Potentially two of the starting three wide receivers
We're not quite a week in, but it's worth a look at one of the more interesting camp battles for the Bears—who will be the No. 2 wide receiver.
Before we get into this, I have taken a tremendous amount of heat on my stance regarding Devin Hester and whatever his role ultimately is in this offense.
I'm not on board; many of you are. The Bears certainly are, and ultimately, that's all that matters.
So while I think the idea won't work out, he's in the hunt, so we'll talk about him here. For the purposes of this article, let's just put aside our differences and talk about reality.
The reality is, Hester is having a solid camp, with the exception of a few plays where he was banged up. He has mostly been on the outside spot, with occasional shifts elsewhere.
It works out well for him (or should) because it will gain him the least amount of attention while defenses are watching Brandon Marshall.
He's played well so far, though it's hard for me to see him as the No. 2, since he'd function better with another guy to pull coverage away from him. The more room he has, the better.
However, while he was ill-suited for the prime spot, he might be able to do something in that second spot. His speed is attractive, and that's his upside—get the ball in his hands and hope he makes some great moves.
Would he flourish as a No. 2 or would there be too much attention? More than likely, they'll have him in the third spot, but there's a ton of camp to go, so we'll see. They love him, and that gives him every chance of making the No. 2 his.
Also in play has been Earl Bennett, who Kevin Seifert of the ESPN NFC North blog mentioned as having some very nice plays in the few days he was at camp.
Bennett is a prototypical second wide receiver—reliable, good at his routes and able to make a big play now and then. He's a guy Cutler can count on for any play at about any time.
Who should be the No. 2 wide receiver?
He can get open long, break across a route short and has tremendous savvy in fooling defensive backs when he needs to get open.
Bennett doesn't have tremendous untapped upside, but he doesn't have to. This could finally be the year he and Cutler really sync up (though, as with the Hester love, it's something we've heard before).
I'd give Bennett the overall edge so far—he's more reliable than Hester and far more polished than Jeffery.
As far as rookie Alshon Jeffery goes, I've been high on him for a few months now and believe that eventually, he will take over the No. 2 role in this offense—if he reaches his potential, he gives the Bears a far greater variety of options on any given down than Bennett.
As with all rookies, though, there is a learning curve. He's raw, lacks precision footwork at this point and isn't quite able to set up a defensive back with a shoulder fake or other move.
That's going to come, and his upside is such that if he can learn those things from the veteran receivers around him, he would easily make the No. 2 spot his.
Not yet, though. As of now, he's the outside guy looking in on the trio of Marshall, Bennett and Hester.
Plenty of camp to go, though, and looking at this group of four receivers (as well as the backfield and tight end position), you can see the potential for a very dangerous offense in 2012.