Phil Emery’s brilliant acquisition of Brandon Marshall will change the way offensive football is played in Chicago. More importantly it will change the way offensive football is defended by Bears opponents. Because of Marshall safeties will no longer be able to sit behind linebackers in the box to stop the run game, allowing Matt Forte space he’s never seen as a member of this franchise. Because of Marshall corners will now be afraid to employ tough tactics at the line of scrimmage, knowing he needs only a foot of space to turn 7 yards into 70. Because of Marshall opposing defensive coordinators will spend the week prior to facing this club knowing the Bears now have a three-headed monster on the offensive side of the ball for the first time in the long, proud history of the franchise.
What excites me is the return of the quick slant – in my opinion the most consistently effective play in the NFL. (For more information on the quick slant, watch the video above. It’s actually not bad once you get past the hysterical public television aspect.) Why do I love the quick slant? Bullet points, baby:
- Short-yardage. When you have a big-ticket receiver on the outside, third-and-ones no longer become a run up the middle formality. If Cutty sees a corner playing off Marshall the ball is getting outside. Marshall is not only impossible to cover, he’s also incredibly difficult to tackle.
- Goalline. How many touchdowns has Aaron Rodgers thrown for two yards or less? I don’t know the stat but I feel like I see it every week. Same rules apply here as do with the short yardage scenarios.
- Blitz Combat. There is no more effective means of combating the blitz than quick-tossing the ball to your wide receivers. Teams came at the Bears with more defenders than the Bears were prepared to block in 2011 and it resulted in far too many negative plays. (This includes false starts caused by antsy offensive tackles worrying about being overrun.) Now those teams will blitz reluctantly with the knowledge that they may only have a second or two to reach the quarterback before he puts the ball in Marshall’s hands.
- Bears Offensive Line. Pass rushers thrive in clear pass rushing situations. (Duh.) Too often in the Martz scheme the Bears would find themselves in third-and-moderate and drop Cutty deep into a pocket. This subsequently exposed the flaws in our perimeter blockers – Webb and Louis. The Marshall acquisition will mean more throws on first and second downs. It will mean forcing edge rushers to play statue, hands up football as opposed to battering ram, kill the quarterback football. It will build the line’s confidence to see passing number ascend while sack totals descend.
In 2010 it seemed every Cutler slant toss was either off a receiver’s chest or caught by a defensive back. The 2011 Bears season was ruined by a slant pattern. Johnny Knox lacked the physicality and footwork to execute the pattern effectively. He fell down. Interception. Cutler. Tackle. Thumb. Hanie. 19th pick in the draft. Knox was on the route because the Bears had no one else to run it. Roy Williams lacks the hands. Earl Bennett lacks the speed. Dane Sanzenbacher lacks a lot of things.
There is no more lacking on the outside for the Chicago Bears. Brandon Marshall is among of a handful of the most talented receivers in the sport. His arrival brings an explosiveness the Bears have not had on the outside since perhaps Willie Gault. His arrivals means the installation of the league’s most consistent weapons: the quick slant.