Bears positional analysis: Wide receivers
Bears positional analysis: Wide receivers
Ninth in a 10-part series
Marty Booker's legend grew again at the end of the 2010 season.
OK, maybe the former Pro Bowl receiver isn't a giant in terms of the Bears' record books. But he sure qualifies as an obstacle because no matter what they do in an era when passing is what makes offenses go, the Bears can't seem to get past Booker.
Booker was the last Bears wide receiver to post a 1,000-yard season, doing so in 2001 and '02. Consider that Booker and Dick Gordon are the only Bears wide receivers to be named to the Pro Bowl during the Super Bowl era (Johnny Knox and Devin Hester were selected as returners the last two seasons), and you get a better indication of how lacking the team has been at the position. It certainly doesn't come as a surprise. Receiver production goes hand-in-hand with the production of the quarterback, and the Bears' failures at that position are well documented.
Knox had a chance to crack 1,000 yards, needing only 40 in the regular-season finale at Green Bay where he was shut out. The position was supposed to explode this season with the arrival of Mike Martz and his high-powered offense. Consider that in the previous 10 years of directing an offense, Martz's No. 1 wide receiver averaged 88.7 receptions and 1,256 yards. The No. 2 wide receiver averaged 68.6 receptions and 1,037 yards. Knox was the only Bears receiver to top 50 catches with 51 and he gained 960 yards. Bernard Berrian is the last Bear to eclipse 68 receptions, getting 71 in 2007.
The position remains a hot-button topic for fans who clamor for a big target on the outside. Martz has had that player only once, though, and that was when Calvin Johnson was drafted in Detroit. The St. Louis Rams never had a player who fit that mold. But they did have precise route runners who were in the right place at the right time. Receivers who could break down zone coverage and beat man coverage.
The Packers throttled the Bears receivers in the NFC Championship Game with an excellent secondary that is something the Bears will have to contend with again. But Jay Cutler missed Hester for two touchdowns in the first half when the receiver got open deep and that only can be blamed on the quarterback.
The Bears have invested in the position once, signing Muhsin Muhammad in free agency in 2005. General manager Jerry Angelo always has been hesitant to draft a wide receiver in the first round because of the bust factor. However, had he not swung the trade for Cutler in 2009, it's believed he would have selected a receiver in the first round.
Roll call: Devin Aromashodu, Earl Bennett, Rashied Davis, Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Andy Fantuz.
2010 overview: Devin Aromashodu looked like he was on the fast track to stardom based on how the 2009 season ended and how much Cutler liked throwing him the ball. He caught 22 passes for 282 yards in the final four games of '09 with four touchdowns, all against NFC North opponents. His 150-yard performance on "Monday Night Football" against the Minnesota Vikings looked like a coming out party.
Aromashodu was targeted a team-high 10 times in the season opener against the Detroit Lions, when he made five receptions for 71 yards. Then he disappeared fast enough to qualify for a mug shot on the side of a milk carton. The 6-2, 201-pound Aromashodu did a Houdini vanishing act. There was discussion that he hadn't learned the slot. Maybe he wasn't in the right place all the time. Whatever the case, he was sent to the bench where he remained for most of the rest of the season (he caught only five passes the rest of the way).
Knox picked up where he left off as a rookie in 2009, but he rarely had the kind of big game that turned heads. In eight regular-season games, he had three receptions or less. He's a terrific vertical threat and his 18.8-yard average ranked fifth in the league. He was also tied for 10th with 17 receptions for 20 or more yards. The 960 yards he had ranked 13th in franchise history, but again that's a reflection of bad history more than anything else. Knox is a speedy player with decent hands, but like the players who have come before him, he was probably miscast as a No. 1 receiver. Put Knox opposite a more complete receiver who can be just as effective inside as he is outside, and Knox probably would fare better.
While some made the error of continuing to hail Hester as a No. 1 receiver, he'd clearly shown that wasn't a role for him coming into this season. His production dropped significantly under Martz as he went from 57 receptions in 2009 to 40. Hester's average of 11.9 yards per reception was a career low and an example of how he probably wasn't used to his maximum ability.
