Breaking down Bears receiving corps

Brandon Marshall reportedly will not be charged in the recent New York nightclub incident. With him in the clear, we take a look at what to expect from Chicago's 2012 passing attack.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported yesterday that Brandon Marshall won't face charges in the March incident outside of a New York nightclub, where Marshall was accused of punching a woman in the face. His agent, Harvey Steinberg, said Marshall is in the clear.

"Brandon was the victim here and never did anything wrong," Steinberg said. "This confirms that."

Despite his agent's statement, it appears the investigation is still ongoing. Schefter writes:

"A spokesman for the New York City Police Department says they are still investigating the complaint. Detective Brian Sessa of the NYPD said Thursday the case is still open."

The supposed assault of Christin Myles stood on shaky ground from the start. She reportedly missed a scheduled meeting with detectives shortly after the incident and briefly went MIA.


WR Brandon Marshall
David Banks/US Presswire

"The situation in New York, it's unfortunate," Marshall said last week on The Waddle & Silvy Show on ESPN 1000. "You never want to see anyone get hurt, but just the allegation of me balling my fist up and hitting a woman is just a lie. When the judicial system takes its course, I'm very confident I will be cleared of any wrongdoing. My wife was the victim in this situation."

Considering Marshall's past history, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will investigate this incident on his own, but by all accounts, it appears very unlikely Marshall will miss any time in 2012 due to a suspension.

With that nonsense behind us, let's take a look at the receivers on the current roster, discuss who will play where and what we can expect, numbers-wise, from each.

Last season, the club kept six receivers coming out of training camp: Roy Williams, Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Dane Sanzenbacher and Sam Hurd. Williams was not retained, Knox isn't likely to play this year due to spinal surgery and Hurd is in jail on drug charges.

The club added Marshall in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, signed veterans Eric Weems and Devin Thomas in free agency and drafted Alshon Jeffery.

The current crop:

Brandon Marshall
Earl Bennett
Alshon Jeffery
Devin Hester
Eric Weems
Devin Thomas
Dane Sanzenbacher

Brandon Marshall

Marshall and Jay Cutler put up big numbers when they were together in Denver. In 2008, Cutler targeted Marshall a league-high 179 times, 33 more targets than any other quarterback/receiver combination. They connected 104 times for 1,265 yards and six touchdowns, earning both players a trip to the Pro Bowl. In 2007, Marshall had 102 catches for 1,325 yards and seven touchdowns.


WR Earl Bennett
Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire

The Bears have a lot of pass-catching weapons at receiver, tight end and running back, meaning Cutler will have plenty of options on each and every pass play. Yet more often than not, he's going to fall back on his favorite receiving target. Don't expect another 179 targets but Marshall will easily lead the team in that category this season.

Forecast: 101 rec, 1,150 yds, 10 TDs

Earl Bennett

Once teams realized Bennett was the only viable threat in the passing game last year, particularly after Knox's injury, he started receiving consistent double teams. As a result, he caught just seven passes in the club's final six contests.

Yet Bennett is still one of the team's most reliable targets, one whom Cutler trusts mightily. He's dangerous out of the slot, especially on third downs. With the attention opposing secondaries will pay the two big receivers out wide, Bennett should improve vastly on last season's numbers.

Forecast: 61 rec, 825 yds, 5 TDs

Alshon Jeffery

The Bears want Jeffery to start right away. The coaches love the idea of having two big wideouts on either side of the field. As long as Jeffery is good in camp, the club could hand him the starting job as early as Week 1.

Jeffery is a big, lean receiver with good speed. His leaping ability is one of his biggest assets. He's green though and needs to work on his route running. There will be a learning curve with Jeffery, so folks should temper their expectations for him in 2011. That said, he should still be a weapon in the red zone.

Forecast: 46 rec, 550 yds, 8 TDs

Devin Hester

After the draft, GM Phil Emery talked about installing a package of plays for Hester in each game, utilizing his playmaking ability in the open field. Receivers coach Darryl Drake confirmed as much this past weekend during rookie minicamp. As such, expect Hester to see the field roughly 15-20 plays, thus saving his legs for his duties as a punt returner.


WR Devin Hester
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

New offensive coordinator Mike Tice should be able to get Hester in positions to contribute but don't expect him to light the world on fire – despite what Marshall believes.

Forecast: 27 rec, 375 yds, 3 TD

Eric Weems

In five seasons as a professional, Weems has just 24 total catches. His contributions will come almost entirely as a returner on special teams.

Forecast: 6 rec, 55 yds, 0 TD

Devin Thomas & Dane Sanzenbacher

Thomas has ideal size (6-2, 221) and outstanding speed but hasn't been able to put it all together in the NFL. He's played for three teams during his four-year career. His single-season bests came in 2009, when he caught 25 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns.

Thomas will be in competition during training camp for the final wideout roster spot with Sanzenbacher – who made the team last year as an undrafted rookie basically because the rest of the receiving corps were so mediocre. He doesn't have good size, speed or hands, making it more likely Thomas wins out, especially considering his experience as a returner as well.

Yet Thomas has caught just three passes the past two seasons combined, so we shouldn't expect much out of him unless injuries begin to pile up.

Forecast: 10 rec, 175 yds, 1 TD

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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