Bears Lack a Vertical Receiver Threat & Other NFC North News

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 18: Caleb Hanie #12 of the Chicago Bears checks on teammate Johnny Knox #13 after Knox was injured against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on December18, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Bears 38-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Wasn't Devin Hester supposed to be the big vertical threat this year? Isn't his speed supposed to be a huge weapon across from Brandon Marshall?

I ask because the Sun-Times' Mark Potash was saying that one of the things the Bears miss about injured receiver Johnny Knox is his speed and ability to go vertical.

Wasn't that one of the things Hester was supposed to do?

In fact, wasn't that what Hester did for the one touchdown he scored, as well as a few other big plays?

A nice little stop-n-go or "chair" to fool coverage so he can slip behind the defense for a long catch.

So why are we not seeing more of it?

It might be time to take a long look at just Hester in the last few games and see why he's not getting targets or, when he is, why they aren't using him more vertically?

Some of it is Jay Cutler's tendency to throw almost exclusively at Brandon Marshall. It's working for the most part, so that's not a complaint. However, the next guy in number of targets behind Marshall's 80 is Matt Forte at 26 and then Earl Bennett at 24.

That's a huge drop-off. Is it hurting a vertical game or is it a product of everyone's inability to get open long?

Another factor is the receivers in general. Bennett isn't a vertical threat, while Alshon Jeffery could be if he weren't hurt. He's raw anyway so, more than likely his big impact will be over the next two years. Hester, while able to run a good stop-n-go, doesn't run a lot of other routes well. 

He doesn't seem to get separation on post patterns or even a fly route so it's tough to go long to him.

The receivers are, for the most part, pretty good—just not as vertical threats.

Absolutely the Bears miss Knox and I hope he is able to recover and play again.

However, we knew he was unlikely to make it back this season. So the Bears knew they needed a vertical threat.

One wonders why they didn't do something before the season and if that decision may come back to haunt them at some point in the season.

For now, it's working, though the offense has been a bit streaky at times. 

With a tougher part of the schedule coming up, it will be interesting to watch what adjustments both the Bears and their opposition make to this apparent hole in the offense.

On to the rest of the NFC North....

Chicago Bears

Mike Mulligan at the Tribune says that Jay Cutler and the offense will feel increasing pressure and scrutiny as the second half of the season gets under way.

ESPN Chicago's Michael Wright is back with another edition of Stock Watch, with Tim Jennings and others on the rise and Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb among the fallers.

Also at the Tribune, Brad Biggs says Alshon Jeffery could return by November 11th.

Detroit Lions

Dave Birkett takes a look at a new NFLN documentary about Chris Spielman over at the Free Press.

 Birkett also looks at the acquisition of the Jaguars' Mike Thomas.'s Anwar Richardson says the issue for the Lions this week will be building on their offensive performance against the Seattle Seahawks.

Green Bay Packers

The Press-Gazette's  Pete Dougherty says a trade for a running back is unlikely.

Over at, Zach Kruse takes a statistical look at last week's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a little help from Pro Football Focus.

Lori Nickel of the Journal-Sentinel says that running backs are important in protecting the quarterback as well.

Minnesota Vikings

Chris Gates at The Daily Norseman takes a look at the Vikings bringing in a new punter for a tryout.

Sam Monson of and 1500 ESPN says Sidney Rice could be a problem for the Vikings.

Joseph Gunther of CBS Minnesota writes about three ways the team can improve for the the second half of the season.

Check out the B/R NFC North Facebook page—like us and keep up with everything NFC North on Bleacher Report.

Follow me on Twitter at @andrew_garda.


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