That picture on the right there really gets me excited. In case you've had your head buried in Mockingjay, the third installment of the Hunger Games series (Which has nothing to do with the Media's unfair treatment of Jay Cutler by the way), and you don't know who's donning #15 for the Bears, that's Brandon Marshall. An actual, legitimate, number one wide receiver, and he's stretching out his entire 6'4" frame to get his hand on the football.
Bears fans have been clamoring for a real deal #1 WR since before Windy City Gridiron even existed. And I don't think it's a reach to say that Marshall is the most talented receiver the Bears have ever had. Since the Bears haven't had a threat like this in many of our lifetimes, I thought it a good idea to point out some of the benefits of a top flight wide out.
Marshall has the size to go up and get the football. Besides being tall, he carries 230 chiseled pounds on his frame. If there's a jump ball situation between he and a defensive back, put your money on Marshall. He isn't some lanky guy that will get bumped off the ball when he leaps. If his mass meets the mass of any corner back playing in the NFL today, Marshall will be the one doing the bumping.
If a defensive back tries to play over the top of Marshall, taking away the deep ball, then Bears fans may finally see the popular 'back shoulder throw' come into play. We've heard this rare pass described numerous times through the years, but have we ever seen it demonstrated by a Bears QB to a Bears WR? Marshall has the size, and skills, to shield a defender off from coming back and disrupting the throw. The back shoulder throw usually isn't a called play, it's a sight read that the QB and WR recognize. And with the familiarity that exists between Marshall and Jay Cutler we should see it quite often in 2012.
But what if the defense is bracketing Marshall with a DB over the top and one underneath? Then that just means the defense is weak in coverage elsewhere. Imagine a nickle back having to stay one on one with Devin Hester on a long crossing route. Or a corner being left on an island with 6'3" rookie Alshon Jeffery. Or a defense having rolled coverage to Marshall's side, being vulnerable to Matt Forte in the flat. And I didn't even mention the crisp route running and solid hands of Chicago's other projected starting wide out, Earl Bennett.
The Bears finally have a wide out that could demand a double team. If a defense is playing single high safety, but having the safety cheat to Marshall, it opens up opportunities for everyone else.
In offensive coordinator Mike Tice's passing game the Bears want to get the ball out quicker than under the Mike Martz offense, so look for more slant routes. Remember those interceptions that Jay threw because his WR wasn't fighting for inside position on the slants? The 6'4" 230 pound presence that I described above is very good at doing that. In fact there isn't much Marshall can't do.
He's a fluid route runner that can run the entire route tree. He's big enough, strong enough, and fast enough to get wherever he wants to get on the football field. He plays with a high awareness on the field, and that will benefit his QB. And he's been working real hard on cutting down his drops, which is the one ting critics can point to.
Eighty catches and a thousand yards is a given, but what kinds of numbers are you expecting out of Marshall this year?