Earl Bennett emerged as a consistent player and was steady with 46 receptions for 561 yards. Rashied Davis played sparingly with most of his action coming when a minor ankle injury sidelined Bennett. His greatest contributions again came on special teams.
Free agency/draft need: This is going to depend a great deal on how the organization defines the performances of the receivers vs. the performance of Cutler. How do they assess the quarterback and the parts he had to work with and how is the pass blocking figured into the equation? No matter what opinion they reach, what is clear here is the Bears lack a receiver that strikes fear into an opponent when it prepares a game plan. Yes, Knox's speed must be countered but the Bears don't have a game-changing wideout, a pure No. 1. They aren't easy to find and there might be only a dozen in the league, but with a quarterback they believe is elite, why not do whatever it takes to get him one of those targets? Cutler doesn't have the kind of player that on third-and-6 everyone in the stadium knows is going to get the ball. That's the kind of player who can move the chains even when the defense knows the ball is going his way. That being said, Cutler needs to be better because he can raise the level of play of his receivers by himself.
Looking ahead: Wanting a No. 1 target and being able to get one are two different things. If the Bears can find that player and shift Knox into a No. 2 role while making Bennett and Hester complementary players, receivers coach Darryl Drake finally will have a unit that's worthy of real attention in a league that is all about throwing the football. If the Bears introduce a young player to the mix and are forced to rely on the cast of veterans, production might not be too different. Knox potentially could make the jump to 65 receptions for 1,110 yards, but that's a projection. Aromashodu is a restricted free agent and he figures to want out more than they might want him out. Davis will be unrestricted and he may have to seek work elsewhere. So, the Bears figure to be looking for additions besides Canadian Football League import Andy Fantuz, who signed a reserve/futures contract last week. It's just a matter of when and where.
Bottom line: The Bears continue to value their receivers more than others do. They lack a difference-maker at the position and if they want to see Cutler flourish, it's a position that will have to be addressed.
Next: Special teams.
Think we do get a F/A WR more than a draft WR, mostly because of the "learning curve" and wanting 2011 production, than waiting the 2-3 years most WR's take to break out... esp at the 29th pick, most immediate impact WR's will not be there,So hard to see it filled by Draft.
While sidney rice and despite his 2 strikes, vincent jackson the obvious F/A's would expect both to be tagged, eliminating them from the bear's radar the below is the class of 2011:
Santonio Holmes (NYJ)
Braylon Edwards (NYJ)
Malcom Floyd (SD)
Steve Smith (NYG)
Terrell Owens (CIN)
Randy Moss (TEN)
Steve Breaston (ARI)
Mike Williams (SEA)
TJ Houshmandzadeh (BAL)
Mike Sims-Walker (JAC)
Lance Moore (NO)
Maurice Stovall (TB)
Santana Moss (WAS)
*plaxico burress- out of jail and think a F/A
Which is a mis-mash of who knows what?.. Moss is intriguing with Cutler for the Size and what he likes- just not sure what he has left or mind-set or lockroom, but if came with a incentive ladden deal, the best of the rest. really like steve smith, but don't think the Giants can afford to let him go, but he's worth a good long look at and if not him than malcom flyod would be next
Players like moss/holmes/moore, just repeating what we have here, and edwards IMo still drops too many key passes to ink a deal>breaston's knee a concern, and just IMO, if the cards don't ink him, means worse than expected
What became most obvious to me this season is that Hester and Knox should never be paired as the starting WR's. It would be much better to rotate them keeping them fresh as long balls threats. The kind of speed they possess could easily open up both the running game and the deep middle for Olsen since a safety would almost always have cover either of them over the top.
