LAKE FOREST – Johnny Knox came oh-so-close to ending the drought in 2010.
Devin Hester? Bernard Berrian? Muhsin Muhammad? David Terrell? Not so much.
Finally, thankfully, mercifully, Brandon Marshall is ready to step up and snap a 10-year trend.
The only question is whether Marshall will surpass 1,000 receiving with Jason Campbell as his quarterback, or whether he will have to wait until the return of Jay Cutler to reach the milestone.
Almost a full decade has passed since the Bears could brag about having a 1,000-yard wide receiver. The last player to notch 1,000-plus receiving yards was Marty Booker, who caught 97 passes for 1,189 yards during the 2002 season in which the Bears played all of their home games in Champaign.
Ten years without a 1,000-yard receiver is a long time, especially when one considers how the NFL has evolved into more of a passing league with each, ahem, passing year. But the Bears ignored the need for a legitimate No. 1 receiver during the years in which Jerry Angelo was general manager, and it wasn’t until Phil Emery took charge this spring that the position finally was addressed in earnest.
On the first day of free agency, Emery acquired Marshall, who has not disappointed.
In nine games, Marshall has caught 67 passes for 904 yards and seven touchdowns. He already has surpassed the Bears’ 2011 leaders in each category with seven games to go in the regular season.
However, Marshall’s success has come with his close friend, Cutler, throwing him passes.
Cutler will sit out Monday, which means that Marshall must adapt to Campbell as his quarterback. Marshall joked around with Campbell this week at Halas Hall, but he has practiced only three times with Campbell taking first-team repetitions heading into Monday’s game at Candlestick Park.
Marshall acknowledged that no quarterback could match his comfort level with Cutler.
“The chemistry that I have with Jay, it’s hard to come across, across the league, with the things we’re able to do,” Marshall said. “But it’s the offense. It’s not about Jay and I. There’s 11 guys on the field, and that’s what plays are for. When coaches call it, it’s about who’s going to be in their spot?
“It’s as simple as that. If I have a 20-yard in-cut, I have to be 20 yards, and that’s it, where I’m supposed to be. And Jason knows that maybe he’s supposed to take a five-step drop, and then throw it. It’s simple football, but the thing that Jay and I have is a little extra.”
Campbell is a veteran with eight years of NFL experience. He knows that he cannot replicate the relationship that Cutler and Marshall have cultivated. His only goal is to do enough to win Monday.
“We’re not going to be trying to push the envelope on things that are just not there,” Campbell said. “But at the same time, I have all the confidence in the world in ‘B.’ He’s a great receiver.
“There’s other guys on this team, too, that can make plays. I know that there’s plenty of guys that can make plays, and we’ve got to find a way to move the ball around and take what the defense gives us.
That is fine by Marshall.
“The truth is I am the No. 1 receiver here,” Marshall said. “They brought me here to be the No. 1 guy.
“But with that being said, we’ve got players who can make plays, that are more than capable of having big games like I’ve been having.”
Brandon Marshall has averaged 100.4 receiving yards in his first nine games with the Bears. He is on pace to notch 1,607 receiving yards, which would shatter the Bears’ single-season record of 1,400 receiving yards that was set by Marcus Robinson in 1999.
Rec Yards Avg. TD
Games 1-9 67 904 13.5 7
On pace 119 1,607 13.5 12