Brandon Marshall has been, without question, the lone bright spot in the Bears’ passing game through the first eight games of the season. His production per game has been better any Bears’ receiver in the history of the franchise, and by the look of it, it is due to land him a spot in the Pro Bowl. Marshall has been better than advertised—on and off the field—and has truly reignited the flame set by he and Jay's stellar play in Denver.
Marshall has, time and time again, publicly stated how lucky he is to be on the Bears. He shows a real sense of gratitude, and appreciation for the fans, the city, and most all his teammates and coaches. He seems almost as much in disbelief as the fans are to have him here. A team always wants a player who embraces the franchise and the people that support it, and Marshall has done that tenfold.
"I've got Bear blood in me now," Marshall said on one occasion. The fans ate it up.
Marshall has steered clear of any trouble during his time in Chicago, and is dedicated to making a difference with his foundation, helping people with borderline personality disorder. Marshall has turned the general perception of him around and has genuinely become a more gracious, thoughtful player in the NFL.
By the numbers . . .
Remember this is through eight games. Bears fans might believe they have eye troubles, but no, this is a real Chicago Bears’ wide receiver stat line: 59 receptions on 90 targets, 797 yards, 13.3 average per catch, seven touchdowns, 41 first downs, a 39-yard reception, and leads all receivers with 2.94 per route run.
For a reference point, the Bears’ top receiver last year (Johnny Knox) through virtually an entire season had 727 yards and 37 receptions. Marshall has always been known for his massive production, especially with catches and yards, but this year he's on track to blow past his career highs. Marshall, through his last two seasons in Miami, had nine combined touchdowns and was not considered a real Red Zone threat. His seven touchdowns this year show he is, and how the Bears constantly go to him in first and goal situations.
His best season in terms of touchdowns was 2009 where he had 10 through 15 games. His best year with receptions and yards was 2007 were he had 102 receptions for 1,325 yards. He's on pace to basically shatter those career highs. Another career high he's on his way to breaking is number of targets. The Bears have had injury problems at wide receiver, and with a few pieces being substituted in and out, the one constant they’ve had at wide receiver has been Marshall.
And with that, Cutler looks to Brandon on almost every down. In Denver, he had two seasons of 170+ targets. This season, he has 90 at the halfway point and if things stay relatively the same he could potentially see 185+ targets.
Marshall is primed to take down all of Harlon Hill's single-season receiving records. Including yards per game, most 100+ yards games, and receiving touchdowns. In one season, he's already managed to become the Bears’ most productive receiver in history (in terms of on-pace projections).
Marshall vs. Texans
Wade Phillips knows the Bears are going to throw at Marshall, and throw at him a lot. The one loss the Bears have to the Green Bay Packers, Marshall had two catches for 24 yards. The Texans will look to shutdown Marshall and, in turn, shut down the Bears passing attack, making Cutler rely on other sources of production.
Marshall will go against 5'11, 189 pound Jonathon Joseph. Joseph has decent size, and plenty of speed with a good burst to the football. He has the technique and plays well with the ball in the air. Joseph has quick feet and can turn his hips on a dime to adjust to a pass. It will be a challenge, and the Texans who usually limit the help on Jospeh's side, will definitely bracket and double Marshall, knowing what they know.
Marshall has the much larger frame, and his speed can keep Joseph off balance; especially on the deep ball. It will be a battle of grit, and for the Bears to succeed, Marshall will have to get his numbers. Especially in this match up, he will have to create opportunities for others as a decoy. Look for the Bears to run Marshall down the field, to leave Bennett and Hester one-on-one on short, intermediate routes in the middle of the field.
Brandon Marshall still makes my jaw drop from week to week. There is a receiver out there in a Bears uniform producing at a Pro Bowl level. I honestly never thought I'd see the day.