Almost a decade has passed since a Chicago Bears receiver obtained a thousand yards in a season. The drought was ended after the 2012 season thanks to moves made by then new Bears GM Phil Emery at the beginning of the 2012 free agency period. Emery made a big acquisition in Brandon Marshall, in a trade with the Miami Dolphins. From any angle it’s clear Phil Emery fleeced the Dolphins, sending two third round picks to the Dolphins in exchange for one of the league’s most deadly receivers. However, Emery didn’t stop there. Trading up in the 2012 draft, he selected Alshon Jeffery from the University of South Carolina in the second round. Although his rookie year was plagued by injuries and inconsistency, Alshon Jeffery broke out in 2013, and together with Brandon Marshall, demonstrated the coming of a new era for Bears wide-outs.
Both of these receivers now make up the league’s tallest and arguably most powerful receiving tandem. For the first time in franchise history the Bears are a legitimate offense through the air. Marshall’s talents are only amplified by Cutler, who is Chicago’s first top-tier quarterback since the 80s. The two were great in Denver, and so far appear to have picked up where they left off, with a clear majority of Cutler’s throws heading Marshall’s way.
After training in Florida over the summer with Brandon Marshall, Jeffery had an incredible year posting stats of 89 receptions for 1,421 yards. His hands are like glue, on multiple occasions making stellar endzone grabs. Jeffrey exceeded expectations and proved Emery’s intuition on draft day. Marshall also had another incredible year with 100 receptions for 1,295 yards. These two receivers thrive off each other’s presence, and Jeffery’s future is promising thanks to his apprenticeship under one of the league’s greats.
When you have two receivers that can play as well as they can, defenses need to pick who they want to cover. In 2012 the recipe for defeating the Bears was simple – take away Brandon Marshall on offense. Now it’s not so simple; Jeffery has to be accounted for, it takes pressure off of Brandon. Let’s not forget that a legitimate receiving tight end is also on the field, increasing the pressure on the opposing defense. Martellus Bennett finally gave Jay Cutler the receiving threat over the middle he hasn’t had since Greg Olsen, evident by his 65 receptions for a total of 759 yards.
Even running back Matt Forte got in the action, catching 74 passes for 549 total yards. All this adds up to a unique offense, featuring tall receivers and a shifty back fully capable of running a “traditional” Bear’s offence. The options for a Bears quarterback have exploded in just two short years. Chicago is no longer the place where receivers go to die, it’s where they flourish. With this many weapons capable of catching the ball its almost impossible to cover every outlet. As I mentioned in last week’s quarterback position review, if Jay Cutler can distribute the ball more thoroughly, the Bears’ offense will only get better.
As for the future, Emery picked another tall receiver, 6′ 3″ Marquees Wilson from Washington State in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. I don’t see the Bears continuing with Earl Bennett. As good as he was in the past, Cutler seems disinterested in him as a target. In fact, his production in terms of total yards has dipped every single season he has been on the Bears roster. 2013 was his low point of just 243 total yards. It’s hard however to get targets with so many playmakers, but as a 3rd receiver his role should be to pull attention away from Jeffery and Marshall. That is where Marquees Wilson comes in.
Currently training in Florida with Marshall and Jeffery, Wilson could prove to be a major star waiting in the wings. With the progress that Jeffery showed after a single summer with Marshall one can only imagine what this offense could be with three extremely dynamic play making receivers. I fully expect Wilson to become a regular contributor, and if Bennett sticks around, he could provide great depth.
The one move that has been missing in the Bears’ all out aerial assault is a speedy receiver. It’s plausible that releasing Bennet gives Emery reason to go out and find a guy that can fill the role. Someone like Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster or the Seahawks’ Golden Tate could be interesting options as neither should cost much. This would take the top off the defense. Chicago fans should be excited for next years offense, and be prepared for an air show of epic proportions.