Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall has long been considered one of the very best pass-catchers in the NFL. He has been able to maintain consistent success throughout his career despite being a focus of opposing defensive coordinators.
While Marshall is best known for his ability to catch the football, he is also one of the best run-blockers at his position.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Marshall ranks first overall among qualifying wide receivers in blocking, receiving a total score of 5.9. Not only is Marshall's grade significantly above average (0.0), but it is also noticeably higher than second-ranked wide receiver Michael Floyd, who has received an overall blocking grade of 4.0 through Week 5.
Unfortunately, there are few statistics to measure wide receiver blocking outside of the Pro Football Focus grading system. As a result, the best way to prove a wide receiver is a standout blocker is through film analysis.
This first example took place during the Bears' Week 3 matchup against the New York Jets. On this particular offensive play, the Bears are going to run a jet sweep with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Marshall is lined up against Jets linebacker Calvin Pace on the left side of the formation.
The key here is Marshall's body position. He shifts his body so that he is facing Pace with his back to the hole Jeffery is intending to run through. This positioning allows Marshall to direct Pace away from the play while avoiding any possibility of receiving a holding penalty.
He sustains the block with perfect form, and Jeffery is able to run through the hole for a positive gain.
This next play occurred during the Bears' Week 2 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Running back Matt Forte is going to receive a toss from quarterback Jay Cutler and attempt to go around the right side. However, 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks sees the play developing and has a direct path to Forte before he even receives the toss.
Just before Brooks shoots the gap, Marshall steps in. He redirects the 49er linebacker's route to the ball, allowing Forte to receive the toss and begin his rush attempt.
Had Marshall missed the block, this play likely would have resulted in a significant loss of yardage or worse.
This final play occurred during the Bears' Week 4 matchup against the Green Bay Packers. It is a very simple example of Marshall sustaining a block with perfect body position on the opposing defensive back, allowing Forte to run through a gaping hole.
Unfortunately, Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk (No. 50) is going to make the tackle before Forte can explode into Green Bay's secondary.
The ability to block as an elite pass-catching wide receiver has become somewhat of a lost art. No. 1 wide receivers are most frequently judged by their speed, athleticism and ability to create separation, run efficient routes and catch the football. Assuming a given player can do these things well, being able to block becomes more of a plus than an actual requirement.
Even if Marshall's blocking ability is considered to be just a bonus, it undoubtedly is a luxury that head coach Marc Trestman and the Bears are more than happy to have.