Chicago Bears: Earl Bennett Is Team's Best Receiver

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Chicago Bears: Earl Bennett Is Team's Best Receiver
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Coming into the 2011 NFL season, the Chicago Bears are very content with their top four receivers: Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Roy Williams and Earl Bennett

While the first three get frequent media coverage, Bennett is quietly becoming the Bears' top receiver. 

Chicago Sun-Times Bears reporter Sean Jensen wrote on Aug. 31 how Bennett is lauded by quarterbacks Jay Culter and Caleb Hanie, plus wide receivers coach Darryl Drake on how the fourth-year player is extremely key to the offense. 

Bennett is not a starting flank or split end receiver, but he provides speed, concise route running and sure hands as a slot receiver. He and Cutler have a good working relationship as the two previously were Vanderbilt teammates. 

Including the 2010 regular season and playoffs, Bennett was Cutler's most dependable target. Available for 589 snaps, Bennett caught 50 passes for 619 yards on 74 balls thrown in his direction while never dropping a ball. 

No. 80 hauled in four touchdowns and allowed two interceptions. 

Meanwhile, Hester was on the field for 771 snaps, caught 42 balls for 486 yards out of 79 thrown his way. He had four touchdowns while giving up five interceptions and dropping six balls. 

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Knox, the Bears' top receiver in 2010, grabbed 51 passes for 1,068 on 108 thrown his direction. But Knox allowed 13 picks against five scores by giving up the inside too easily.  Knox also dropped six passes. 

Another impressive statistic for Bennett is his yards-after-catch. He managed 230 yards after the catch, not too far behind Hester (240) and Knox (271). 

Roy Williams was a big free-agent pickup, but he has struggled this preseason, raising questions if he is still a top target. 

Cutler might have to depend on Bennett more this season as Greg Olsen was traded and the whole tight end corps was revamped with Matt Spaeth, Kellen Davis and Kyle Adams. 

Bennett is a class act and an extremely hard worker who does not complain about being the star attraction. He will be a key part in helping Cutler resurrect an inconsistent Chicago offense to prominence. 

Bob Bajek is a freelance reporter and can be followed at Patch.com and Twitter

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