Bears Inside Slant: Who Starts at WR?

The Chicago Bears do not have a No. 1 receiver on the club, but that may not necessarily be a negative. Four or five wideouts should see significant playing time, which will keep everyone fresh and also allow Devin Hester to do his thing on special teams. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at

Critics would say the Bears' wide receiver corps is just a bunch of guys. The common perception is that they don't have a No. 1 receiver.

But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

They have one guy, Marty Booker, who has been a No. 1 receiver. He caught a combined 197 passes for 2,260 yards for them in 2001 and 2002, but Booker has averaged 49 catches and 668 yards in the five years since then. Solid numbers, but not go-to-guy caliber.

The Bears have another guy, Brandon Lloyd, who may be in the starting lineup Sept. 7. But he hasn't scored a touchdown in almost three years, he had two catches last season when he missed eight games with a shoulder injury, and he has a reputation for being a character concern.

Then there's the immensely talented Devin Hester, whose greatest value to the team is still as a return specialist. He will be a bigger part of the passing game and probably get a lot of snaps in the starting lineup. But it's doubtful that he can remain the league's best return man while also becoming an every-down receiver. Even wide receivers coach Darryl Drake admits that Hester "is a work in progress" as a pass catcher.

Rashied Davis is pushing for a bigger role in the offense than the past two years, when he had a total of 39 receptions, and that should happen.

Hence the perception of no No. 1.

"I always remind them of what the perception is," Drake said, "and sometimes perception is reality. If you don't like it, you change it."

There's a better chance that the Bears will have several players with 40 or 50 catches rather than one with 80 or 90, but Drake doesn't consider that a negative.

"That's a good thing," he said. "The guys know when they get the opportunity, they've got to get in there and get the job done."

The listed starters at wide receiver on the Bears' depth chart may not be as significant as many other teams, since there could be several players who get a similar number of snaps throughout the season.

That was made abundantly clear when the Bears released their depth chart for the preseason opener. At one wide receiver spot, the starter was listed as: Rashied Davis/Devin Hester. On the other side, it was: Marty Booker/Brandon Lloyd.

"We've got, in my opinion, four, five, six guys who have the ability to play," said Drake, who will probably be limited to five wide receivers on game days.

WR Rashied Davis
Warren Wimmer Photography

"You can only dress 46," he said. "But the guys who are going to be out there, they're all going to have to play. Again, that's a good thing. You shouldn't have a guy who goes out there and has to play 70 plays a game. That should be split, keep guys fresh, keep guys ready. That's probably what we'll do."

It was assumed when the Bears brought Booker back from his four-year exile to Miami that he would be their No. 1 receiver – and he might. But it could be Lloyd and Hester on the field when the Bears begin their first possession of the season. It could be Booker and Hester. And when the Bears go with three wide receivers as they often do, any combination of the top five could be in the game.

"I'm still trying to find that out," Booker said. "Right now we're just out there practicing, trying to get a feel for one another and get a little chemistry going in this offense. Once we get later into preseason games and the regular season, I'll figure out what [my] role is."

If you're any wide receiver on the Bears, it's pretty much the same situation. Sooner or later it will all be sorted out – probably later.

News & Notes
Booker has replaced Muhsin Muhammad as the elder statesman among the receiving corps, and while the 31-year-old Booker might not make as much of a show of it, he's a more legitimate mentor to the younger wideouts than his predecessor, who was known for tossing teammates under the bus.

"Marty's not a real vocal guy, but he leads pretty much by example," Drake said. "Guys can go to him, and he's not one of those guys who isn't going to give the guys the time that they need. He knows a few little tricks of the trade as far as it relates to getting open, and he's constantly sharing those things with those guys."

Booker can be an extension of the coaching staff on the field in the heat of battle.

"Sometimes that's real important because, as a coach, you tell a guy something over and over again, but I'm not out there playing," Drake said. "Sometimes a guy that's out there can give them a little bit more insight or confirm some of the things that I've been telling them." …

Running back Kevin Jones, who began camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after offseason knee surgery, and defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, who came to camp on the non football injury (NFI) list after straining his calf weight-lifting with teammate Tommie Harris, both participated in Saturday night's practice.

Both were limited to individual drills in their first practice of training camp and did not participate in 11-on-11 team drills.

The 6-3, 303-pound Dvoracek is the Bears' best pure nose tackle and expected to reclaim the starting job, which he won last year in camp, only to suffer a season-ending knee injury in the regular-season opener. The former Oklahoma Sooner missed his entire rookie season in 2006 with a foot injury. He was asked if he needs to prove his durability.

"I'm trying not to even think about it," he said. "I'm just going to go play. If you're trying not to get hurt, you're not going to be playing 100 percent. I just have to go out there and play, and everything else will take care of itself. Obviously I want to stay healthy, but I'm not going to play tentative to stay healthy. I'll just go out there and let it fly."

DT Dusty Dvoracek
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For now Dvoracek is behind Anthony Adams on the depth chart, but that could change in the coming weeks. Regardless of who's listed first, the Bears like to play a rotation of three or four tackles, so there's a lot of playing time available.

"I don't really compare myself to Anthony or anybody," Dvoracek said. "I'm just worried about getting myself better."

The 6-0, 228-pound Jones is a strong inside runner and pass catcher who is expected to provide a solid complement to rookie Matt Forte, but he has a lot of catching up to do.

"I hope that Kevin gets back to where he was before he got hurt," running backs coach Tim Spencer said. "If he does, he was a pretty darned good back in the NFL. He was an established guy, runs hard, is quick, is fast, big. It would be nice for us to have two guys, a one-two punch like that and have a couple guys who are able to do third down-type things." …

The defense, supposedly the strength of this year's team, didn't live up to expectations at the start of Thursday night's preseason opener. The unheralded Kansas City offense took the opening kickoff and sliced through the Bears for 81 yards on 16 plays and a 7-0 lead.

"I was not pleased with the opening drive," head coach Lovie Smith said. "Our defense cannot allow that to happen. We had them in some third-and-long situations, and we let them out."

The Chiefs converted on all five of their third-down opportunities, including once on third-and-10 and another on third-and-15, plus Larry Johnson's 5-yard TD run was on third down.

"That won't happen to us a lot this year," Smith promised. "We'll learn from that. We are better than that. I thought after that, we settled down and did some good things."

The Chiefs had 179 yards of total offense in the first half, during which Bears' defensive starters played all but the final series. …

Garrett Wolfe's 64 rushing yards – on just 7 carries – Thursday night, including a 42-yard jaunt, were more than double anyone else in the game, and he also caught a 25-yard TD pass.

"Being [my] second year, you feel much more comfortable," Wolfe said. "I'm allowing my natural ability to take over, and my natural ability is a pretty good ability."

Wolfe also had a productive preseason in 2007 as a rookie, leading the Bears in rushing yards and receptions. But in the regular season he carried the ball just 31 times for a 2.7-yard average and caught only nine passes, although he averaged 13.0 yards per catch. The NIU product hopes to be more involved in the offense this season, and his Thursday night production should help.

"I'm very satisfied," the 5-7 Wolfe said. "That's something I wanted to do, come out and be productive and be competitive and not only show my coaches and my teammates that but show the fans that."

Quote to Note
"I feel like I'm going to be better. I feel I'm on a better team with a better offensive line. So the product will be better that I'll be able to put out." – RB Kevin Jones, the former Detroit Lion, who returned to practice Saturday night.

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