Coaches maintain receivers aren't Bears' problem
Martz and Darryl Drake say group doing its job
Dan Pompei On the NFL 9:22 p.m. CDT, November 2, 2010
If Randy Moss keeps his yap shut and plays like he is capable, he can help any team in the NFL, including the Bears.
But it's not as if the Bears need Moss because their receivers are incapable.
The Bears have lost three games this year because of a number of offensive problems. The offensive line has been completely ineffectual in long spots. Jay Cutler has performed here and there with an absence of thought. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has short-circuited at times.
The wide receivers, however, have not been the problem — despite popular opinion.
"Every time a ball is incomplete doesn't mean the receiver isn't where he is supposed to be," Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake said. "The majority of times they have been just where they are supposed to be."
It's funny that everyone from Troy Aikman to the guy on the last barstool knows exactly where Bears receivers are supposed to be without studying the playbook, hearing the play call or watching the game tape. And yet the Bears receivers supposedly don't know where they are supposed to be.
Martz also said the receivers have done well in terms of running correct routes.
"We went through a stretch about three weeks ago where there were a couple of things that we needed to clean up but they've been very good about that," he said. "When you can get the ball out on time they've done a good job of that also. Some of the guys were learning some of the adjustments in terms of different things that they had not seen before."
A learning curve still is in play with the wideouts and it will continue to be all season. But they are more comfortable with their responsibilities now than they were one month ago, and should be even more comfortable one month from now.
"Every week there is something new, which is a good thing about the system," Earl Bennett said. "We keep learning more week in, week out, what's expected of us. It's evolving."
Understand that this is a sensitive issue at Halas Hall because defending the wide receivers implicitly is blaming the quarterback. So no one is pounding the podium at news conferences about it.
But no one is running from the truth, either.
I asked Drake how many busts, or broken plays, receivers had in the loss to the Redskins. He said there was one.
"A guy should have made a break at 15 [yards], and instead he broke it at 12," Drake said.
In fact, Drake said the receivers as a group very seldom have had more than three busts in a game.
I asked Drake if there were any big plays that went the other way this year that were attributable to receivers. He said there were none he could think of. That includes Cutler's four interceptions against the Redskins.
Nor were any the receivers blamed for failing to break up any of those passes.
"There are times when you have to become a defensive back, but you have to be in position to do that," Drake said. "If you are running full speed one way, you might not be in the proper body position to do that."
Whereas Bears coaches did not find fault with Johnny Knox for failing to break up Cutler's fourth quarter interception on a buttonhook route, they did think he could have reacted quicker after the interception and made the tackle.
The moaning about the lack of a "No. 1" receiver has subsided a bit because Knox is on pace for 1,092 receiving yards. But what's interesting is this: as far as defenses are concerned, Devin Hester is the Bears' No. 1 receiver.
Hester has played fewer snaps in recent weeks because the Bears want to keep him fresh for punt returns, but throughout the season he has been the receiver defenses have concentrated on most.
"People want to put two on 23," Drake said. "Defensive coordinators and secondary coaches, they have a fear of him. He's not getting a lot of balls, but he's opening it up for Johnny."
You want to know the biggest shortcoming of the Bears' receivers? The joke in the receivers room at Halas Hall is that they have to stop getting caught at the 1. It has happened twice to Bennett. We all know what happens when the goal line offense steps in.
"I've been on him about that," Drake said with a laugh.
The Bears offense, you see, has a lot bigger issues than the play of the receivers.