The Bears opened free agency this year with a big trade for Brandon Marshall, giving quarterback Jay Cutler his best wide receiver since coming to Chicago in 2009. In 2008, both Cutler and Marshall made their first Pro Bowls as teammates in Denver. But since coming to Chicago, Cutler has missed it every year. Marshall is coming off his third Pro Bowl season in 2011 despite a revolving door at quarterback in Miami. This year both have a great chance to return to the Pro Bowl. Here's why.
Cutler (orange) and Marshall (Black) reunited at Chicago Mini Camp
Since Jay Cutler came to Chicago in 2009, he has been like a Cowboy without bullets. In Denver the previous season, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal combined for 195 receptions and more than 2,200 yards. Over the last three seasons, Chicago's top Receivers have been Devin Hester (2009) 57-757, and Johnny Knox (2010) 51-960 and (2011) 37-727.
This season, Cutler will have Marshall, Hester, rookie Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett as his primary targets. These starting four are the best that Cutler and the Chicago Bears have had in a long time.
Jay Cutler Was Constantly Pounded Last Season
Is there anyone in Chicago who was happier than Jay Cutler to see offensive coordinator Mike Martz fired at the end of last season? Probably not.
With the frequent seven step drops, questionable offensive line and lack of ability to audible, Cutler spent much of the last two seasons running for his life. He's been sacked 75 times in his last 25 starts, and was constantly being pressured and knocked around.
Under Mike Tice, Cutler will be given more freedom to move around. There will be designed roll-outs to move the pocket and give him more time to throw the ball. There will be designed plays to get the ball out of his hand quicker. And most importantly for Cutler, he will have the ability to audible out of a bad match-up if he recognizes it at the line. Imagine how much better Cutler could have done in the Monday night game against Detroit if the offense had been flexible enough to adjust to the relentless pass rush of the Lions.
Brandon Marshall was the Pro Bowl MVP of 2011
The last time Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler were on the same team, Marshall made the pro bowl. But unlike Cutler, Marshall has been back two more times since then, including last season. Last year, he was the Pro Bowl MVP, and set a record with six receptions for 176 yards and four touchdowns. The fact that he made the Pro Bowl with Matt Moore, Chad Henne and J.P. Losman throwing to him is even more impressive.
In Chicago, with Jay Cutler under center, it is easy to see why Marshall has a great chance to return to the Pro Bowl this season as well.
Brandon Marshall has five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He's done this with multiple quarterbacks in Denver and Miami. He's done this with solid receivers around him and in situations where he was the only obvious passing option.
Chicago hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Marty Booker back in 2002. Earl Bennett and Devin Hester will frequently line up opposite Marshall this season, and neither of them have had more than 760 yards in a season. Rookie Alshon Jeffery has a lot of potential, but he's been slowed by injuries and may not even be a starter when the season begins. Marshall is the best receiving option in an offense that will need to pass a lot more this season in order to win.
Expect Marshall's streak of 1,000-yard seasons to continue and to see him at the Pro Bowl in NFC Blue for the first time in his career.
In 2008, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall both made the pro bowl. Cutler had a career best 4,526 yards passing, while Marshall had a career high 104 receptions and posted an impressive 1,265 receiving yards. Their chemistry is very apparent and Cutler was excited about the prospect of being back with Marshall, even before the trade was announced.
The expectations are high for both of these guys in Chicago this season. But both have proven that they can some impressive things. Bear fans can't wait to see these two in action. A return to the pro bowl for both of them is definitely within their grasp.