- Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bears beat reporter
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1. Brandon Marshall, WR: Marshall was clearly disappointed with his Week 5 effort against the New Orleans Saints (four
catches, 30 yards and one touchdown) but he rebounded against the New York Giants on Thursday with nine receptions and a pair of touchdowns. The Bears plan called for Marshall to be involved early and often, as quarterback Jay Cutler targeted the team's No. 1 wide receiver 11 times, eight of those targets came in the first half. Marshall talked about his frustration and body language in two separate press conferences following the loss to the Saints, but he still leads the Bears with 40 catches for 465 yards and five touchdowns through six games. Last year at this point of the season Marshall had caught 41 passes and four touchdowns en route to re-writing the franchise's record book in 2012 with 118 receptions for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns. Life isn't all that bad for Marshall in the Marc Trestman offense.
2. Tim Jennings, CB: The 5-foot-8 cornerback is a turnover machine. Jennings returned an interception for a touchdown against the Giants, his second pick-six of the season and third of his career. Jennings picked off another Eli Manning pass for good measure in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Since the start of the 2012 season, Jennings leads the NFL with 12 interceptions after picking off a combined seven passes over his first six years in the league. What a remarkable story. Jennings' 2013 salary is north of $4 million, but he seems like a solid investment. With 15 interceptions in three-plus years in Chicago, can the Bears afford to let him go in free agency? That kind of production is hard to find.
3. Robbie Gould, K: Gould is simply automatic. The former All-Pro kicker is 10-for-10 on the season and 2-for-2 from 50-plus, a distance he's nailed 12 straight kicks from which ties the current NFL record. Going into Week 6, Gould ranked as the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history. Not bad for kicker who must deal with the windy and unpredictable conditions of Soldier Field. If Gould (948 points) remains in Chicago beyond this season he will shatter the record for most points scored in franchise history, held by Kevin Butler (1,116 points).
1. Julius Peppers, DE: Peppers didn't have a single tackle or quarterback hit against the Giants, according to the NFL's official stat booklet. That's a problem. And it's a trend. Peppers had a good game in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions, but that's where his production ends. The Bears are too banged up on the defensive line for Peppers not to make an impact. We mentioned this last week, but Peppers is eating up $14,387,533 worth of the salary cap space. It's not Peppers' fault the Bears paid him so much money, but the organization needs to see a return on its investment. When the pass rush is broken, the onus is on the superstar to step up and fix it. If Peppers doesn't begin to hit the quarterback, who will?
2. Shea McClellin, DE: McClellin made strides in Week 6 against the Saints, but he took a step backward against the Giants. McClellin plays hard and can chase down plays from the backside, but when the action is coming straight at him, McClellin just doesn't have the physical traits to consistently win at the line of scrimmage. He's not a 4-3 defensive end. That's not to say McClellin doesn't have value. He is very athletic, and can occasionally have a good rush during games because of his speed. Maybe in a different defense, McClellin can be an impact player, but not in this scheme. In 20 NFL games, McClellin has three sacks. That's not good enough for the 19th overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft.
3. Run defense: Brandon Jacobs rushed for a total of 7 yards in 2012. He gained 106 yards on the ground against the Bears and scored two touchdowns. No disrespect to Jacobs, but his best NFL days are in the rearview mirror. He did once have back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but that was in 2007 and 2008. He's 32 years old. Nevertheless, Jacobs found the fountain of youth at Soldier Field as he ran through enormous holes and busted past Bears' would-be-tacklers. The Bears have now allowed three different running backs (Jacobs, Reggie Bush and Adrian Peterson) to reach 100 yards on the ground in the first six weeks. True, the Bears are dealing with various injuries on the defensive line, but keep in mind the Giants ranked dead last in the league in rushing offense (56.8) heading into Week 6.
RISING 1. Brandon Marshall, WR: Marshall was clearly disappointed with his Week 5 effort against the New Orleans Saints (fourcatches, 30 yards and one touchdown) but he rebounded against the New York Giants on Thursday with nine receptions and a pair of touchdowns.