he tends to be a little deadly," McCray said. "He might hit you deep or squeeze a nice little pass in there on you because he gets a little swagger about himself.

"You have to try to shut that down early. Hopefully we can get to him early, get in his face, at least get some hits on him."

Helping Cutler progress as a passer is a terrific trio of wide receivers in Javon Walker (17 catches for 220 yards), Brandon Marshall (10 catches for 134 yards) and Brandon Stokley (six catches for 108 yards).

It's not just their pass-catching skills that impress Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio.

"I like the way they block," he said. "They do a nice job being explosive in the passing game. They can catch and run. I think they're a fearless group."

All three display no qualms about laying the wood on somebody as downfield run-blockers - Marshall was a safety for one year in college - and all eagerly go over the middle to make tough catches.

"Well, if you're not willing to go over the middle, usually you're not a receiver in the National Football League very long. We sure don't want them on our team," Shanahan said. "So, you've got to have guys who are fearless and can concentrate on the ball."

And when games are on the line you've got to have a quarterback who's calm and collected like Cutler.

"I think you only get nervous if you're not too sure about your ability," Walker said. "And we all know he has a world of ability and he's confident in it."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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