Brandon Marshall is expected to start the Bears’ scrimmage against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday, and man, do the Bears ever need him on the field.
So Jay Cutler can throw to someone else.
As the Bears broke training camp in Bourbonnais, Cutler said it’s “hard to pinpoint exactly where we’re at,’’ but the truth is, it’s impossible to know where the offense is until Cutler doesn’t throw to Marshall.
It might seem strange to say that, seeing as how Marshall caught 118 passes and went to the Pro Bowl last season. But the Bears offense stunk last season. It ranked 28th and often seemed worse.
So here comes Marc Trestman with his version of the West Coast offense. It seems like a great offense for the Bears because it stresses -- no, demands -- spreading around the ball. But it won’t matter unless Cutler actually spreads around the ball.
In other words, the Bears offense becomes more dangerous if Marshall gets the ball less. That’s the Bears’ new math.
We saw a dose of that in the Bears’ exhibition opener in Carolina when Cutler completed 6 of 8 passes to five different targets. Michael Bush caught two, while Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, Joe Anderson and Eric Weems caught one each. That’s three to the running backs and three to receivers. That’s the idea.
However, that kind of equal-opportunity offense came without Marshall on the field, and nothing about spreading around the ball matters unless Marshall is on the field.
Marshall is Cutler’s bailout. He’s Cutler’s addiction. He’s the receiver Cutler trusts most, and who wouldn’t trust 118 catches for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns last season?
Opponents know it. That’s why Marshall got triple-teamed -- and Cutler still targeted him, putting up the ball and letting Marshall try to win the fight.
But the full measure of the Bears offense’s spreading around the ball comes when Marshall is on the field getting extra attention and Cutler throws to open targets elsewhere.
And the Bears would seem to have a load of weapons capable of getting open against single coverage created by opponents game-planning for Marshall. Geez, those weapons had better be there, or the Bears will be the Cleveland Browns for a decade.
But we know that Forte and Bush can catch and run. We believe Martellus Bennett gives the Bears an actual tight end. Jeffery is a force when he’s healthy. Anderson looks like a something, and I’d like to see Marquess Wilson get some snaps with the adults.
Marshall’s presence should make all of them more dangerous but only if Cutler makes Marshall less of a crutch.