Halfway through the year, Bears quarterback Kyle Orton was one of the pleasant surprises of the 2008 NFL season. At the time of the Bears' bye in Week 8, Orton had completed 143 of 230 passes for 1,669 yards, with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
But since that bye, Orton has completed 94 of 171 passes, for 917 yards, with five touchdowns and six interceptions. He's just not the same player.
So now the Bears need to figure out: Is Orton struggling because he's not fully recovered after he suffered an ankle injury in the Bears' first game after the bye week? Or is it just that the Orton we've seen in the last five games (looking a lot like the Orton we saw in 2005, the last time he was the Bears' starter) the real Kyle Orton?
My own feeling is that he's still hurt. The ankle injury he suffered in Week 9 looked nasty, and it was a surprise that he only missed one game. A lower-body injury can mess up a quarterback's mechanics, sometimes as much or more than an injury to his passing arm. I think Orton is struggling because he's playing through pain.
But the Bears know better than I do whether he's completely healed, and if he is, they have a difficult decision ahead of them: If Orton looks in his next two games like he has in the last few, the Bears may very well need to draft or sign a quarterback this off-season. Orton has two games to prove himself.
Bears Need to Know: Is Kyle Orton Still Hurt? Or Is He Just Not Very Good? originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Thu, 18 Dec 2008 12:44:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.