The Chicago Bears won 10 games in 2012, but they missed the playoffs and that led to the firing of long-time head coach Lovie Smith. In his place is Marc Trestman, who won two Grey Cups in the CFL as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes and had a history of success coaching quarterbacks in the NFL prior to that.
Trestman’s arrival is good news for quarterback Jay Cutler, and running back Matt Forte is in line for a big season as a runner and a receiver. But when it comes to determining who the most irreplaceable player on Chicago’s roster is for this season, I think another skill position player clearly fits the bill.
It was a happy reunion for Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall last season, and Marshall set new-career highs in receptions (118), receiving yards (1,508) and touchdowns (11) while being targeted 194 times (third-most among wide receivers). But Marshall was also the lone consistent option in the passing game for the Bears, as he accounted for over 40 percent of Chicago’s receptions and receiving yardage and no one other than Forte (44) had more than 30 catches.
The addition of tight end Martellus Bennett in free agency should help take some pressure off Marshall, and he his coming off the best season of his career in 2012 (55 receptions for 626 yards and five touchdowns with the New York Giants). Trestman’s presence may help foster a breakout for second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery this season, and if Earl Bennett can stay on the field he and Culter could build on the rapport that dates back to their days as college teammates.
But the Bears’ passing game will still run largely through Marshall this year, and his presence along with his high level of production will be a driving force for the entire offense. Not many wide receivers in the league have Marshall’s skill set, and the Bears don’t have anyone ready to replace him right now.