When the Washington Redskins face the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Mike Shanahan will see familiar faces in quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall – players he drafted as coach of the Denver Broncos in 2006.
Shanahan took Cutler in the first round and Marshall in the fourth round.
Cutler wound up starting five games as a rookie out of Vanderbilt. Two seasons later – in 2008 – Cutler had the best individual campaign of his career to date as he threw for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns en route to his only Pro Bowl.
Denver’s offense ranked second in the NFL in total yards that season, but defensive struggles crippled the team. The Broncos gave up the fourth-most yards in the league and the third-most points that season. The team missed the playoffs a third consecutive year, and Shanahan was fired following the season.
Cutler struggled in his first and only regular season meeting against Shanahan. In that 2010 meeting between Chicago and Washington, Cutler threw four interceptions – all to DeAngelo Hall – in a 17-14 loss.
Because he knows Cutler well, Shanahan predicts that terrible performance will not have any mental carry-over effect on the quarterback.
“No. Jay is one that can wipe things out just like that,” Shanahan said. “He doesn’t have a long memory. He’s very competitive. He’s going to give it everything he’s got, but after something’s over, he can concentrate very quickly on the next game. He always wants to play well.”
Marshall also made the Pro Bowl in 2008 after recording 104 catches for 1,265 yards and six touchdowns. The 104 receptions had represented a career high until last season.
The wide receiver represents another of Shanahan’s mid-to-late-round draft finds. Marshall, initially relatively unknown out of the University of Central Florida, has since blossomed into a four-time Pro Bowl selection.
Marshall came into the NFL with limited experience as a receiver. As a college senior in 2005, he had 74 catches for 1,195 yards and 11 touchdowns. But he started at safety his junior year, and on offense had only eight catches for 84 yards.
Shanahan says it took no time at all for Marshall to begin showing flashes of greatness once he got to Denver, however.
“[Cornerback] Champ Bailey came up to me after the first minicamp we had and he said, ‘What did this guy do? How come he lasted to the fourth round?’ That was after the first day of one-on-one,” Shanahan recalled. “[Bailey] said, ‘He had to have done something bad, because there’s no way this guy could last until the fourth round.’ So that’s what our players thought about Brandon the first time they had one-on-one. You could always see his speed on film. You know, he did play free safety the year before. Then, after the year at free safety, he went to wide receiver. You didn’t see all that speed unless you worked him out one-on-one. But he was very talented, very strong. You have a hard time bumping him because with his strength, DBs usually just bounce off of him. That’s one of the reasons why he’s had so much success.”
With Cutler and Marshall both putting up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers this season, Shanahan says that the Redskins’ secondary has a stiff challenge at hand. It will take a collective effort to limit the duo, the coach says.
“You’ve got a quarterback that’s playing very well and you’ve got a receiver like Brandon, who is extremely strong, has great hands and it’s another challenge for him and our defense in general,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got to play well as a group because not one guy is going to shut Brandon Marshall down. One guy is not going to shut down Cutler. As a group we have to play like we did against Dallas or maybe even a little bit better.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.
● On Sunday, our live blog starts up at 11 a.m., and Mike Jones will have a game day Q&A with a player and notes before the kickoff at FedEx against the Bears at 1 p.m.
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