Bears’ receiving corps will be a nightmare for DBs
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com July 30, 2012 9:26PM
Updated: September 1, 2012 6:13AM
BOURBONNAIS — Brandon Marshall wasn’t going out like that.
Not in front of almost 10,000 fans who crammed into the practice field at Olivet Nazarene University.
After dominating almost every defensive back who dared to line up against him in one-on-one drills Sunday, Marshall was put on lockdown by cornerback Kelvin Hayden.
Marshall couldn’t shove him off, couldn’t escape to an opening.
So on Marshall’s next turn, he called out Hayden.
“Right here, right here,’’ Marshall yelled to Hayden.
Hayden obliged, lining up in tight press coverage across from the Pro Bowl receiver. And just as quarterback Jay Cutler was about to bark out a signal for the rematch? The horn. Drill over.
“To be continued,’’ Hayden said later with a smile. “That was a battle.’’
Not the only one.
Through the first two days of practice in pads, the Bears’ receiving corps has looked dominant. Yes, Bears receivers and dominant in the same sentence.
Devin Hester burning Charles Tillman, Alshon Jeffery climbing over Jonathan Wilhite, Chris Summers going up and pulling a pass down over safety Trevor Coston, Devin Thomas running past Tim Jennings. That was all in about a five-minute span.
Ask the receivers how good they can be, and they respond with standard answers. But ask the guys who have to line up one-on-one against them on a daily basis, and that’s when the heads starts shaking and the excitement about what this offense can be really comes through.
“They’re just big,’’ cornerback D.J. Moore said, “even the rookies and newer guys. Not just tall, either. I mean big. There’s a few of the younger guys that look like they’re benching 4,000 or 5,000 pounds, you know. It’s not just Marshall, either. All these guys just look bigger than I can remember a group looking.’’
Because they are.
Marshall is 6-4, 230 pounds, Jeffery 6-3, 216, and undrafted free-agent rookies Terriun Crump and Summers go 6-2, 223 and 6-5, 213, respectively.
“We’ve got a basketball team out there,’’ Hayden said.
Throw in 6-7 tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth, and Hayden has a point. Put it this way, Cutler should have a hard time with overthrows.
It’s not like Hayden hasn’t seen big receivers, either. Playing with the Atlanta Falcons last season meant lining up against Julio Jones (6-3) in practice.
“Yeah, they’re big, but they’re physical receivers, too,’’ Hayden said of what the Bears have put together post-Mike Martz. “And you have some speed guys out there. It’s a mix-and-match, pick-your-poison receiving corps, and that’s great.
“In this league, you’re going to come up against defenses that have a physical secondary, some that have a speed secondary. But you have big guys like Marshall, Devin Thomas, Alshon, guys that look like a basketball team. Then you got guys like Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Eric Weems who can do some things in the slot, do some things out wide to keep defensive backs on their toes, so it’s going to be hard for a secondary, or even a whole defense, to prepare for these guys.’’
As it stands now, Marshall and Hester have been working with the starters in two-receiver sets, and Bennett, Jeffery and Thomas have been mixed and matched when they’ve used a third receiver.
Then there’s poor Dane Sanzenbacher, who reached almost cult status with Bears fans last season. Even with a solid showing in camp so far, he might be on the outside looking in when it’s time to make cuts.
“What I know is, the unit is better,’’ Moore said. “That I know. And that guy, I think his name is Marshall. I mean I haven’t guarded a receiver like that since I’ve been here, so that says something.’’
In fact, Moore knows Marshall’s name all too well. Call it a little public prodding.
To be continued, indeed.