Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
After a second consecutive disappointing ending to a season, we are grading the 2013 Chicago Bears. This is the second part of the offensive grades. We did the quarterbacks and running backs in the first. Today, we will grade the receivers and offensive line.
Last season, the Bears’ receiving corps basically consisted of Brandon Marshall and everyone else. Marshall caught 41% of the total receptions completed. This season, that number went down to 27%. Defenders could not just double Marshall and expect to shut down the passing game. The Bears have big, aggressive receivers who will go after the ball and more often than not will out-jump defensive backs and grab the ball. As a result, this offense was among the best in the league. Let’s take a closer look.
Brandon Marshall(100 receptions for 1,295 yards, 12 TD’s, 13 yards/catch Pro Bowl): A-
Marshall really showed his worth to this team. Chicago is fortunate to have mature Brandon Marshall. People in Denver and Miami complained about a selfish Marshall, one who could be a cancer in the locker room. Whether true or not, the Bears have not had to deal with any of that. He has been a true leader on this team.
In the offseason, Marshall took Alshon Jeffery under his wing, working out with him and giving him the finer points of being a wide receiver. With Marshall’s assistance, Jeffery had a breakout season this year, and the two were the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL.
Helping Jeffery off the field was not the only way Marshall was great. He continued to be one of the top receivers in the league. His twelve touchdowns ranked third in the league.
The 100 receptions marked the fifth time in Marshall’s career that he’s had 100 or more catches in a season. He has shown he is an elite receiver and the Bears have not had one of those in a long time.
Alshon Jeffery(89 receptions for 1,421 yards, 7 TD’s, 16 yards/catch, 16 rushes for 105 yards): B
Alshon Jeffery has turned heads in his second year. He showed flashes of his abilities last year, but had the requisite problems that rookie receivers have, and he had injuries. He had no such problems this season. He made some breathtaking catches, and gave the quarterbacks a big target. There were times when Cutler and McCown just threw the ball up high and let him leap and make the catch, no matter who was on him.
Hopefully, Jeffery can continue working out with Marshall. At South Carolina, he had a great sophomore year. He came in second for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, given to the best wide receiver in college. He then came back his junior year overweight and ended up being drafted in the second round when he obviously had first round talent. Let’s see how he handles success.
The big plays coming from Marshall and Jeffery could make this tandem a great one for years to come. Let’s hope the coaching continuity continues for years to come as well.
Martellus Bennett(65 receptions for 759 yards, 5 TD’s, 11.7 yards/catch): B
Martellus Bennett solidified a position that was lacking last year. In fact, the tight end position last season was a nightmare.
A year ago, Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth combined for 257 yards and three touchdowns. That is roughly one-third of the yardage Bennett got by himself.
Neither Davis nor Spaeth were very good blockers, either. Bennett, on the other hand, helped the revamped offensive line with his blocking skills. The New York Giants, Bennett’s previous employer, had trouble with their tight ends (well it was one of many their troubles).
It is important for a quarterback to have a big tight end to use, especially in short yardage situations or red zone situations. Bennett made some catches that solidified Cutler’s and McCown’s trust in his abilities. He should only get better in this system.
Offensive Line (4.5 rush yards/game, 30 sacks allowed, 85 QB hits): B
After spending most of the past four years in the bottom of the heap of offensive lines, the Bears turned it around this season. The unit was revamped, with Roberto Garza being the only holdover from the previous season. Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson came in via free agency, while Kyle Long (1st round) and Jordan Mills (5th round) were both rookies.
After cutting and pasting their lines over the past several years, this line started all 16 games this season.
The line ranked 7th in the league in average yards per game, opening up holes and allowing Matt Forte to have the best season of his career.
After giving up 113 sacks over three seasons (37.7 sacks/year), this year’s group gave up just 30, good for 3rd in the league.
The one area where one might want the line to improve on would be hits on the quarterbacks. The line gave up 85 hits on their quarterbacks, which ranked 20th in the league.
Sacks are not just the only barometer of how good a line is doing. Even if the quarterback gets the ball away, if he gets hit, he will feel it just the same as a sack.
Overall, this offensive unit as a whole did a phenomenal job this season, considering it was just one season removed from having the 29th ranked offense. This offense was 2nd in franchise history in scoring (456 in 1985 to 445 this season).
Head coach Marc Trestman and his assistants deserve a lot of praise for turning the offense around in such a short time. Considering that they spent the offseason teaching the offense to the players and trying to have them buy into it, this group should make more strides next season when they only need to fine-tune it.
Tell me what you think of the receivers and offensive line. Is this offense as good as some (including me) think it is? Or could this just be a one hit wonder?