Chicago Bears  

 

Not many believers in Bears' wideouts, outside of locker room

  • By Thomas George NFL.com
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Jay Cutler will continue to bond with receivers on Monday when the Chicago Bears gather for a four-day organized team activity session.

But bond, exactly, with what?

That is a common and direct slap at the Bears' current group of receivers that the team's management, coaching staff and wideouts loathe. The Bears like what they have at receiver, they keep reminding all. Still, the group's look for the season-opening Sept. 13th Sunday night affair at the Green Bay Packers could include more options, they insist.

Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images
Jay Cutler will have a vastly different set of receivers in Chicago than he had in Denver. Devin Hester (above), a converted defensive back, is the No. 1 wideout. Here are the top five receivers for the Bears and Broncos from 2008.
Bears' top 5 receivers in '08
Player Catches Rec. yds. Rec. TDs
Devin Hester 51 665 3
Greg Olsen 54 574 5
Matt Forte 63 477 4
Rashied Davis 35 445 2
Desmond Clark 41 367 1
Broncos' top 5 receivers in '08
Player Catches Rec. yds. Rec. TDs
Brandon Marshall 104 1,265 6
Eddie Royal 91 980 5
Tony Scheffler 40 645 3
Brandon Stokley 49 528 3
Daniel Graham 32 389 4

How about Anquan Boldin? Unlikely, a price too steep. What about Plaxico Burress or Matt Jones? Neither likely fits the Bears' mold. Free agents Amani Toomer or Marvin Harrison? Thus far, the Bears prefer their current younger legs.

The Bears will patiently wait for what else enters the market, especially players cut in camps, while using sessions like this week to discern how much this group can grow.

It includes:

Devin Aromashodu (6-2, 201, 3rd year): He spent two years with the Indianapolis Colts, catching seven balls for 96 yards, and now the Bears see him as a strong competitor with a chance to do something lasting.

Earl Bennett (6-0, 203, 2nd year): Cutler is familiar with this receiver, since they both have a Vanderbilt connection. Not a lot of flash but deceptive and has a good feel for the position.

John Broussard (6-1, 176, 2nd year): Made a splash as a rookie in 2007 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, when he had a 47-yard touchdown catch against the Tennessee Titans. But he was cut by Jacksonville entering 2008 and then bounced around, first on the Giants' and then the Bears' practice squads. He's another receiver the Bears are eager to see more of in camp.

Rashied Davis (5-9, 187, 5th year): A big part of the Bears' playoff push and Super Bowl XLI run, Davis hit a snag last season when asked to assume a top role. Bears fans rode him for drops and that festered, but he's a self-made hard worker who will likely bounce back strong.

Devin Hester (5-11, 190, 4th year): The Bears expect big things from Hester as he becomes more comfortable in the receiving role and as he works to improve. His route-running, catching and myriad of intangibles have been on display thus far in offseason work. Rising. A player who, last season, according to Bears accounts, had 12 deep balls either overthrown or underthrown when he was running free.

Juaquin Iglesias (6-1, 210, rookie): He was a favorite of the franchise in the draft, and the Bears feel fortunate he fell their way. He has a natural look and style about him. They like his hands. They are eager to see him compete.

Derek Kinder (6-0, 210, rookie): Good size, good hands and more of a possession receiver who could become a situational or red-zone specialist.

Johnny Knox (6-0, 185, rookie): He brings speed and nice potential in the open field. The Bears want to see what else.

Eric Peterman (6-1, 200, rookie): The quickness and speed are there, and so is a penchant for making plays in a crowd. He likes to block, and that makes him well-equipped in the Bears' run-oriented mentality.

Brandon Rideau (6-3, 198, 3rd year): Injuries have slowed him in the past, but he is familiar with the Bears' system and has the ability and size to gain notice.

Besides Hester and maybe Davis, the lack of "names" among these receivers makes some Bears fans cringe.

They are not alone. One NFL team's personnel executive said of the group:

"There isn't one guy there, maybe Hester, that I'd be scared of. And Hester has the speed but has not really established himself as a dominant guy week in and out. They are young guys and nice players -- we really liked Iglesias and Knox -- but not a person that would stand out to a defensive coordinator that would make him worry what to do to stop that certain guy. The closest is Hester. I will say this: I can see why they are excited about them on paper. But as they always say, the game is not played on paper."

The Bears know that their passing game includes running back Matt Forte and tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark. Solid weapons. They also, especially with Cutler under center, believe that the quarterback makes the wide receiver, not the other way around. They believe the passing game is all about accuracy and putting the ball in the right spots, and that separation gained by receivers against defensive backs is often only a step. It's all about the quarterback, even under fire, putting the ball in the receiver's chest so he gets it in stride and can use his athletic ability to make plays.

And that is certainly Cutler's gift.

In prior practices, the Bears have seen Cutler's arrow-like arm, his commanding demeanor in the huddle, the way he has pushed some receivers, put an arm around others and ability to know when the difference is required. As much as Cutler has lit a fuse in the fan base, he is providing a calmness, an assuredness to the Bears offense.

Thus, in this camp, the Bears are looking for their receivers to continue to fiercely compete.

The Bears certainly know it: Individually and as a group, the believers in these receivers, beyond their walls, are scattered, scarce.

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