On the NFL
9:23 PM CDT, July 26, 2012
BOURBONNAIS — The savior receiver had a couple of drops on the first day of camp.
While that is not reason to start looking for the next savior, it is reason to examine the appendages at the ends of Brandon Marshall's arms.
You might have heard that last year he had 12 drops, tied for second most in the NFL. Since coming into the NFL, Marshall has 51 drops, second most in the NFL behind Terrell Owens' 58.
But what few know is, after a couple of drops on the first day of OTAs, he had zero the rest of the offseason.
"That was one of my goals," Marshall said. "I'm averaging eight to 10 balls dropped a year. That's just way too much. I want to cut that number in half. I would like to have none, but if I cut it in half I'll be doing a great job of taking advantage of my opportunities."
Marshall has worked on hand strength in the offseason, and failing to catch passes should not be much of an issue.
"I don't think you can catch 100 balls per year and not have good hands," Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake said. "Does he have Steve Largent hands? No. Cris Carter hands? No. But he has good-enough hands."
It's rare for a cleanly thrown ball to clank off Marshall's hands.
"When Brandon drops the football, it's because he's trying to make something happen before he catches it," Drake said. "We've addressed that. We are working on it."
Marshall said he is not worried.
"My hands are great," he said. "It's not a problem and it will never be a problem. I'm a statistic guy. I look at numbers. The amount of balls I've caught says a lot."
One reason Marshall has had so many drops is he has had so many opportunities. Since 2006, only four receivers have had more passes thrown to them than Marshall, who has been targeted 828 times, according to STATS.
And he has seized so many opportunities.
Since Marshall became a starter in 2007, he has caught more passes than every receiver except Wes Welker. And he is one of only 10 receivers to have 80 catches for 1,000 yards in five straight seasons.
"I don't think it's about drops with him — it's about catches," said the man who traded for Marshall, Bears general manager Phil Emery. "It's kind of like Mickey Mantle. He struck out a lot, but it wasn't about the strikeouts. It was about the home runs."
Marshall's home run to strikeout ratio is likely to improve now that he has been reunited with Jay Cutler. It should be easier to avoid drops on passes from Cutler than it was to avoid drops from the likes of Chad Henne and Matt Moore.
Cutler and Marshall appear to have picked up where they left off after three years together with the Broncos.
"My chemistry is better with him than anyone I've worked with — absolutely," Marshall said. "I wouldn't say it's once in a lifetime, but you don't see it too often. You can put a really good quarterback with a really good receiver and the connection is not there. They don't see the field the same way. Jay and I, I don't know why, but we see the field the same way."
If togetherness has anything to do with it, Cutler to Marshall should become one of football's most productive combinations.
The two have side-by-side dorm rooms, play board games at night and often have been seen walking around and hanging out together. Marshall said they understand they need each other.
Marshall said the two always have been drawn to one another.
"And it's not always fun," he said. "It's not always good. It's one of those things, it's like a marriage. I was thinking about that earlier. In any relationship when you take two people from two different relationships and put them together, you butt heads. Sometimes we try to impose our own wills on one another. It's just natural … But once you understand that there's no right or wrong, it's just two different people, that's when a relationship gets better. With Jay and I, it's always some work."
It is no secret that both can be volatile.
"We're that couple where there are fireworks, but then it gets a little fiery at times too," Marshall said.
As long as Marshall limits his drops to camp practices, he and his quarterback should get along famously.
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC