Brandon Marshall should still be a great player this season after offseason hip surgery, but perhaps his problematic hip will force the Chicago Bears to look at other receiving options while the four-time Pro Bowler recovers.
At least, that should be the focus of Jay Cutler and the Bears at the moment.
Even if Marshall was fully healthy, the Bears should be looking at ways to get others involved on offense. Last season, Marshall was targeted 194 times. That ranked second in the NFL along with the Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne. The rest of the Bears were targeted 291 times, by the way.
Granted, when you are a player like Marshall and you have the kind of chemistry you do with Cutler, you should receive a lot of targets. But 194 targets? That's too much.
Case in point: The Bears scored touchdowns in half of their red-zone opportunities in 2012. That ranked 24th in the NFL, per TeamRankings.com. It was obvious who Cutler was targeting most of the time. It's great targeting your No. 1 receiver in the red zone, but doing so too much can be counterproductive.
Now the Bears have an emerging young receiver in Alshon Jeffery and a big tight end in former New York Giant Martellus Bennett.
Jeffery posted 76 yards against the Detroit Lions in his last game of the season in 2012. According to Cutler, he has had "the best camp out of everybody on offense," per Michael C. Wright of ESPN Chicago. After Jeffery caught seven passes for 77 yards in the Bears' third preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote he "looks like a completely different player from a year ago."
Bennett had a breakout season in 2012. The 6'6", 265-pounder caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns with Eli Manning and Co.
That's not to mention Matt Forte, who has proven he is more than capable of catching passes out of the backfield. In his five years in the league, Forte has yet to catch fewer than 44 balls in any season. He was underutilized as a receiver last season, receiving a career-low 60 targets.
New head coach Marc Trestman is running a West Coast offense in Chicago now. Players like Bennett and Forte are good fits for such an offense. Not using them to a high degree would be defeating the purpose of a West Coast offense.
There has been a whole lot of drama surrounding Marshall's hip this offseason. He took a four-day leave from the Bears on Wednesday for "personal reasons," according to Trestman, per Biggs. Then he was reportedly "upset" that the Bears weren't taking his hip injury seriously enough, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Then Ian Rapoport of NFL.com noted those "personal reasons" simply equated to a "previously scheduled follow-up appointment after offseason hip surgery."
One ray of light can come out of all the madness in Chicago, however. If it forces Cutler to focus more on his other targets, it may actually be a blessing in disguise.
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