LAKE FOREST – Brandon Marshall hoped for an opportunity to line up against the Seattle Seahawks’ top cornerbacks this weekend at Soldier Field.
Now that Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner have appealed four-game suspensions for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs, it appears Marshall will get his wish.
“I’m excited about this matchup,“ Marshall said Wednesday at Halas Hall, where the Bears conducted a two-hour practice. “I’m happy that they are playing, really excited that they are playing. That’s good for the game, and I’m ready to compete.”
The Bears (8-3) will need Marshall to shine against the Seahawks (6-5), who boast the league’s fifth-best total defense and third-best passing defense entering Sunday.
Earlier this week, the status of Sherman and Browner appeared to be in jeopardy. Both reportedly tested positive for Adderall, which is a prescription medicine for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that can serve as a stimulant when abused.
The NFL has yet to announce when it will hear Sherman and Browner’s appeals, and they may continue to play until further notice.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Sherman and Browner would be available against the Bears. Although Carroll declined to specifically address the players’ pending suspensions, he was happy to explain their value to the defense.
“The wide receivers have to deal with them play-in and play-out,” Carroll said. “They get their hands on you and they press really well. That’s just the start of it.
“Both are very savvy kids. They understand the game. They’re physical. And both guys can catch and make a play on the ball when they get their chances.”
The duo presents a big challenge for the Bears in more ways than one.
At 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, Browner is one of the league’s tallest defensive backs. He has three interceptions, six pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.
Across from Browner, Sherman is another big defender (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) who has tallied four interceptions, 15 pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.
The Bears have been outsized against the duo in years past, but that has changed this season with Marshall (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) as the featured receiver.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said he expected Marshall to be in for a physical game.
“Brandon’s usually the biggest guy out there on the outside and kind of does what he wills,” Cutler said. “With those guys around, it’s a different matchup for him.
“A bigger guy is going to grab, going to pull, going to get up in his face. So we’re going to have to attack it a little different.”
Marshall has embraced the challenge.
Although Marshall never has faced Sherman or Browner, he is aware that the Seahawks prefer to play single coverage in the secondary. They have had success this season against elite receivers such as Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (3 receptions, 46 yards) and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (4 receptions, 63 yards).
“Whenever you get a chance to play a little one-on-one, it’s exciting,” Marshall said. “I’ve been watching film and I saw what they did against Calvin and Larry. They threw some [cover] 2 in there, but for the most part, they do what they do. I’m excited about that.”
So are Cutler and the rest of Marshall’s teammates.
At his current pace, Marshall should shatter several franchise records with 117 receptions for 1,479 yards and 11 touchdowns. He caught a dozen passes in Week 12 against the Minnesota Vikings and has averaged 7.4 receptions a game, which is nearly a full catch more than the team’s single-season record holder (Johnny Morris, 6.6 receptions a game, 1964).
“He’s a special player,” Cutler said. “I knew it from Denver, playing with him. He makes it easy for me. He’s a competitor. He wants the ball at all times.
“Whenever he gets in that zone he was in Sunday, just feed him the ball. Just find him the ball. Just find a way. If ‘B’ is not No. 1 in the progression, go to him anyway. He just makes it happen.”