When the Dallas Cowboys decided to go all out on upgrading their secondary, they wanted to be able to eliminate the big plays in the receiving game. So far the Cowboys are getting a huge return on their investments. The Cowboys rank second overall in pass defense, allowing just 134 yards per game.
While the Chicago Bears rank nearly dead to last in overall passing (28th overall), they do have a legitimate weapon in wide receiver Brandon Marshall. If their offensive line can ever give their quarterback time, then Marshall could have a huge season in the Windy City.
Marshall has been reunited with quarterback Jay Cutler. While they were in Denver, they developed a chemistry and formed to be one of the most productive quarterback and wide receiver combinations in the league. In 2007 Marshall recorded 102 receptions, 1,325 yards and 7 touchdowns. In 2008 Cutler targeted Marshall for a league-high 179 times, allowing Marshall to put together another highly productive season with 104 receptions, 1,265 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The Broncos eventually traded both Cutler and Marshall away, leading to a major uproar from the Denver fan base. Now the two are back together, but things haven't gone very smoothly. The Bears have a lackluster offensive line, and right now that line is a major reason for the failure of their passing offense.
Recently Marshall defended his quarterback in the media.
"That's the guy I want to play for," Marshall said of Cutler. "We have to be productive. We have to make sure we're communicating the right way. I think Jay is learning how to communicate with different guys. The things that go on in our locker room, we try to keep in house."
Marshall also stated that the failure of the offense isn't all on Cutler, insisting that he must step up and make plays as a receiver. Hopefully the combination of Cutler and Marshall doesn't begin to start making their big plays against the Cowboys.
"Jay can be one of the best to have ever done it, and it's on us to be better around him. One of the things that I want to be known is I've got to make better plays. I've got to make more plays," Marshall said. "Given the opportunities, I've got to come down with the ball. So if I can do my part and the guys around me can do their parts, I think we'll be able to move in the right direction."
Regardless of the offensive line situation in Chicago, we should still pay close attention to Brandon Marshall. Look at his last two performances against the Dallas Cowboys.
- 2009: four receptions for 91 yards and one touchdown
- 2011: five receptions for 103 yards and one touchdown
In the 2009 game against the Cowboys, Marshall was held in check for most of the game. It wasn't until late into the fourth quarter that Marshall beat Terence Newman deep. In the Thanksgiving game last year, Marshall basically kept the Dolphins in that football game. Newman once again had the task of shutting down Marshall, but the aging Newman was no match for Marshall anymore.
With Newman gone, the Cowboys now actually stand a chance to cover Marshall and keep him from being a factor in the game. The Cowboys have a very deep secondary with Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. The injury to Barry Church may move Carr over to safety, but he is up to the challenge.
"We figured they were going to counter it once they got wind of what we were trying to do," Carr said of the Buccaneers’ approach to his position chance on nickel downs. "But they didn’t really try to attack us deep or try to attack that situation at all. I know teams in the future will probably game plan for that, but at the same time we’ll game plan for them, too. It’s kind of a chess game, a cat and mouse game, something that we’re going to hopefully do this whole season … We haven’t really talked about any of those things yet."
Having Mike Jenkins back in the lineup allows defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to become creative with the personnel he puts on the field in the secondary. Ryan is going to have to work his magic at safety without Barry Church for the rest of the year. If that means taking his best cornerback and moving him to safety, so be it.
With all the talent the Cowboys have at cornerback now, Brandon Carr is feeling very confident.
"I feel like we have four corners that are capable of starting at pretty much any team in the NFL right now," Carr said. "Just for us all to be on the field at the same time and be able to match up or play games, do the things that we do, give teams different looks, it could be a handful for teams this year."
Due to the size of Marshall (6'4"), it may be wise for the Cowboys to put their $50 million cornerback on him this Monday night. Carr doesn't have the size (6'0") to match up with Marshall, but then what cornerback does? Carr is the biggest cornerback the Cowboys have, but he also is the most physical. Carr's physical style of play in man coverage should be effective against Marshall and his size.
The problem with putting Carr on Marshall is that it leaves a hole in coverage at the safety position. I would be willing to keep Danny McCray at safety and put my best cornerback on Marshall, but the scheme for Monday night will all come down to Rob Ryan.
So BTB, if you were Rob Ryan, who would you put on Brandon Marshall? Have at it in the comment section and tell us if Marshall will present a problem for the Cowboys on Monday Night Football.