Harmony in the air at Bears' camp
Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are primed to elevate the Bears' passing game
Surely, that's one quarterback record Sid Luckman doesn't lord over the current Bears quarterback.
In three up-and-down seasons, Cutler has also joked with, befriended, instructed, cajoled and glowered at the cast of characters Jerry Angelo surrounded him with his first three years.
But now the Bears have a legit No. 1 receiver in Brandon Marshall, who, at the same time, isn't afraid to give it right back to the quarterback. He understands Cutler and isn't intimidated by his presence.
"Jay, he's really fiery, really passionate," Marshall said. "But at the same time, he'll have a little fun on the football field."
It also helps that Marshall is really good. He and Cutler have what you would call a reciprocal relationship: Cutler finally has his go-up-and-get-it guy. That's no small favor for a quarterback who has an intimate relationship with the Soldier Field grass.
Cutler and Marshall were going back and forth early during Tuesday's minicamp at Halas Hall. Marshall dropped Cutler's first throw of the day. And after an ensuing catch, Cutler joked to Marshall, "This ain't Miami."
"Jay's the type of quarterback where he's going to hold you accountable and he's definitely going to push you no matter who you are -- whether you're the No. 1 receiver or the last one on the roster," Marshall said. "It's fun when you have a relationship with a quarterback where you can push him, too, just messing around.
"But," Marshall added with a smile, "the quarterback's never wrong."
Late in the 2 1/2-hour practice, away from the action, there was Cutler gesticulating proper body position on a route to Marshall. And the receiver, who knows a thing or two about how to catch a football, was listening. After all the trouble Marshall's been through, on and off the field, he's not only found a new family, but he's reunited with the best quarterback he's ever had.
"In this league, separation may just be an inch," Marshall said. "That's where you see the great passing teams, the great quarterbacks, they know how to take advantage of that separation, even when it's just an inch. And Jay's balls are so tight and he gets it there on time, it's really hard for any defensive back in this league to break on his balls."
The holdover Bears receivers from the past few years -- Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and the injured Johnny Knox -- don't share Marshall's chatty personality. Nor do they have Marshall's ability. Cutler and Marshall connecting, on and off the field, was the thing to watch during a mundane June practice.
"I think Brandon's raising all those receivers' level of play, he's pushing everybody," Cutler said. "I push him and he pushes me, and I think we always have a healthy dialogue of what's happening on the field, what has to change. I think we have such a good feel for each other so we just got to make sure that carries over into the season."
Cutler and Marshall's relationship will be overcovered this season. The quarterback and the receiver are the leading men of the offense, and both could provide highlights and histrionics. But it is the most important relationship in the organization.
If everyone is healthy, Cutler has no more excuses for not putting up elite quarterback performances every week. He has not only Marshall as his wingman, but his old quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates and an offensive coordinator who isn't from Neptune in Mike Tice.
Cutler was flinging the ball pretty well Tuesday. Hester, who has gotten a lot of praise from Marshall, got a lot of action and made pretty much every catch in his vicinity. Cutler threw a few picks, but overall, he looked good.
"I don't think we want to get ahead of ourselves but I think everyone is feeling comfortable, myself included, with J-Bates and B-Marsh and those guys," he said. "We've got a good group, and everyone's kind of feeding off that and staying relaxed and just playing fast. That's what we want to do as an offense."
J-Bates, B-Marsh and J-Cutty? Sounds like the members of a bad '90s rap group. But so far it sounds like those three are in harmony. Tice said the Bears have installed their entire offense, and are working on specific packages and scenarios during this final three-day minicamp.
"I think we want to get rid of the ball," Cutler said. "The ball is going to be gone. We want to get it to the playmakers. We want to get the ball to Devin and Brandon and Matt Forte, and get it out of my hands as fast as possible. I think that's probably something that we're going to work really hard on in training camp and those preseason games, of trying to get that done."
Cutler said it's "surprising to see where we're at and how well the guys have picked it up." But of course, it's June. The Bears were wearing shorts and no pads. It's tough to gauge a football team's progress when there's no hitting involved, and no Forte, out with contract-itis.
But as of now, things look good for the Bears' one-two punch. No one's gotten that 2 a.m. call about Marshall, and Cutler is so loose, he's signed on to do a weekly hourlong radio appearance with ESPN 1000's "Waddle & Silvy" show.
"I think in my fourth year being here, everything is a little more comfortable and I'm comfortable with my surroundings," Cutler said of doing the show.
I think I can speak for Bears fans when I say it's about time.
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