Knox Still Vital to Offense

Though passed by Roy Williams on the depth chart, WR Johnny Knox will still have a place on the offense and has value as a kick returner, a spot for which he once went to the Pro Bowl.

Even though he has been replaced by Roy Williams in the starting lineup, Johnny Knox is still a vital part of the Chicago Bears' offense -- and of the special teams.

"I think it's fairly obvious how we feel about Johnny," coach Lovie Smith said. "Johnny is a big part of what we're going to do. You guys are making a story out of that. That's no story. We have a starting rotation. We have to put out a depth chart. We brought Roy Williams in here; Roy's a good football player."

The key word is "good."

Williams is coming off three undistinguished seasons with the Cowboys. Knox, who returned a kickoff 70 yards Saturday night in the preseason opener, led the Bears in receiving yardage last season with 960 -- 399 more than the next-best total on the club.

"All guys will get reps and prove where they belong, whether they're going to dress on game day, whether they're going to be in the starting lineup," Smith said. "It's that way for Johnny and everyone else. You have to start off somewhere. It's no more than that. We're a little early to start running somebody out of town or putting someone up top or anything like that. We're not there yet. This is just a part of the evaluation process."

WR Johnny Knox
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

The Bears are the ones who made it a story by moving a newcomer with a history of underachievement ahead of their leading receiver. Williams hasn't put up numbers better than Knox' 2010 season since 2006. Knox also added a 13-yard punt return and had an 11-yard reception Saturday night in the Bears' 10-3 victory.

Knox has a big fan in Devin Hester, who was not used as a returner in the preseason opener and has relinquished his role as kickoff returner while focusing on returning punts and continuing his development as a wide receiver. Hester knows the kickoff-return unit is in good hands with Knox, who also handled punts in the first preseason game.

"It was a great return," Hester said of Knox's 70-yard return. "We know Johnny is a great returner. He has showed us that since Day One, when he stepped foot in this organization. He is capable of taking it the house anytime."

While Williams and Hester are listed as the starters, with Bennett and Knox the backups on the depth chart, there is reason to believe all four will have the opportunity to be the go-to guy in any particular game.

The Bears insist they do not game plan to get the ball to any specific receiver and that the ball should be thrown to the open man. There is also the belief that this group is as deep as it has been since Lovie Smith took over in 2004.

The defensive line is also an area in which the Bears take a lot of pride, and they believe that group also has quality depth, with an intriguing mix of experienced veterans and promising youngsters.

Even with starting nose tackle Anthony Adams (calf) unavailable in the preseason opener, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has what could be the deepest position on the team at D-line.

Marinelli and head coach Lovie Smith pretty much know what they can expect from Adams and starting defensive ends Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije.

But defensive tackle Henry Melton, a 2009 fourth-round pick, stood out in the early going Saturday night, flashing quickness and the ability to disrupt from his 3-technique spot. Matt Toeaina, a seldom-used backup in his first three seasons with the Bears, made significant strides last season and is playing well enough in camp to be listed as the co-starter at nose tackle and 3-technique tackle.

Toeaina, a seldom-used backup in his first three seasons with the Bears, made significant strides last season and is playing well enough in camp to be listed as the co-starter at nose tackle and 3-technique tackle.

"He flies under your radar; not ours," Marinelli said when asked about Toeaina's low profile. "He is really a good football player. He just comes to work. He's improved from last year. He has daily improvement. He's improved as a pass rusher. He's a load in the run game as it is. He's smart; he can play both positions. He can play the cocked (offset) nose and the under tackle (3 technique)."

Amobi Okoye, who played behind Melton and is expected to be in an integral piece of the D-line rotation, had three solo tackles, including a sack for a 9-yard loss Saturday night.

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