Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler has now completed the equivalent of one full season as an NFL starter, although it took him parts of two seasons to do it.
Cutler goes into Sunday's game in Oakland with 16 starts under his belt.
"I feel a lot more comfortable, and after the first five games this year, I felt so much more comfortable," Cutler said before Wednesday's practice. "Things come to you. You just are out there reacting and not just thinking as much and wonder where guys are going to be.
"When you get to play calling, you see the entire picture and know where everybody is going to be," Cutler said. "You know what your hot routes are, you have a better feel in the pocket, when to step up, when to get out."
The numbers show a steep learning curve. He averages 7.95 yards per pass attempt, fourth in the NFL.
Cutler has thrown for 3,385 yards and 22 touchdowns in his 16 starts. Those totals are the fourth-highest through the first 16 games among all players entering the NFL since 2000.
"He looks more and more confident," Oakland linebacker Kirk Morrison said. "You can start to see that in his passes and how comfortable is with their offense."
Cutler also credits a variety of experience he's gained since taking over for Jake Plummer with five games left in the 2006 season.
"To be able to go in there for five games, get a feel for everything and to go through the offseason, training camp as the starter, as the first team guy getting all the reps has made a huge difference," Cutler said. "It's made everything a lot easier."
SIZING UP THE SILVER AND BLACK: The Broncos see more than the 3-8 record of their longtime silver and black foe. And they won't be looking past Oakland, a team they have beaten five straight times.
"Their defense is still doing well against the pass, still doing well on third downs and still forcing turnovers," Cutler said. "They have a fast group with good corners, a strong linebacking crew and a good front four."
Denver needed some good fortune to beat Oakland 23-20 in overtime in Week 2. The Broncos got a chance to win only when a last-second time-out called by Mike Shanahan nullified a 52-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. Janikowski missed after the time-out.
"Take a look at a team that's fifth in the National Football League in rushing the football compared to, they were dead last, last year," Shanahan said. "What's hurt them is their turnover ratio (-8). Any time you make mistakes, you are going to lose some football games."
INJURY UPDATE: Wide receiver Javon Walker saw limited action against Chicago after sitting out eight games with a knee injury.
"He played the game last week, mostly on third downs," Shanahan said. "We ran him in for Brandon Stokley for a few plays."
Walker's playing time could be increased considerably with Stokley hurting.
"Stokley is a little banged up, so he (Walker) will get a few more reps in practice," Shanahan said.
Stokley has a knee injury and didn't participate in practice Wednesday.
An ankle injury forced running back Andre Hall out of practice. Travis Henry, who missed the last three games with a knee injury, was a full participant.
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