Keeping (The) Score: Marshall not good for Bears' offense?


Keeping (The) Score: Marshall not good for Bears' offense?

A lot of Brandon Marshall chat time during the regular Thursday 10 a.m. visit with The McNeil & Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670. And for good reason.
Mac and Spiegs shared my sense that Brandon Marshall and even Lovie Smith were talking as much to the team as to the media on Wednesday. Smiths repeated references to the Bears 8-5 record were perhaps reminders less to the assembled media corps than players who may not feel like winners after dropping four of five. Not a bad point for Smith to stress.

MORE: What's the Bears' record? Don't worry, Lovie's got you covered
Marshall flung down challenges to the Green Bay Packers defensive backs, which is fine, but also declared that this was the biggest game of his career.

That was refreshing. Not all games are created equal and this one isnt. Props to Marshall for putting his emotions out there, possibly in a way making it OK for other lesser lights to do the same. Emotion spikes on game days are not bad things.

MORE: Marshall on Green Bay -- 'This is personal'
The guys referenced our discussion earlier this season about a point Id made as to whether Brandon Marshall catching 100 passes in this offense would be a good thing. Marshall is indeed every inch a 100-catch receiver (101, actually) and it hasnt been a good thing for this offense.
The problem obviously isnt what Marshall is doing; its what others are not. And I suggested a possible reason why Marshalls very strengths as a receiver may play to a shortcoming in Jay Cutlers style as a quarterback.
Besides the question of whether Cutler has real trust in his receivers, Cutler is a see-it-throw-it quarterback. His default setting is to wait a tick longer for a receiver to come open rather than throw to a spot at a time with the solid trust that a Devin Hester, Earl Bennett or whomever will get there when the ball does.
Marshall is so good, however, that Cutler can legitimately think that if he keeps a play alive and waits another tick longer, Marshall will be open. Marshall will be. He works. He works the entire play. Given enough time, against most coverages, he will win.
So Cutler waits and sure enough, 15 is open. Or if hes not, all things being equal, even a well-covered Marshall may be a better choice than a slightly open Kellen Davis.

MORE: Marshall ready for second shot at Packers
Mac and Spiegs wondered how I was leaning for outcome this weekend. Hard to pick against the Packers. Mac assessed both teams as having a little bit of hanging on at work, given the injuries all around.
My take, however, is that whenever you have Aaron Rodgers under center, you are by definition never just hanging on.

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

When coach Joel Quenneville has put Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together it’s usually been during the postseason.

It’s rare when it happens in the regular season and when it does, it seems like an in-case-of-emergency move. But in this case, it may be more of a get-the-captain’s-production-going move.

The Blackhawks made a few more line changes on Thursday, including combining Toews and Kane, as they prepared for Friday night’s game at the New Jersey Devils. Marian Hossa moved to right wing on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. Marcus Kruger and Nick Schmaltz flip-flopped as third- and fourth-line centers. Tyler Motte and Ryan Hartman were the third-line wings while Dennis Rasmussen and Jordin Tootoo were on the fourth line.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the line changes, including Kane’s move to the first line, were because the Blackhawks continue to look for balance. To a point, that’s true; the Blackhawks still haven’t come close to getting that four-line rotation with which they’ve found so much success. But considering how successful the Toews and Kane combination has been for each, you’d have to think it’s to help bolster Toews’ point totals. Toews has just two assists through the first seven games.

“Right now I think Jonny, his production isn’t where you look at his play – we still always like the way he plays, he’s so useful in so any different ways,” Quenneville said. “I think maybe we get more balance on both lines. We’ve been trying a number of different looks in our top two groups there. over seven games we still need to be better in a lot of ways. hopefully we can find it.”

Still, if you can get your top players producing points, it’s worth a try. And Kane and Toews, regardless of how long they’ve been apart, usually click immediately upon reuniting.

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“Yeah, I guess change can be good in this sense. We can probably produce a little bit more offense and have the puck a little bit more throughout the game,” Kane said. “I’ve played with Jonny a bunch before. Obviously, not as much lately. But I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a fun way to play hockey. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the game, and probably in my mind, the easiest player to play with. It’ll be fun to get back out there with him and try to create something, try to produce and have some fun with it.”

As for that usual second line of Panarin, Anisimov and Kane, remember: as we’ve seen before, it can be put together again fast.

“They get a lot of shifts and a lot of looks. It’s not like we’re too far away from going back to it at any time. It’s always close and available,” Quenneville said. “Maybe we get more balance and a little more scoring across the board.”


- Defenseman Gustav Forsling (upper body) did not skate on Thursday and will not travel to New Jersey. Quenneville is still hoping Forsling can play on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings.

- Forward Andrew Desjardins (lower body) continues to improve. Quenneville said Desjardins could be skating in the next day or so.

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Devils.

Illini announce athletics hall of fame with Dick Butkus as first member


Illini announce athletics hall of fame with Dick Butkus as first member

Illinois announced Thursday the establishment of a university athletics hall of fame, and who better than Dick Butkus to be the first inductee?

According to the announcement, Illinois has discussed creating an athletics hall of fame to honor past student-athletes for years, but this is the first time it's been acted upon — not necessarily a surprise now that Josh Whitman, a former Illinois football player, is now in charge of the department.

"The University of Illinois has an incredible and storied history in athletics," Whitman said in the announcement. "Legendary names in sports history are found throughout the Illini record books, and we are excited to honor them in our new Hall of Fame. Since the athletic program's inception in 1890, some of the world's greatest athletes have competed in the orange and blue. Ultimately, as we begin to populate the Hall of Fame, our collection of recognized greats will compare favorably with that of any institution in the nation."

Butkus, of course, is the obvious choice to be the first announced member of the hall of fame's inaugural class.

Regarded by many as the best linebacker and defensive football player ever, Butkus spent three seasons in Champaign, twice a unanimous All-American selection. Playing both center and linebacker at Illinois, he finished in the top six in Heisman Trophy voting in 1963 and 1964, a shocking accomplishment for someone playing a position other than quarterback, running back or receiver.

Butkus made 374 tackles in three seasons and is one of just two players — the other being Red Grange — to have his number retired at Illinois. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (thanks to his remarkable career with the Bears), and the annual award for the best linebacker in college football is named after Butkus.

"The University of Illinois has played an extremely important role in my life," Butkus said in the announcement. "I have many life-long relationships that began at the U of I and have always been proud to call myself a Fighting Illini. To be recognized in the inaugural class of the Athletics Hall of Fame is a terrific feeling. I'm very proud of what my teams and I accomplished, including the 1963 Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl victory. Thank you for this honor."

The Illini will announce the entire inaugural class in February, with induction coming next September.