Throughout the offseason, fans in Chicago were highly anticipating the reunion of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
The two had success while playing together with the Denver Broncos from 2006-08. Both Cutler and Marshall made the Pro Bowl while with the Broncos in 2008, which was Cutler’s last year in the Mile High City before being traded to the Bears.
Marshall played one more season in Denver, and then joined the Miami Dolphins for two seasons. Marshall was then traded to Chicago this past offseason, rejoining his old teammate.
Since the start of the 2012 season, Marshall has clearly been Cutler’s favorite target in the Bears’ offense. Fifty-nine of Cutler’s 144 completions, this season have gone to Marshall, which is 41 percent. Leading up to Week 10, the player that is second on the team in catches is running back Matt Forte with 39 fewer catches than Marshall.
Wide receiver Earl Bennett is third in receptions with 16. Bennett has missed time due to injury.
On Thursday, the Houston Texans‘ defensive coordinator said he noticed that Cutler throws to just one person most of the time. Obviously, he’s talking about Marshall. This information will be very useful for Houston since they will square off against the Bears this Sunday night.
If Cutler doesn’t start spreading the ball more, teams will eventually catch on and start taking Marshall out of the game with double coverage. The plan worked for the Green Bay Packers, the only team to beat Chicago so far this season. The Packers doubled Marshall all game during their Week 2 matchup. Marshall finished with a season-low two catches for 24 yards.
Because of that double coverage, Cutler threw four interceptions, and was sacked seven times. Some of the sacks were due to Cutler hanging on to the ball too long looking for Marshall to get open.
It is possible for there to be more than one go-to guy in the passing game. Looking at Denver’s 2008 offensive numbers, Cutler connected with Marshall 104 times, and wide receiver Eddie Royal was a close second on the team with 91 receptions.
The Bears definitely won’t have two receivers with that many catches due to them having a much more balanced attack on offense than the 2008 Broncos did. However, at least attempting to look at another receiver more often will keep some attention away from Marshall.
In order for the Bears’ offense to come close to matching the level of their defense, Cutler will have to start getting other receivers and tight ends more involved in the passing game. The predictability of targeting Marshall nearly half the time will eventually be the demise of a team that has the potential to make a legitimate run for the Super Bowl.
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