Stock Watch: Dynamic duo not letting up
November, 27, 2012
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall reunion has been a big hit for the Bears this season.
1. Jay Cutler, QB: Despite all the criticism he's received throughout the season, the one thing he absolutely proved against the Vikings was that the Bears offense is a much more dynamic unit with him on the field. Whether it's scrambling for yards when the pocket breaks down or firing the throw other quarterbacks can't -- or are too afraid -- to make, Cutler provides that "it" factor at the position that every team in the league covets. Cutler completed 15 of 17 passes in the first half against the Vikings with a touchdown. Sure, Cutler would like to pass for 300 yards per game. What's encouraging, however, is Cutler has shown he'll be happy to settle for 30 yards if it equates to a victory.
2. Brandon Marshall, WR: He hit the 1,000-yard mark against the Vikings to become the first Bears receiver to reach that level of production since 2002. What's more impressive is Marshall's ability to make such an impact with teams devoting extra coverage because he's the club's only consistent target. Of Marshall's 12 catches, eight of them came against either Antoine Winfield or A.J. Jefferson. Marshall did drop two passes -- he's shown a tendency to do that from time to time -- but his positives far outweigh the negatives.
3. Gabe Carimi, OL: Handled a demotion earlier in the week like a consummate professional, and then strangely enough found his way back into the starting lineup after injuries to starting guards Chris Spencer and Lance Louis. Cutler said the situation could be "a blessing in disguise" for Carimi, which is probably true. He's struggled all season at right tackle, but Carimi is too skilled a player for the Bears to give up on. In 33 snaps at guard, Carimi yielded no pressure or sacks, and put together a fairly dominant performance as a run blocker.
1. Amobi Okoye, DT: Brought back to give the Bears a pass-rushing presence inside, Okoye was among the team's inactives against the Vikings. Okoye has been a healthy scratch for four of the last five games, but his inability to become a regular contributor in the rotation isn't an indictment on the defensive tackle's skill as much as it is a compliment to the players already in the rotation. Okoye is still a young player, who probably hasn't yet even hit his prime. He'll be a productive player in the league, but perhaps not with the Bears.
2. Matt Toeaina, DT: He has been slowed by a calf injury for quite a while, but was finally listed as probable for the Vikings game after sitting out of the Nov. 19 game at San Francisco. Still, the Bears decided not to use Toeaina, and listed him among the inactives for the sixth game in a row. Of the club's 11 outings, Toeaina has been active for just two after a 2011 season in which he started 12 games. Toeina signed a new deal in December of 2010 that expires after next season. To make it to the end of the contract, he'll need to step it up.
3. Devin Hester, WR/PR: Suffered a concussion against the Vikings, which jeopardizes his availability for Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. But prior to the injury, Hester hadn't made a significant contribution as a return man since the Nov. 4 win at Tennessee and as a receiver he didn't get any opportunities against the Vikings. Having just turned 30, Hester isn't old enough to start talking about him being on the decline due to age. Hester is simply in a slump that he'll need to break out of as the team hits the home stretch.