I've said before that I will, unlike many within the legions of Bears fans, reserve judgement about the Windy City's receiving corps. Sure, with the exception of Rashied "Brick-hands" Davis, they're young and "unproven."
That is precisely why I haven't written them off, as many others have. But nowhere am I reserving judgement more than in the case of Earl Bennett.
In fact, that is a lie. I may...possibly...maybe...say that I believe Earl Bennett is going to have a good year. In fact again, I think he will not only have a good year, he will ultimately be one of the main keys to the Bears' offense.
"Earl Bennett is attacking his role as one of the lead receivers. I feel he’s really showing the things that we all saw back in college," Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo said on the team website for an article written earlier this month.
The Bears are counting on the second-year pro to do just that, because what he did out of Vanderbilt was tremendous. Bennett set the SEC Conference record for career receptions (236) in 2007, just his third year on the field.
In each of those three years, Bennett earned All-SEC honors. He would enter the 2008 Draft after scoring 20 touchdowns, with nine (the most he scored in a single year there) of those coming directly out of Jay Cutler's hand.
So, though he didn't get much of a chance to contribute last year, I'm optimistic that Bennett will be a great asset. I'm not alone.
“[Bennett] has had an awesome offseason,” head coach Lovie Smith said.
“Sometimes as rookies you don’t really get an opportunity to prove what you can do. But we saw him improve a lot the latter part of last season and we’ve seen the same things right now, and I think he’s a guy that will come onto the scene and everyone will like quite a bit.”
However, as excited as I will be should Bennett see success, it will be what that success represents for the Bears that will be gratifying.
If Bennett can get some beneficial touches, he can legitimately set himself as a No. 2 receiver. With success, comes attention. And it is that attention that I want from the defenses, let alone you critics.
With more attention on Bennett's side, Devin Hester, who is also vastly improved according to Turner, will be able to get his touches more easily as well. Those passes could amount to plenty of the deep bombs from Cutler to Hester seen at last Wednesday's OTA practice.
As any football strategist knows, the passing game opens holes for the running game and vice versa.
As I said, the Bears are counting on Bennett to produce because he can be the gear that, once the running game is established, can create that long ball to Hester or further the success on the ground.
Bennett said that he thinks Culter is "going to do wonders for this team."
I may, possibly...think Bennett is, too.