General manager Phil Emery has turned things around offensively for the Bears since his arrival in 2012, specifically the receiving core.
Through 12 games, Chicago’s receivers as a whole rank ninth in the league in total yards (3,369), eighth in yards per game (280.8) and eighth in total receptions (287).
Led by starting wide receivers, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, they’ve quickly taken the reigns as the best receiving tandem in the NFL combining for 148 receptions, 2099 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Marshall, 6-foot-4 was acquired from Miami in March 2012, prior to the selection of Jeffery, 6-3 in the second round of the draft.
Last year, Marshall became the first Bears receiver to top 1,000 yards in a season since Marty Booker did it in 2002.
Jeffery has quietly become one of the best No. 2 options in the league. He struggled to stay healthy in his rookie campaign, but flashed plenty of potential with 367 yards and three touchdowns in six starts.
His success in this offense has been much different this season. A lot of the credit goes to his health and workout ethic and Marc Trestman’s effective passing scheme. Opposing defenses keying in on Marshall certainly helps as well.
Jeffery currently leads the team in receiving yards (1,109), while Marshall leads in receiving touchdowns (9) and receptions (78).
Marshall has 990 receiving yards to his name, but lately he has been overshadowed by the impressive play of Jeffery.
Jeffery became the first player in franchise history to record two 200-yard games in the same season (Week 5, Week 13).
The first 200-yard game, 218 yards to be exact came only a week after his first ever 100-yard receiving day.
Last week against the Vikings he recorded 249 yards receiving, topping his previous mark and increasing his record as the leader in Bears history for the most receiving yards in a single game.
Jeffery has averaged nearly 16 yards per catch on the year. He is also second on the team in rushing (14 carries, 115 yards) with a long of 38 yards.
Marshall and Jeffery have been outstanding, but another emerging star has made big plays this season.
Tight end Martellus Bennett, aka Black Unicorn has been very steady since his arrival this off-season.
The Bears have needed a tight end of Bennett’s caliber since Greg Olsen left town two off-seasons ago.
The 6-6 Texas A&M product has reeled in 48 balls for 545 yards and five touchdowns. His touchdown total ranks second on the team, while his yard total ranks third.
Bennett is on pace for 64 receptions, which would be second most behind only legend Mike Ditka (75 catches – 1964) in one season.
The Bears will retire Ditka’s No. 89 jersey at halftime of Monday night’s game once and for all. It is certainly long overdue.
Bennett may not be as gifted as Ditka once was, but he does plenty of work behind the scenes and in crucial situations.
He has played on 722 out of 808 offensive snaps this season despite battling through ankle and knee injuries.
He has come up with key fourth-quarter touchdowns in Week One against Cincinatti and Week Seven against Washington.
Most recently (Week 11), he reeled in a big catch in overtime to lift the Bears to victory over the Ravens in terrible weather conditions.
Bennett has brought a different dimension to this offense at times, forcing defenses to miss tackles often.
Interestingly enough, despite ranking 41st in the league in receptions, he ranks first in the league in forced missed tackles (17), according to Pro Football Focus.
That’s impressive considering the amount of elusive receivers and runners in the league right now.
Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett are a scary trio. They are not only tall, but they can hurt you anywhere on the field. Marshall and Jeffery can beat most defenders short and deep, while Bennett carves up opponents in the middle often.
Don’t forget running back Matt Forte is also a big weapon in the windy city. He’s reeled in 58 catches for 445 yards and one touchdown.
Also, Earl Bennett has made some key grabs this season. Two weeks ago in St. Louis, Bennett caught eight balls for 58 yards, both season-highs.
For the year, he has 24 catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
Seventh-round pick Marquess Wilson, 6-3, is currently being groomed for this offense. He has one catch for three yards on the season and played on a season-high five snaps last week.
The development of their own draftees, Jeffery and Wilson will only get better, while true pros Marshall and M. Bennett bring plenty of leadership and tremendous skill to the group.
You have to tip your cap to what Emery has done. He took chances on the disgruntled Marshall and the falling stock of Jeffery.
The Bennett signing made too much sense, but he also came with a rough NFL start back in his Dallas days.
Wilson has a chance to carve out a role in due time, especially since defenses will be looking to stop the Bears big-three (Marshall, Jeffery, M. Bennett) first and foremost.
The Bears will have a chance to showcase one of the league’s most explosive offenses for year’s to come all because Emery gambled.
The Bears receivers were too small for years and way too often, Forte and Devin Hester were showcased as the top two options.
Honestly that is just laughable. Neither player is actually a receiver.
Emery’s moves were worth the gamble. It has certainly paid off in a big way thus far for the Bears.
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