Chicago Bears  

 

QB-RB-WR trio provides Bears with potent and balanced punch

The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions fielded offensive juggernauts a season ago, but the most explosive offense in the NFC North in 2012 will reside in Chicago.

Oh, I know that statement will appear to be a knee-jerk response to the blockbuster trade that netted three-time Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall, but I believe the Bears have quietly assembled an offensive lineup that will create problems for their opponents at every level. Although the unit remains a work in progress, here are three reasons why I believe the Bears will light up scoreboards across the league this fall:

1. The reuniting of Jay Cutler and Marshall will produce fireworks.
The Bears' acquisition of Marshall for a pair of third-round picks sent shockwaves across the league. The move not only reunites a pair of Pro Bowl players, but it gives Chicago a legitimate No. 1 receiver to serve as the anchor of the passing game.

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Marshall, who has five straight 1,000-yard seasons, has thrived in the role of a lead receiver since his second season in Denver. He's an athletic, big-bodied receiver with outstanding ball skills. From short crossing routes to deep square-ins, Marshall excels at using his superior size to create space from defenders.

In reconnecting with Cutler, Marshall will certainly become a difference maker in the NFC based on their previous experience together. Marshall surpassed the 100-catch mark in each of their final two seasons as a tandem, including a career-best 104 receptions in 2007. In addition, he amassed 1,200-plus receiving yards in each season and tallied 13 touchdowns during that span.

The addition of Marshall to the lineup provides Cutler with an established No. 1 receiver where the Bears have attempted to use a patchwork assortment to fill that role in recent years.

If the Bears can get big production from their star quarterback in Marshall's first season in Chicago, that should be enough to force defensive coordinators to pay their respects to a suddenly explosive aerial attack.

2. The return of Matt Forte gives the Bears offense better balance than their division rivals.
The NFC North has been dominated by the passing game, with the Packers and Lions ranking among the elite aerial attacks in the league. However, the Bears feature the most versatile runner in the league in Forte.

Forte has recorded two 1,000-yard seasons, while tallying at least 50 receptions in each of his first four seasons. His production as a runner/receiver has made him one of the most-feared playmakers out of the backfield, and the Bears have done a tremendous job of building their game plan around his talents.

With Marshall in tow, Forte will no longer face a steady diet of eight-man fronts, and the additional space should lead to more big runs on the perimeter. Given the fact that Forte generated four 40-yard-plus runs without a legitimate threat on the outside, the removal of the extra defender in the box will lead to a spike in the Bears' running game production.

In the passing game, Marshall's ability to stretch the defense will make Forte more dangerous on screens. Defenders will sink deeper in their drops to protect against Marshall venturing over the middle, and Cutler's willingness to dump the ball off to Forte will serve as an effective counter to those tactics.

3. Mike Tice will emerge as an offensive mastermind with the talent at his disposal.
Lovie Smith's installation of Mike Tice as offensive coordinator was met with raised eyebrows, but the former Minnesota Vikings' head coach is a brilliant offensive mind with a creative playbook. He briefly served as the offensive play caller during his time as head coach, and the results were spectacular.

The Vikings finished among the top five in yards from scrimmage twice in his five years as head coach, and their emphasis on running the ball eventually yielded big plays in the passing game. In addition, he helped the Jacksonville Jaguars build one of the NFL's top rushing attacks during his time as assistant head coach/offensive line coach.

Tice has also displayed exceptional offensive prowess since arriving with the Bears as an offensive line coach, helping a unit that topped 2,000 rushing yards for only the second time since 1990. When factoring in the hodgepodge of offensive linemen playing under his watch, Tice should be commended for generating that kind of production.

If he can continue to build on their production from last season while incorporating an explosive weapon like Marshall into the game plan, Tice should help the Bears finally light up scoreboards across the league with a revamped offense.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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