Up Close: The Wide Receivers

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IMarch 5, 2010

DETROIT - JANUARY 3:  Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears carries the ball during the game against the Detroit Lions on January 3, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Going into the 2009 season, many experts felt that the Bears wide receivers would not be anywhere close to the task that was before them.  What was that task?  To work with one of the best up and coming quarterbacks in the NFL in Jay Cutler and be able to provide him with quality targets.  This unit was not as experienced as many other units in the NFL and many people predicted a disaster.

The disaster really never came but there were problems at the wide receiver position that helped to contribute to a less than stellar season for the Bears in terms of passing.  As we head into the 2010 season there are many questions at the wide receiver position.  Is Devin Hester a number one wide receiver?  Will Johnny Knox be able to keep progressing enough to become an effective player at the position?  What is Juaquin Iglesias’s status for 2010?

Let’s see if we can answer some of these questions and see where the Bear’s wide receivers are headed in 2010.

Devin Hester had a quiet season playing in 13 games, starting 12 catching 57 passes for 757 yards with an average of 13.3 yards per catch with an average of 13.3 yards per catch.  He had a long of 48 yards and caught three touchdowns.  He did fumble three times losing one fumble.

Hester is a bit of an enigma on this team as no one is quite sure if he will ever be able to become a number one wide receiver in the NFL and even though he took strides forward in 2009 he didn’t do enough to make it appear that he is a number one wide receiver.  Perhaps it would be better if the Bears moved him back to where he excelled and try to find someone else to become the number one wide receiver.

Earl Bennett was slated to have a strong season in 2009 as he was being reunited with his college quarterback (Cutler) and many people felt that Bennett could find the old “magic” that the two had in college.  Bennett and Cutler did hook up a few times on some good plays but Chicago didn’t get the kind of production out of the duo like they thought that they would.

Bennett played in 16 games starting 15 of those games.  He caught 54 passes for 717 yards with an average of 13.3 yards per catch.  He had a long of 71 yards and two touchdowns and two fumbles both of which were not lost.  Bennett was basically in his rookie season (even though he had one year under his belt) because the Bears didn’t give him a chance to play in 2008.  Now, he comes in having to learn a new system which might set him back a little bit again but if he and Cutler can find the same kind of rhythm that they had long ago in college Bennett might be able to thrive.

Johnny Knox burst onto the scene in 2009 as a rookie and saw some action thanks to his blazing speed and ability to play special teams.  As a special teamer, he made the Pro Bowl and did make some good strides towards becoming a complete receiver. 
All together, Knox played in 15 games but didn’t have a start.  He caught 45 passes for 527 yards with an average of 11.7 yards per catch.  He had a long of 68 yards and five touchdowns.  He did fumble three times losing two of those fumbles. 

Knox is the fastest player on the team and needs to develop as a wide receiver in order to become a real threat at the position.  Hopefully he will be able to learn the new system that will be put into place, be able to thrive in it and help the team win some games in 2010.

Devin Aromashodu had a strong end to the 2009 season and made a strong case for himself next season.  He has the size that would be ideal for a starting wide receiver and he and Cutler seemed to develop a good relationship last year (after Cutler asked for him to be a part of the offense).  All told, Aromashodu played in ten games for the Bears starting two of those games.  He had 24 receptions for 298 yards with an average of 12.4 yards per catch.  His longest catch was 39 yards and he had four touchdowns.

Aromashodu should be in contention for the number one wide receiver spot when the Bears come back to camp this summer.  Depending on what Martz thinks, how the other receivers progress and whether or not the Bears bring in some veteran talent at the position, Aromashodu should have all of the skills and intangibles that you would look for in a starting wide receiver and should end up being the top guy in 2010.

Juaquin Iglesias didn’t see much action at all in 2009 but will get a chance to contribute in training camp this summer.  As has been the case in the past (see Bennett) the Bears have chosen to “redshirt” their wide receivers and then give them a try in their second season.  It will be interesting to see how Chicago handles Iglesias this offseason but he will get a chance to contribute as a wide receiver and may even be able to crack the crowded starting lineup with a good training camp.

Rashied Davis hasn’t seen much action in the passing game after the emergence of those wide receivers ahead of him.  Instead, he has seen a lot of action on special teams and has played pretty well there.  All together, he played in all 16 games with no starts.  He caught five passes for 35 yards and an average of 7 yards per catch.  He didn’t have any touchdowns.

We may have seen the last of Davis in a Bears uniform now depending on how things go with bringing in other receivers during the offseason.  His value on special teams is important however so depending on how anyone else brought in does on special teams Davis could stick around based solely on that but it’s hard to imagine Chicago keeping someone who is not a dual threat.  However, they have done it before so they just might end up keeping Davis.

Eric Peterman was with the Bears this past summer and failed to make the final roster.  However, they just recently resigned him and hope that he will add some competition in training camp this summer.  Don’t think about him as a long shot to make the roster however as he has as good a chance as many of these guys to make the active roster in 2010.

Chicago is much better set at the wide receiver position than many people think that they are and they should, as a group, have a pretty decent season in 2010.  They will see a lot more passes thrown their way in the new offense that Chicago will have and they should be up to the challenge.  As long as the offensive line can protect Cutler long enough for him to get the ball out, this team could have one of the better passing games in the NFL in 2010.