Keeping Score: The Marshall Ratio that failed

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Keeping Score: The Marshall Ratio that failed

Danny Mac and Matt were off but The McNeil & Spiegel Show was still in session Thursday at 10 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670 The Score, this time with Ben Finfer and old buddy and Daily Herald colleague Barry Rozner sitting in.
MORE: Listen to Moon's segment from Thursday morning
Really nice of Ben to recall my early season thought that if Brandon Marshall caught 100 passes, the Bears playoff chances and offense would be in some trouble. But no, as I told Ben, Im not taking any bows; if you have seen some of my picks over the past 6-8 weeks, you dont ever gloat.
But the other reason was that the reality was there to see if anyone wanted to follow the breadcrumbs. Some teams flourish with a 100-catch receiver; New England has (although the Patriots havent won a Super Bowl with Wes Welker catching 100 passes), but that is a different scheme and the Patriots have multiple receivers with big numbers. And they were ranking in the top 10 rushing a lot of this season.
Finding Forte
But the Bears were successful with balance, the element that Mike Tice brought to Mike Martzs program the past two years. And if Marshall was getting that much of the offense, it quite likely meant that other receivers were not producing and, more important, the Bears had gotten away from Matt Forte, which they have, to no ones benefit.
Jay Cutler doesnt like to check down, so you wonder if at some psychological level he figures, why go short when he can pat the ball a second longer and Marshall should be gaining an advantage somewhere?
Safety concerns
On the other side of the ball Barry raised a concern over how the Bears fare against Detroit wideout Calvin Johnson with Chris Conte now down. Definitely a worry...Johnson is a worry even with Conte.
But anytime you dramatically alter what you do best, its you who are now in the position of needing to make the tough shot. So to start blitzing Matthew Stafford, even though the Detroit quarterback does not handle that well, is to potentially leave a safety newbie like Anthony Walters dealing with more of the field to worry about.
Johnson getting his yards and catches is not necessarily the problem; if you think the Bears offense is unsuccessful with the Marshall Ratio, Detroits with Johnson setting records is downright dysfunctional. Just do what you do best. Its usually been good enough to beat the Lions anyway.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.