At least in head coach Lovie Smith's eyes, the Chicago Bears possess a multitude of receivers capable of a starting role.
The upcoming 2011 season of Chicago Bears football, and also the second year of implementing Mike Martz's offensive scheme, will determine whether that statement rings hollow.
It was apparent last season that Martz plugged in receivers based on their strength distributed to the play about to take place. This should be considered a positive aspect, as this shows that Martz not only maintains an open mind but will also play to strengths instead of keeping the same men on the field for every down.
If Coach Smith was implying that the Bears' receivers have their own set of strengths to contribute, that is certainly true. Chicago's receivers definitely even each other out.
Let's take a look at the upcoming receiving squad of 2011 for Chicago, while breaking down their style of play.
Considered to be the biggest free agent acquisition of Chicago's offseason, the former Pro Bowler is looking at potentially a starting role in Martz's system.
However, the 6'3" receiver had his lone Pro Bowl year in 2006 under the offensive guidance of coordinator Mike Martz. Williams is indeed a large target for Cutler, but his work ethic has been questioned at times.
Since playing in Dallas, Williams had 1,324 yards—only 14 more than his single season high. It's evident that Williams has been on the decline, but at age 29, the Texas alumnus has plenty of time to redeem himself.
While many normal fans believe a team is built on talent, Martz's system says otherwise. Roy Williams is big and strong enough to block, alongside the ability to catch and hold onto short passes in coverage. This is one missing piece in a small, speedy core of receivers.
Strengths: Possession, Blocking, Short Routes.
Weaknesses: Work ethic, injuries.
Prediction: Williams should produce decent numbers in a Martz system with spread receivers, being able to fight for yardage and lock up the middle of the gridiron.
Quite possibly the quickest, most agile player in the NFL, Devin Hester is one of the few players converted from defense to offense. Since setting NFL records in kick returns, Lovie Smith has always adored the speedy Hester as a receiver.
Since coming into a starting role, Hester has produced at times, but never lived up to the expectations set forth by Smith as a No. 1 receiver.
However, Hester's role has been dramatically reduced as years go on. This has translated into success, again, as a kick returner—something Bears fans have asked to happen for years.
Devin Hester is an insanely fast, explosive target with decent hands and decent routes. The good thing about Hester is his playmaking ability—how plays can be centered around giving Hester room to do his thing.
Strengths: Speed, Release, Quick Routes.
Weaknesses: Hands, Routes.
Prediction: Devin Hester will produce more than ever this season, but not in numbers. His presence will be felt on the field for fourth-quarter plays.
Johnny Knox is the exact definition of fan favorite. This Abiliene Christian product has done nothing but gain respect and love since arriving in Chicago.
Knox is known for his straight-line speed, unbelievable motor and big play ability.
Almost eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for receiving, the young Knox averaged 18.8 yards per catch on his way to becoming Chicago's starting receiver.
One of Cutler's favorite targets will have a reduced role in 2011 following the Roy Williams signing. It's still clear, though, that this hard-working receiver can produce at a high level this year.
Strengths: Speed, Hands, Deep Routes.
Weaknesses: Awareness, Possession.
Prediction: Johnny Knox will continue to be a deep threat for Cutler, racking up more than 16 yards per reception.
Hands down the most balanced, all-around skilled receiver on the Bears, Earl Bennett has ties to quarterback Jay Cutler from his college days.
Although the former Vanderbilt standout doesn't see as much playing time compared to other targets, there's no doubt he's an intricate piece of a spread-out offense. However, Bennett makes an impact on more than just one phase.
There's plenty of memorable blocks on returns from the hard-worker, including an insanely hard hit on Seattle Seahawks' punter Jon Ryan, paving the way to one of three Devin Hester punt returns for scores.
Bennett is notably good with possession and route running. There's minimal drops when it comes to Bennett, and he seems to catch anything that comes his way.
It's unknown why Earl Bennett doesn't see the field more considering what he does, but it's nice to have a comfort blanket for Cutler.
Strengths: Possession, Routes, Blocking.
Prediction: Earl Bennett will prove to the coaching staff that he is indeed a great receiver and will become a hot-route specialist for Cutler under pressure.