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Bar set high for Bears' Marshall

Caption
(AP file photo)
Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall talks to the media during a March 16 news conference at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

CHICAGO – It’s already safe to say the Bears never have had a player quite like Brandon Marshall in the 92-year-history of the franchise.

The numbers tell the story.

Marshall, 28, has caught at least 100 passes in a season three times in his first six NFL seasons. He caught 102 passes in 2007, 104 passes in 2008 and 101 passes in 2009 as the Denver Broncos’ go-to wide receiver.

Bears fans might want to process that fact for a moment.

Only once in Bears history has a receiver caught 100 passes in a season. Marty Booker did so in 2001, when he also became one of eight players in team history to notch 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

As long as Marshall stays healthy, he should join that club.

The Bears acquired Marshall from the Miami Dolphins for two draft picks in March. In doing so, they provided quarterback Jay Cutler with one of his favorite targets during his first three seasons in Denver.

Although Cutler did not predict how many passes Marshall might catch this season, he hinted at a high number this spring at Halas Hall.

“You know he’s going to get the ball a lot,” Cutler said. “It’s just a fact. That’s what we brought him here for.

“When he gets one-on-one coverage, he’s going to expect the ball to go his way, and I’m going to expect him to get open. That’s the reality of the situation. I think everyone in the offense has to understand that.”

However, Cutler said, Marshall also would create opportunities for teammates. Instead of hogging every reception, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Pro Bowl player could help transform drives that used to be three-and-outs into 80-yard marches down the field.

“There are going to be games where he has a safety over the top of him all game long,” Cutler said. “Defenses are just going to do that.

“That’s going to open the door for Matt [Forte] and Devin [Hester] and Earl [Bennett] and everybody else on the other side. … Defenses are going to have to pick their poison of how they approach us.”

Marshall said he has reviewed plenty of game film from his time with the Broncos. Denver finished No. 2 in total offense in 2008, but Marshall said he and Cutler made too many mistakes that season.

“When I look at film now, I think we were terrible, and I say that humbly,” Marshall said. “We were just young and immature out there on the field, not understanding the big picture of the offense and the game itself. To see where we’re at now, where our football mind is now, it’s going to be really dangerous.”

Marshall’s optimism has proved to be infectious.

“He’s just a joy to be around, period,” Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. “He’s a joy to me. He’s a student of the game. …

“He is the one that is forcing Earl and Devin and Dane [Sanzenbacher] and those guys to raise their games. He’s the one that’s forcing them to do that, because of his talent.”

He also is the one with the talent to catch 100 passes this season.

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