BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Expectations abound for Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in 2014, and receiver Brandon Marshall on Wednesday set the bar as high as possible.
Marshall said Cutler, his close friend, could win NFL most valuable player honors if he plays all 16 games.
"Absolutely," Marshall said.
After all, Cutler is back in coach Marc Trestman's scheme this season after posting a career-high single-season passer rating of 89.2 in Year 1. He has two Pro Bowl receivers -- Marshall and Alshon Jeffery -- and Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte to work with, not to mention Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long and former Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod. And he has the organization's faith in the form of an offseason contract extension that included $54 million guaranteed.
Marshall first shared his confidence in Cutler, 31, with his friend and mentor, Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin. Irvin, who attended Bears practice Wednesday as an analyst for NFL Network, shared Marshall's assertion with reporters after practice.
Marshall later reiterated his belief in Cutler's MVP candidacy when asked, citing an offensive core that includes 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett and second-year receiver prospect Marquess Wilson.
"With coach Trestman and (offensive coordinator) Aaron Kromer and our offense, our offensive linemen are studs, they work together, and we have a special group at the skill positions with Matt Forte and Alshon and Martellus and Q -- I think absolutely."
Cutler's 63.6 completion percentage a year ago in Trestman's debut season was the second-best of his career and best since 2007. The Bears' offense ranked third in the NFL in yards per play, but injuries cost Cutler five games and prevented him from finishing two others.
By contrast, reigning MVP Peyton Manning set NFL records last season for touchdown passes (55) and passing yards (5,477). Manning completed 68.3 percent of his passes in 2013.
"I want to see what happens when they have a healthy Jay Cutler," Irvin said. "I asked Brandon that same question ... where would he end up? He said, 'MVP in the league.' I said, 'That's high praise, right there.' I said, 'You'll take Peyton Manning off that shelf and put Jay Cutler right up there like that?' Yeah, that's the way he sees it.
"That kind of confidence with that kind of feeling about this offense -- and what Coach Trestman is just incredible with the diversity of the offense -- hey, you feel good about your opportunities."
(c)2014 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services