Jay Cutler Should Make the Bears' Wide Receivers Better in 2009
Since losing Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad to free agency in 2007, the Chicago Bears have struggled to find consistency at wide receiver.
They have tried everything in the world to find a replacement, including converting dynamic return man Devin Hester to a receiver and even bringing in veterans Brandon Lloyd and Marty Booker.
Unfortunately, Booker was a good fit in Chicago during the 2001 season, not 2008.
Last year, the team fielded Booker, Lloyd, Hester, Mark Bradley, and Rashied Davis as their receivers.
Unfortunately, the additions didn't work out too well for the Bears.
Booker had a decent season for the Bears, but not good enough to be re-signed. Lloyd showed promise early in the year before getting hurt. Bradley was traded to Kansas City, where he is now a starter, while Davis had problems catching the ball all of last year.
The only good that came out of that so-called "experiment" last year was the emergence of Hester as a wide receiver.
Hester finished the year with 51 receptions for 665 yards and three touchdowns—not a bad year for his first season as a starting wide receiver.
Still, none of the Bears receivers were good enough for the Pro Bowl. In fact, the Bears haven't had a Pro Bowl receiver since Booker in 2002. Booker is also the only Bears receiver to have more than 100 receptions in a season.
Despite recently struggling to find wide receivers, the well hasn't been completely dry for receivers in Chicago.
Berrian showed potential to be a dominant receiver in Chicago, but he got greedy and signed a big contract to play for the Vikings instead.
Now, Berrian isn't "spectacular" since he has never had more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
But with the acquisition of Jay Cutler, who is an established quarterback, things could have been better for Berrian if he had stayed with the Bears.
It's a shame to have Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson as your quarterback now, huh Berrian?
This leads us to the 2009 season and the receivers that will take the field for the Bears.
There is no doubt whether Hester will start the season as the No. 1 wide receiver on the depth chart, but who will follow him?
The most likely candidates to be No. 2 or No. 3 on the chart are Earl Bennett and Davis.
Bennett didn't play in 2008 because he had trouble learning the playbook, so all this time studying should pay off, right?
On top of playing in Chicago this upcoming season, Bennett also has some history with Cutler. Both played for Vanderbilt in college and know each other well enough on the field.
Davis has been with the Bears for over three seasons now, so he knows the system. He just needs to find a way to apply himself.
Look for Bennett to start as the No. 2 receiver, leaving Davis to be the slot guy.
Now that we have the starters figured out, who is left for the Bears?
The Bears selected two receivers in the draft last April: Juaquin Iglesias from Oklahoma and Johnny Knox from Abilene Christian.
Iglesias will most likely end up fourth on the depth chart and should see some good minutes this season.
He also has the potential to move up to No. 2 or No. 3 on the chart if he plays well.
Knox will most likely fight for a roster spot on special teams or even land on the practice squad.
The receivers may not be too good this year, so don't expect much out of them.
What you can expect, though, is that these receivers should become better over time with Cutler.
The Bears receivers don't have to be great this season for the team to succeed; they just need to be consistent and do their job when they are expected to.
If they can make key blocks, run the right routes, and catch the ball on third down, the Bears may have a successful 2009 season.
The Bears have enough talent to not need a big-time receiving threat and still win the division.
However, there are still other options for the Bears at wide receiver.
They can dip into the free agent pool that includes Plaxico Burress or even make a trade for Brandon Marshall.
I don't expect the Bears to make either of these moves, even though they have shown interest in Burress.
So Bears fans, get ready for an exciting 2009 season. However, don't be mad if none of our receivers make the Pro Bowl, even if they have a spectacular season.
Just enjoy watching Cutler try to make them better.
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