Bennett: Bears' passing game will have 'new s
Bennett: Bears' passing game will have 'new stuff'
By Brad Biggs Tribune reporter 11:05 a.m. CDT, June 17, 2011
If there was an offseason in which Earl Bennett could benefit from some extra family time, it has been this one.
His son -- Earl Jr. -- was born during the playoffs. So in the 94 days (and counting) of the NFL lockout, the Chicago Bears wide receiver has been able to spend more time with him. The Birmingham, Ala., native also had family members experience significant losses during the tornadoes that ravaged his home state.
But Bennett is itching to get back to work.
“My biggest thing is I am ready to get back to football,” Bennett said Friday on "The Mully & Hanley Show" on WSCR-670 AM. “I have been down in Pensacola, Fla., training ever since the season has been over with. I am just ready to get back to football, get back to Halas Hall, get back to practicing and get ready for this season. Hopefully, they get something resolved pretty quickly.”
Bennett also has been doing some work in the area with quarterback Jay Cutler and some skill position players. The offensive players have been doing work against air, meaning there aren’t any defensive players covering the receivers.
“We meet about four days a week,” Bennett said. “We go through plays, route running, coverages. We basically do like a whole OTA day. We’ll be out there for about an hour and a half and just go through a lot of different things, just making sure we remain crisp on our routes.
“We do a lot of things on air. We have a couple guys on offense who will step over for a Cover-2 look and things of that nature. But we don’t have anybody out there pressing doing 1-on-1 drills.
“We’ve got some new stuff in. We’ve got a lot old stuff. Some of the stuff that we’ve got, if you’d see it, it’s unreal. We’ve got a lot of stuff to go off right now.”
Who has been most impressive? Bennett says Cutler has been sharp and on his game.
“His knowledge of the game is unreal and I look forward to a great season from Jay this year,” Bennett said. “He just looks ready and focused.”
It’s a big year for Bennett, a third-round draft pick from Vanderbilt in 2008. He’s entering the final season of his contract with a chance to set himself up well. He has changed agents, signing with Octagon, and surely that move was with an eye toward is future. Now, it’s about going out and putting up a big season, something offensive coordinator Mike Martz is already pointing to if his comments to the Bears' team-controlled website are an indication of things to come.
“We didn’t throw it to him enough,” Martz said on the website last month. “That will be remedied. He will figure in a much larger role than he did last year. He came to us late. He was injured. I wasn’t really sure where he was with all the stuff. But he established himself as a guy who needs to get a lot more balls than he did.
“He’s extremely reliable. I know Jay (Cutler) feels comfortable with him in the slot doing some of those things. But he should be able to play outside for us as well.”
It sounds like Martz is prepared to extend an opportunity for Bennett to earn a starting job, likely across from Johnny Knox.
“Once I get the opportunity I have to take advantage of it and pretty much catch everything that comes to me and continue to help move the ball downfield,” Bennett said. “I am just excited for the opportunity and look forward to it.
“My expectation is to always do better than I did the previous year and just continue to build on that. I don’t set any individual goals like Pro Bowl or anything like that. I just want to continue to get better and become a better player – blocking, fundamentals, catching the ball, running routes. Each year I work on the little things and the little things will take you a long way.
“My biggest thing is to come in and compete. Last year, I was injured and I really wasn’t able to compete for a starting job. This year, I look to come in and compete. Hopefully, I can come in and win a starting job. If not, I know my role, it’s the No. 3 or No. 4. The biggest thing is for me to come in and help the team out and help us anyway possible.”
Bennett has heard the chatter again this year that the Bears could be in the market for help at the position in free agency. He does his best to tune it out as it’s nothing he hasn’t heard before.
“For the past three years, I have been hearing that, free agents on the free-agent market were supposed to come here or the Bears were looking at these guys,” he said. “The guys in the front office must see something in us and we must be doing a pretty good job because they never go after these guys. Me personally, I feel like we have a great group. We continue to get better each year.
“It’s very insulting because it seems as if we’re not getting the job done, and that’s definitely not the case in our opinion.”