LAKE FOREST – Mike Shanahan was the first to see what the Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall duo could do, and he’ll have to coach against the combination for the first time Sunday.
The Shanahan-coached Denver Broncos drafted Cutler in the first round and Marshall in the fourth round in 2006. In ’08, both players were Pro Bowlers under Shanahan’s watch. Cutler threw 25 touchdowns and was sacked only 11 times. Marshall had 104 catches for 1,265 yards and six scores.
“I can tell you that Champ Bailey came to me the first time we practiced with Brandon Marshall. He said, ‘What happened? How did we ever get this guy in the fourth round?’ ” Shanahan said on a conference call Wednesday. “So when you get a Pro Bowl player that realizes the talent of a guy like Brandon Marshall right away, the upside a guy like Brandon brings to a team.
“One thing about Brandon, he’s a fun guy to be around. He’s got an infectious personality. He’s a difference-maker.”
The fact that the connection Marshall had with Cutler flourished in Denver was a big reason the Bears took the chance and traded for him before the 2012 season.
Shanahan recalled when Marshall had 18 catches against the Chargers in the ’08 season opener with Cutler as a turning point.
“Right from that time, you knew they were going to have some great chemistry together,” he said.
Shanahan’s influence on the beginning of Marshall’s NFL career is not lost on the Bears’ star receiver.
“I’m so thankful they gave me an opportunity in Denver, and he gave me chance after chance,” Marshall said. “… He’s definitely someone I think that would be a friend, a mentor, a coach for the rest of my life. He’s that type of guy, and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to play for him.”
Not looking past Washington’s ‘D’: Jim Haslett’s defense ranks 27th in total defense and against the run, and is 24th against the pass, but Bears coach Marc Trestman said “it’s not fair to look at their statistics and say they’re not a good defense because they are. … Jim Haslett does a great job of trying to confuse you on third down with people coming from everywhere, with different fronts.”
The Redskins rank in the middle of the league, allowing a 37 percent conversion rate on third downs. Trestman also called their outside linebackers, Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, “outstanding.”
Peanut ready to return: Charles Tillman (knee) did not practice Wednesday, but Trestman said the Bears’ top cornerback is expected to play Sunday after missing last Thursday’s game. Julius Peppers did not practice because of a “coach’s decision.” Martellus Bennett (knee) was out, as well. Stephen Paea (toe), James Anderson (back), Anthony Walters (hamstring) and Major Wright (knee) all were limited.