Marquess Wilson, your table is ready

If the Chicago Bears offense is going to take another step forward this season, the onus will be on second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson to function as a playmaker in the No. 3 role.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall spoke yesterday about the potential of an offensive unit returning 11 starters in Marc Trestman's second year at the helm.

"I think we have a special group," Marshall said. "We work hard. Just seeing the intensity out there and the guys having fun. Their approach to practice to their approach to the film room, it's amazing, and I think if we continue to do that, we'll continue to grow. We have tremendous upside."

Trestman installed a brand new offense last season, which resulted in a vastly improved and productive unit. The Bears finished 2013 second in the league in scoring, eighth in total offense and fifth in passing. When you consider the offense finished 28th overall and 29th in passing the previous year, the turnaround last season is even more amazing.

"What we did last year was really tough," said Marshall. "You bring in a new coach with a really sophisticated offense, like we like to say, it's science to our football. You got Jay [Cutler], he's been in different offenses almost every other year. It's a tough transition, so for us to make that big of leap last year says a lot about our coaching staff and our players. So this year I think that that's something to build off and we can possibly even be better."

In Chicago's offense, there are a lot of mouths to feed. There are two Pro Bowl wideouts in Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and a Pro Bowl running back in Matt Forte. Martellus Bennett, whose 65 receptions last year were second most by a tight end in franchise history, also needs his touches.

Yet in Trestman's high-octane offense, there are plenty of balls to go around. Last year, third wide receiver Earl Bennett finished with 32 catches and four touchdowns. He was released this offseason and the Bears did little to replace him other than signing journeyman receivers Domenik Hixon and Josh Morgan.

So if Chicago's offense is going to be better next year, as Marshall believes they can be, the onus for production out of the No. 3 role will be on second-year wideout Marquess Wilson.

That's a substantial leap of faith in a player who caught two passes as a rookie and just two years ago walked out on his college team midseason. If Wilson falters, the Bears will have a hole on offense. It won't be a big hole but all it takes is a small crack to sprain your ankle.

Yet there are a few reasons to believe Wilson can step in and fill the role Earl Bennett played last season.

First, Wilson has ideal size and speed. He's 6-3, 194 and ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. You can work with that.

Second, Wilson progressed dramatically last season. He came in as a seventh-round pick with very little job security and by Week 17, he was in the starting lineup replacing the injured Bennett. That type of improvement from a 20-year-old rookie is why the Bears believe he can take another step forward in his second season.

Third, like Alshon Jeffery before him, Wilson worked out extensively with Marshall and Cutler this offseason. A few months with Marshall in Florida was Jeffery's ticket to the Pro Bowl last year, so there's no reason to think that time spent working with his veteran teammates won't benefit Wilson as well.

Fourth, Wilson has not shown any of the attitude problems that ruined his collegiate career and nearly left him undrafted. No one has ever doubted his skill set as a receiver, it was his attitude that led to 31 other teams shying away from him on draft day. The Bears took a chance on him in the seventh round and he's been a saint ever since. It shows maturity and dedication, two traits he'll need in spades to become a big part of the offense this year.

If Wilson can't get it done, Chicago's offense won't crumble. Trestman has more than enough quality pieces to cobble together production at the No. 3 receiver position.

But if Wilson can teak a leap forward, the Bears' offense could go from good to downright scary.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.


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