Much (some might even say endless) debate has been sparked about whether or not Jay Cutler has enough weapons to power the Bears passing game to the necessary heights needed to get this team back into the postseason. Many skeptics (myself included) are reluctant to take players and coaches at their word that the current core of wideouts is enough to take the team to the next level.
And while buzz from camp has been predictably favorable, and there have been some impressive moments by new talent such as Earl Bennett and Devin Aromashod this preseason, there's never really anyway to fully gauge how well players will perform until they take the field in regular season action. I won't be convinced I am wrong to doubt this group until they show me something in a meaningful game.
Well, if they want to shut me, and their countless doubters up, they have the perfect opportunity to do so right out of the gate.
The Bears open '09 against Green Bay, noted for having one of the better Cornerback tandems in the NFL in Al Harris and Charles Woodson. Both brutally physical combatants, Harris and Woodson have proven capable of taking opposing receivers entirely out of the mix.
How dominant are the Packers cornerbacks? In four contests since 2007, Chicago receivers have pulled in 13 receptions for 157 yards and no scores against Green Bay. Startling as that stat is, it gets worse when you take into consideration 36 of those yards came on one reception by Rashied Davis during the final meaningless moments of the Packers' 37-3 beating of the Bears last November at Lambeau.
If you take out the Davis catch, that's 12 catches for 121 yards, or roughly four catches for slightly over 30 yards per game! That's an underwhelming output from an individual. From an entire unit, it's flat-out unacceptable.
Now yes, the Bears are likely going to see most of their passing yards come from the Tight End position this season, and Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark have performed rather well in the same four contests (24 catches, 277 yards and four scores). And the anemic receiver output hasn't stopped the Bears from winning three of the four games. And yes, there is of course the great Matt Forte, and the significant upgrade at Quarterback. One could argue maybe they don't necessarily need to see big numbers from the receivers in week one.
But dammit, I want them to.
Remember how fantastic a tone the Bears set with a Grossman to Berrian 49-yard bomb on the opening possession of the 2006 season? If anyone of the current crop of receivers (possibly one by the name of Devin Hester) could light such an early spark, who knows what effect it could have on the outcome of the season. I'd hardly say Berrian's TD was the primary factor to the '06 Super Bowl run, but it sure as hell wasn't a detriment.
The receivers aren't the only big concern this team has (pass defense comes quickly to mind) but I am very reluctant to say I see this as a genuine NFC front-runner, and they are the primary reason as to why my skepticism exists.
If they can put up at least respectable numbers against a secondary that has owned them in recent years, it will go a long way in building my belief that they are good enough to help formulate a long playoff run. If not, then plans to upgrade the unit next offseason will likely have to begin much earlier than anyone had hoped.
Good luck, fellas. Feel free to prove me wrong for doubting you.