NFL

'Monsters of the Midway' key to Bears' success in NFC North

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Mike Hetherington, TSN.ca
8/28/2014 7:57:48 PM
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The Chicago Bears offence has been built around one specific trademark: Size.

Last year, the "Monsters of the Midway;" Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, combined to haul in 254 passes from quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Josh McCown.

The Bears wide receiver core features Marshall, 6-5, and Jeffrey, 6-3, along with Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes. At tight end, Bennett measures as the tallest of the pass-catchers at six-foot-six.

Cutler, entering his second year in head coach Marc Trestman's system, is grateful to have the added benefit of receivers who can dwarf defensive backs.

"It makes it easy," Cutler told the team's website in training camp. "You kind of just hang balls up there for those guys and they make the play. They all do a really good job of finding the ball in the air and knowing when the back-shoulder [throw] is coming. We've just got to keep everyone healthy."

In 2013, Marshall, Jeffrey and Bennett were all able to stay healthy and play in all 16 of team's regular season games. Cutler, however, was not.

The 31-year-old missed five games with an ankle injury, causing a minor quarterback controversy between himself and McCown. However, Trestman made it clear that, when healthy, Cutler was the starter and McCown signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason.

Now, facing little competition from backups Jimmy Clausen and David Fales, Cutler is free to think solely on Trestman's offence and improving on last year's 8-8 record.

After signing Holmes during training camp, the Bears added a new element to their offence; a prototypical slot receiver. Holmes was signed after projected No. 3 receiver Marquess Wilson fractured his collarbone during a practice session. At 6-4, 184 pounds, Wilson fit the Bears mold at receiver, but not the typical look of a slot receiver. Holmes, five-foot-11, caught 23 passes for 456 yards in 11 games last season with the New York Jets in 2013 and could eclipse those numbers with the Bears as defences key in on Marshall and Jeffery.

If Cutler can stay healthy, the Monsters of the Midway should be ready for another strong season, after both Marshall and Jeffrey eclipsed 1,000 yards last season.

Notes:

Depth not their Forte: Behind running back Matt Forte, Bears have no running backs that touched the ball for the team last year. Fourth-round pick Ka'Deem Carey, veteran Shaun Draughn, undrafted free-agent Senorise Perry and former college quarterback Jordan Lynch are set to backup Forte this season. Should Forte be injured, the Bears will be forced to employ one as the feature back.

Defensive Questions: The Bears defence gave up 29.9 point per game last season, second-worst in the NFL. However, the team decided against firing defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who has promised to implement a new defensive system this year. To help Tucker, the Bears signed defensive end Jared Allen and drafted cornerback Kyle Fuller along with defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton with their first three draft picks in an attempt to improve the defence. The team will also start the year with linebackers Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams healthy, as well as cornerback Charles Tillman after all three missed significant time in 2013.

Martellus Bennett Brandon Marshall (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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