Earl Bennett in for battle with Chicago Bears receivers


Training camp is finally almost here. They allow tackling there and everything. Around the League will count down the top 30 position battles to watch throughout the preseason.

Top 30 training camp position battles

No. 30: Seahawks running backs
No. 29: Packers No. 3 receiver
No. 28: Broncos backup running back
No. 27: Bengals cornerbacks
No. 26: Raiders backup quarterback
No. 25: Cardinals receiver
No. 24: Jets right tackle
No. 23: Jets linebacker
No. 22: Redskins running back
No. 21: Giants No. 3 receiver
No. 20: Patriots receiver
No. 19: Colts tight end
No. 18: Rams receivers
No. 17: Jaguars quarterbacks
No. 16: Bears wide receivers
No. 15: NFL safety battles
No. 14: Jaguars No. 2 receiver
No. 13: Bears left tackle
No. 12: Randy Moss vs. Father time
No. 11: Lions receivers
No. 10: Cardinals running back
No. 9: Ravens pass rusher
No. 8: Dolphins quarterback
No. 7: Buccaneers running back
No. 6: Steelers defensive end
No. 5: Dolphins wide receiver
No. 4: Cardinals quarterback
No. 3: The Oakland Raiders
No. 2: Titans quarterback
No. 1: Seahawks quarterback

No. 16: Chicago Bears wide receiver: Devin Hester vs. Earl Bennett vs. Alshon Jeffery

• The Bears gave Jay Cutler a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver when they acquired Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins in March. The move changes the dynamics of the Bears' offense, while providing a golden opportunity for other receivers on the roster to reap the benefits of the double-teams Marshall is sure to attract. Hester, Bennett, and Jeffery will all jockey for that No. 2 spot, though don't be surprised if all three players have some role in the passing game.

• We seem to hear every offseason about the Bears' plans to expand Hester's role as a wide receiver. The team has tried to cultivate Hester beyond his role as a dynamic special teams talent, but Hester might be best used in select packages. General manager Phil Emery hinted that could be the team's plan in April.

• Bennett could develop into a dangerous weapon for Cutler, his former teammate at Vanderbilt. He's a versatile receiver who can play any wideout position. He might be most effective in the slot, where he can develop into a dangerous Wes Welker-type. He saw plenty of time there during minicamp.

• The Bears obviously think highly of Jeffery, having traded up in the second round of April's draft to get the former South Carolina standout. Rookie wide receivers don't typically crack the starting lineup in Week 1 (only A.J. Green and Julio Jones did it last season), but Jeffery should get a legit shot in camp.

The verdict: Bennett's best fit is the slot, but we predict he'll start Week 1 at flanker opposite Marshall. If Jeffery progresses through camp and into the season, Chicago could eventually work him into the starting mix.