Too much Marshall? Cutler not buying it

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
4:24
PM ET
Jay CutlerJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJay Cutler disputes the notion that he has become overly reliant on Brandon Marshall.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler uttered three words in defiance of the perception outside the organization that he's become too reliant on receiver Brandon Marshall.

Asked if it would be on his mind to make it a point to throw to other receivers not named Marshall on Friday when the Bears face the Oakland Raiders in Week 3 of the preseason, Cutler didn't hesitate.

"It will not."

Pardon me?

"It will not," Cutler repeated.

Given the limited amount of plays executed by the first team through two preseason outings, Cutler accurately pointed out that it's way too early to draw conclusions about the direction the offense is headed for 2013. Cutler threw all five of his passes Marshall's direction last Thursday during the team's 33-28 win over the San Diego Chargers, with four going for completions.

But the week before, in the preseason opener, Cutler targeted five different receivers in just 10 snaps of action.

"I mean you guys are hitting the panic button after two preseason games and 30 plays," Cutler said. "Yeah, we're gonna spread it around. We can't just throw to Brandon and give the ball to [running back] Matt [Forte]. We've got to find ways to get other guys involved."

That's precisely the plan on Friday at Oakland. The coaching staff wants to subject the starters on both sides of the ball to their most extensive action of the exhibition season against the Raiders. The Bears are simulating a regular-season game week in terms of preparation in the lead-up to the matchup at Oakland.

In addition, Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and coach Marc Trestman said the team will put together a limited game plan for attacking the Raiders that won't reveal too many formations and plays the team expects to use in the regular season.

Like Cutler, Kromer disputed the notion that Cutler has become overly reliant on Marshall, who caught 118 passes in 2012.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhBrandon Marshall and Jay Cutler connected on a team-record 118 receptions last season.
"Sometimes, and all good quarterbacks do it, all good quarterbacks think they can make throws that they might not be able to make," Kromer said. "A quarterback throws it to the wrong guy sometimes when he's reading his read. Now, the whole offense is doing a good job of understanding our scheme and spreading the ball around by what the defense gives us. If the defense gives us Brandon Marshall, then we'll throw it to him. If they don't, then we won't throw it to them."

Against the Chargers, Cutler forced a pass in to Marshall, despite the receiver being double-covered. The play resulted in an interception, and Trestman -- while pointing out he could've done a better job of coaching the quarterback on that play -- said Cutler's decision was one he can't continue to make if the offense is to be successful this season.

Cutler also admitted to trying to force the ball to Marshall, despite knowing his read on the play dictated throwing the ball elsewhere.

"In the last game, did he make a misread on a couple of them? Yeah," Kromer said. "Did the linemen block the wrong angle a couple of times? Yeah. Did the running back hit the wrong hole a couple of times? Yeah, but that's football. It's an imperfect game. We're trying to do the best we can with making the read and throwing it. If they're open, we'll throw him the ball. If the coverage dictates, we'll throw them the ball. If the play dictates, we'll throw them the ball. Really, what we're trying to do is function as an offense. It has nothing to do with who is who. It has to do with: what is our offense asking us to do? We'll call a play that Marshall is the primary on one and one that [tight end] Martellus Bennett is the primary on the next. If that's covered by coverage, then he'll throw it to somebody else. That's football."

Cutler's all-Marshall passing game against the Chargers isn't a concern, nor is the quarterback's level of trust in the other targets. The second-leading receiver behind Marshall in 2012, Forte caught 74 fewer passes than Marshall, leading to speculation that Cutler may lack trust in some of the other players.

That isn't the case, Cutler said.

"I trust those guys," Cutler said. "Alshon [Jeffery], I think has probably had the best camp out of everybody on offense. He's done a great job this offseason of getting better, getting physically stronger and gaining my trust. I love throwing it to him."

Jeffery loves catching it too, but stressed he's "not frustrated" when passes don't come his way because "it's a team sport."

"It's one person that catches the ball and scores the touchdown. The other one throws the ball. But it's 11 guys that did their job to score the touchdown," Jeffery said.

As for Bennett, the tight end brought in to give the Bears a presence in the middle of the field said he's "always hoping to get a couple of targets."

"You want to be successful out there, but you also know it is preseason," Cutler said. "I think we just want to get the offense going a little bit more, see some positives on film, keep getting better. It's not going to be perfect. We know that. This one doesn't count so you don't want to throw all your eggs out there. But if we're not successful, we're not going to feel good about where we're going."

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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