Should Knox Be Getting More Action?......
Bears need to throw more to Knox
Team's most talented receiver has been ignored far too often this season
Dan Pompei On the NFL 2:32 p.m. CST, November 12, 2011
The Bears offense undoubtedly is progressing.
But it could progress faster if someone would take the Maserati out of the garage.
Johnny Knox is averaging 18.1 yards per catch, seventh best in the NFL. But he has only 20 receptions, which ranks 110th in the NFL.
Isn't there something wrong with this?
Knox is the Bears' most talented receiver and he has been ignored far too often this season.
The year began with Knox losing his starting job for no reason. Halfway into it, he is on pace to have 25 percent fewer receiving yards than he had last season.
Against the Eagles on Monday, he was thrown to one time. For the season, the Bears have thrown him 36 passes, according to STATS. That's 13 fewer than they have thrown to Devin Hester and only one more than they have thrown to rookie free agent Dane Sanzenbacher.
You can't pin this on Knox, either. Scouts and coaches I've spoken with assure me he is running his routes well, creating separation and getting open. He has dropped only 2.8 percent of the passes thrown his way, the lowest percentage of any receiver except Earl Bennett.
Maybe the Bears should give Knox more opportunities to run the types of downfield routes he runs best, and give him fewer of the short routes that favor bigger, more physical receivers. Just taking a few shots deep with Knox every game has value, even if the passes aren't complete.
Certainly, the Bears could get him on the field more. Knox has been sharing snaps with Roy Williams at the split end, or "X" position. He subsequently has taken 84 fewer snaps than Hester, according to profootballfocus.com.
The Bears are going to need Knox to get to where they want to go. And they are going to need him Sunday against the Lions. After Bennett's outstanding performance one week ago, he's going to be drawing a lot of attention from the defense.
As long as Lovie Smith, Mike Martz and Jay Cutler understand this, there is no reason why Knox should not have a big day against the Lions.
Comprehend the trend: Forte as Favre
When Brett Favre was in the middle of his 253-game run as the starter for the Packers, the team used to keep track of how many quarterbacks had started for other teams during his streak.
The Bears used 21 quarterbacks over that 16-year period, from Henry Burris to Peter Tom Willis.
Forte is not likely to get to 297 straight starts, as Favre eventually did after he left the Packers. Nor is he likely to get to 184 straight starts, which is Walter Payton's team record with the Bears.
But so far Forte's availability has been as impressive as his ability. Forte has started every game of his Bears career, 56 straight. No running back in the NFL has as long a streak going.
Among running backs who entered the league over the last 30 seasons, only Eddie George and LaDainian Tomlinson have started more consecutive games from the beginning of their careers. George started 130 straight; Tomlinson 63.
Since Forte's streak began, 210 other players have started an NFL game at either halfback or fullback.
The Packers have started four halfbacks.
The Lions have started four halfbacks.
And even the Vikings of Adrian Peterson have started three.
It's easy to take durability for granted. Sometimes, it's only noticed when it's missing.
Numbers game: Timeout totals
Although 11 teams have used more timeouts than the Bears this season (including timeouts burned on challenges that were upheld), no team has used more timeouts in the first quarter, according to STATS.
The Bears have used seven first-quarter timeouts. Only three other teams have used more than four. Twenty-two percent of the Bears' timeouts have come in the first quarter.
Of the seven first-quarter timeouts, two have been called by the defense.
The Bears also have used five third-quarter timeouts. Only one team, the Dolphins, have used more. They have used six.
Most teams try to save their timeouts for the second and fourth quarters. The Bears rank 17th in fourth-quarter timeouts used with 12, and they rank 31st in second-quarter timeouts used with seven.
Front-office chess: Garza's gold
When the Bears signed Chris Spencer in training camp, some thought it might mean the team would let Roberto Garza walk as a free agent after the 2011 season. Teams often look to replace 32-year-olds.
But the Bears recently approached Garza about a new deal and signed him Monday to a two-year contract extension worth $6.55 million, with $2.6 million guaranteed.
What's interesting is Spencer's presence actually might have worked in Garza's favor, for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is Spencer, who has been a center for most of his career, has settled in nicely at guard. If Spencer had struggled to play guard, it's likely the team would have been looking to move him to center, Garza's position, next season.
The second reason Garza benefited from Spencer is the Bears paid Spencer $3 million per year. The market for veteran centers last year was between $2 million and $2.5 million per year.
The Bears gave Garza an average of $3.275 in part because Spencer was making close to that.
It's a win for the Bears because they were able to reward a good soldier, retain a leader and do the right thing. What's more, they were able to count $2.6 million of Garza's contract against their 2011 salary cap.
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