Bennett is clutch receiver who can get open over the middle and make the tough catch. Cutler trusts him and isn't afraid to go to him but his lack of speed limits him somewhat. Still he's the closest thing to a Marty Booker that we have on the roster. DA has had his chances but for some reason or another seems to have landed in the offensive dog house. It would be nice to keep him and give him at least one more chance of cracking the starting lineup. If he's a RFA that seems likely. I guess the new guy, Fantuz, is a wild card who could be a Jordy Nelson type guy but the again he could just be another slow white guy with decent hands but no where near the talent to play in the NFL despite his success in Canada.
There's no question that the Bears need to address the need for a #1 type guy now in order to keep pace with a quickly improving NFCN. I could see the Bears and Malcom Floyd as a real nice fit and he should be available since I don't see any way the San Diego will pay both he and Jackson what they feel they're worth. Braylon Edwards was also a guy the Bears coveted before Cleveland nabbed him just ahead of the Bears. He's got great skills but his inconsistency bothers me a lot. Still, he's probably better suited to play a #1 spot then anyone else we have on the roster. Burress is an enigma. If he's learned his lessons and become a more humble guy we might just see a Michael Vick kind of turnaround from him. Of course you'd have to bring him in and work him out to see where he is skillswise plus do a thorough interview to see where his heads at and what kind of an attitude he brings but he may also be the big guy type of WR that Cutler seems to need to take this offense to the next level. One way or another we should definitely come out of this FA with somebody who can handle that #1 spot.
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Mike Williams signed an extension
I believe this is a major concern but we have to see where on the priority list wr is to JA. On one hand slick says its about the qb not wrs and on the other hand rumors came out that we tried to trade for Boldin after the Cutler trade. Who do you beleive lol.
Now if Rice and Jackson are franchised Holmes is the best of the bunch. Too bad he just duplicates what we have. The two guys being franchised are actually the two that we need the most with their combination of size and speed.
After that it gets pretty mediocre on that list. If Roy Williams gets cut I wonder if Martz will want him.
Like a good game of poker, you never show your hand or tells- never understand why People get mad that a GM lies in free agency about not wanting anyone, and praising what they have( to keep price down), while behind the scene's trying to get a Player.. Its a win/win.. For instance with boldin, if we don't get him, you have egg on face, AND the WR's already here could potentially be mad, you didn't have faith in them, but why saying you look the players you gt the faith and trust, and if ge him, use the old "we are alwasy trying to upgrade and couldn't pass up a good deal" line..
Originally Posted by motownbear
As said i do think both Steve smith from giants and malcom flyod a cut above the rest and in prime( not like a to or randy) and as soul said, plexiglass may be in play, and can't imagine hr wants to be in NY anymore, both on or off field, he needs a change of scenery and new start.. his conditioning and headwould be the big issue
What do you think of WR Greg Little (University of North Carolina).
We may be able to draft him in round 4.
intriguing, was on same level as hakeem nicks in 2009, before his suspension in 2010, so a year w/o football had to hurt, but the 6'2' 220 size is good, but IMO he will need alot of work to get back he lost year, esp as he was a RB when came to carolina, so really behind the 8 ball in learning the position.. SO talking a 2-3 year project at least.. wouldn't touch until later in draft because if this
Originally Posted by GeorgiaJeff
If we identify that the Bears are going to go after a WR then I think it plays out like this,
Vincent Jackson, Franchise Tagged.
Sidney Rice, Will probably get resigned by the Vikings.
I would then go through the following list,
1. Santonio Holmes, does not have the size, but run Mike Martz's style routes.
2. Braylon Edwards, has the 6'3" size but is inconsistent.
3. Mike Sims-Walker, at 6'2" he has the size, but injuries have slowed him.
MUCH rather have Steve smith or malcom flyod before edwards or sims-walker, heck would take plexiglass before either of those 2 also
Originally Posted by WindyCity
I hate to say it, but the smaller receivers are our best chance at success here: Holmes and Smith. Holmes has been good for much of his career, and smith was injured last year, and although neither may be the upper echelon number one, they could both start and contribute right away. Knox and Hester would alternate as a speed guy (that's a really good idea, soulman) and Bennet is the only one that should also be in the mix with them for number 1. If we signed both of them, we could rely on the draft to shore up other spots.