Chicago Bears: Is Johnny Knox the Missing Link on Offense?
Tuesday was the Bears' deadline for Johnny Knox to return from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, but his health hasn't improved enough, meaning Knox will not find his way onto the field this season (per the Chicago Tribune).
Knox was injured last season against the Seattle Seahawks when he suffered an injured vertebra, resulting in him having spinal fusion surgery. He still finished the year as the Bears' leader in receiving yards with 727 and also hauled in two touchdowns.
Jay Cutler finally got the weapon he desperately wanted when the Bears traded for Brandon Marshall in the offseason. Despite Marshall's stellar season thus far (59 catches, 797 yards, seven touchdowns), the offense still has not clicked the way many would of thought it would.
Knox was not always the most consistent receiver, but according to wide receiver coach Darryl Drake, he is missed (per the Chicago Sun-Times):
‘‘I miss him because of what he brought to the table — the speed factor. The ability to stretch the field ... ‘Johnny was getting better and better before he [was injured]. He was averaging 20 yards a catch.’’
His speed would have offered the Bears a chance to push the ball more downfield, something they thought they would be doing with Devin Hester, but the plan hasn't worked out as well as they thought it would.
Alshon Jeffery's injury, combined with average play from Hester and Earl Bennett, has forced Cutler to rely solely on Marshall.
Although the connection has been working so far, teams are going to do whatever it takes to force Cutler to throw the ball to the other side of the field. If Knox was healthy, he would have been able to force defenses to play more honest and his speed would have kept safeties from cheating towards Marshall's side.
Once Jeffery returns from his injury, he will be able to get teams to play more honest, but he lacks the true speed that made Knox so effective.
It is unknown whether Knox will return to the Bears in 2013, as his rookie contract is set to expire at the end of the season and it is unsure if he will be able to play again, but his absence is clearly felt on the field and could be what the offense is lacking.
Matt Eurich is a contributor to Bearsbacker.com. Follow Bears Backer on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute news about the Bears. Also, check out Matt’s work on BleacherReport.com and follow him on Twitter @MattEurich.
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