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The Chicago Bears Preseason Preview: The Wide Receivers

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IJuly 1, 2010

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 06:  Earl Bennett #80 of the Chicago Bears breaks for a long run and is chased by (L-R) Oshiomogho Atogwe #21 of the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field on December 6, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Rams 17-9. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The wide receiver position has been one of the most scrutinized by Chicago fans and media alike. It's taken the brunt of criticism away from the quarterback position, which was especially problematic during the Rex Grossman era.

Heading into the 2009 season, it was thought that the Bears wide receiving group would be one of the worst in the NFL.

Why? Inexperience and a lack of prior production were cited as the main reasons why many people felt this group would fail. Chicago also failed to go out and get a veteran wide receiver that could mentor younger guys through their growing pains. 

However, in the end, the Bears wide receivers didn’t do too bad of a job. Granted, there were said growing pains (dropped passes and routes ran wrong) but as the season progressed, things started to solidify for the Bears and we found out that their wide receivers were better than advertised. 

And a plus for 2010 is, they will only get better.

Devin Hester may have looked out of position last season, but injuries hampered his progress, and quarterback Jay Cutler couldn’t get the ball to him enough.  With the ball in his hands, Hester is as electric as any wide receiver in the NFL. But the problem has been getting the ball in his hands. The Bears have to do that in order to get ahead in the passing game next season.

Look for Hester to have a great season next year as long as he remains healthy and they can get the ball to him.

The Bears really liked what they saw out of Devin Aromashodu at the end of the season last year. He should get a chance to get a lot of time in the offense this season.  Aromashodu has the size that the Bears need at wide receiver, and with Cutler issuing his approval, the two are sure to build a rapport together during training camp that could end up turning into something big in 2010.

Does he start?  That’s a good question. You could see Hester remain as the No. 1 wide receiver with Bennett quite possibly a No. 2. So, by default, it looks like Aromashodu would be a third wide receiver in this offense.  As we will discuss later, that leaves both Johnny Knox and Joaquin Iglesias out, and they have to get Knox on the field as often as they can.

Aromashodu could end up being a big time player for them in 2010 and if Cutler can get him them ball. When it's all said and done, he may end up leading the team in catches and receiving yards next season.

Cutler and Earl Bennett had a chemistry that was developed in their previous time together at Vanderbilt, so Cutler came in knowing a little bit about Bennett and quite possibly relied on him initially.  Bennett is a solid possession receiver with just enough speed to make the play, but he isn’t a burner that will keep defenses on their heels.  Still, he will figure into the offense prominently in 2010.

The Bears do have one guy that can stretch the field, and that guy is second year wide receiver Johnny Knox. 

Knox, voted to the Pro Bowl in his first season with the team, and should be much better with a year of experience. He could be the guy that they use to throw the deep ball too and stretch the defense out.  Knox could be dangerous in 2010 and should see plenty of playing time.

Can Rashied Davis stick with the Bears with the wealth of talent that they have at the position?  Depending on what they Bears think of his special teams experience,which may not weigh heavily when it comes to deciding which wide receivers to keep, he may or may not be a part of the team in 2010.  My guess is that he gets cut at end of training camp and gets picked up by another team.

Juaquin Iglesias didn’t get to see any action in 2009 but he is poised to have a breakout year in 2010 if he can get enough reps in training camp. Much like they did with Earl Bennett the year before, the Bears chose to “redshirt” Iglesias, allowing him to sit and learn the offense. However, it’s going to be a whole new start in Chicago (on offense), as the Bears have a new offensive coordinator, which means that he will have to learn another offense in just his second year in the league.  Will he be able to do it?  We shall soon find out.

The Bears have brought in four younger guys to help get some depth in training camp along helping to provide some competition at the wide receiver position.

Those four players are Vic Hall, Eric Peterman, Freddie Barnes and Antonio Robinson.  Peterman is the only one with training camp experience (in Chicago), but Barnes appears to show the most promise out of this whole group.  Will one of them land on the active roster next season?  It’s doubtful, but anything is possible in training camp.  An injury could propel one of these guys up the ladder and they could make it on to the active roster for a short time.

The Bears wide receivers are not as bad as we thought. And they have improved greatly since last season. Sure, learning a new offense is going to be difficult, but it appears as though all of these players have taken to this new challenge well.

If the Bears can get Cutler feeling comfortable and working well in their offense, the passing game could be one of the best in the NFC.

And quite possibly the best the Bears have ever seen in their long storied history.

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