Can Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall Become the NFL's Best QB-WR Duo Again?
The year was 2008. The team was the Denver Broncos.
Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall were hooking up every Sunday in what became an aerial show to watch in the Mile High City. Now, after four long years apart, Cutler and Marshall are once again teammates in the Windy City. The question is, can they recapture the magic that once made them the best QB-WR duo in the NFL?
When you look at the numbers, there is no denying the impact. Cutler targeted Marshall 179 times, which was 33 more times than any other QB-WR duo in the NFL that season.
However, it isn't like Brandon Marshall is a scrub unless Jay Cutler is under center. The fact of the matter is that Marshall has had five consecutive 1,000 receiving yard seasons with pedestrian QB play in Miami, which has to be encouraging for Bears fan.
Jay Cutler is in fact the best QB Marshall has played with, since, well Jay Cutler. The Bears, who were run heavy last season, with running back Matt Forte accounting for 40 percent of the team's offensive yardage, will look to have more of a passing attack this year under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice.
The key this season for the Bears passing attack is going to be for receivers other than Marshall to at least be a threat. They don't have to necessarily be Pro Bowlers but if they can be viewed as threats, then it'll allow Brandon Marshall to have single-coverage, in which he'll win the match-up 90 percent of the time.
That means Earl Bennett is going to have to step up and most importantly, stay healthy since he missed most of last season. Devin Hester is going to have to learn how to break from coverage, and quick, because he's been a mediocre receiver at best. Rookie Alshon Jeffrey is going to have to grasp the playbook and the system quick, so he can find his way onto the field. Having multiple threats at receiver not only gives Jay Cutler more options, but also stops the defense from putting double coverage on Marshall.
Who is going to be the NFL's best QB-WR duo next season?
Another way that Cutler and Marshall can become the best QB-WR receiver combo is if Jay Cutler can stay healthy, which means the offensive line can't allow Cutler to become the most sacked quarterback in the NFL two years in a row. The Bears seem to think their offense line is fine, but one major hit to Cutler can end their season, as they saw last year.
Gabe Carimi needs to solidify the right tackle spot, and live up to being the first rounder that he was. Roberto Garza has been a staple at center and needs to continue his play. Chris Williams needs to establish himself as the left tackle, and Lance Louis and Chilo Rachal need to be primed to step up in the guard spots.
Not only would a solid offensive line keep Cutler healthy and on the field, but it would also allow the run game to flourish, opening up the play-action passes (which were seldom used under Martz) and create more room for Cutler-to-Marshall connections.
It's interesting to see that what it all boils down to for the Bears is the play of everyone outside of Cutler and Marshall for the two to become the deadly duo they once were. If, and it's a big if, the receivers become a threat and the offensive line holds it's own, then we'll be seeing a lot of Cutler to Marshall hookups. It's going to be a fun season in Chi City.
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