Year in Review: Wide Receivers

The Chicago Bears said goodbye to both Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad, and that looks to have been an unwise move. Devin Hester did some good things, but the receivers need a great deal of help. Bear Report takes a look back at 2008 for the WRs while also looking ahead to 2009.

2008 Review
The Monsters of the Midway were bold in allowing Bernard Berrian, their leading receiver, to leave in free agency right after cutting Muhsin Muhammad, their second-leading receiver, but you know what they say about hindsight.

WR Marty Booker
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Berrian averaged a staggering 20.1 yards per catch for the rival Vikings and Muhammad rejuvenated his career with a 923-yard effort for the Panthers, while the Bears were stuck with arguably the worst crop of wideouts in the league. Devin Hester showed flashes at times but barely resembled the No. 1 target head coach Lovie Smith professed he would be, and former slot specialist Rashied Davis dropped crucial passes time and time again. General manager Jerry Angelo hoped that Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd could provide some depth as bargain-basement additions in free agency, but Booker seemed old and disinterested while Lloyd solidified his dubious reputation as one of the softest players in football.

Running back Matt Forte and tight end Greg Olsen finished first and second on the team in receptions in part because the talent out wide was lacking, and we have no idea what the future holds because third-round draft pick Earl Bennett didn't catch a single ball.

Inside the Numbers
Hester led all Chicago receivers with a paltry 665 yards through the air, and his 13 yards-per-catch average was awfully disappointing for someone with his unique blend of speed and elusiveness. Lloyd had the team's sole 100-yard game of the season with 124 in Week 3 against Tampa Bay, although he never topped 34 yards in any contest the rest of the way and missed five games with what looked to be a simple sprained knee. As a team, the Bears were just 25th in the league in passing yards per game (201.8), tied for 29th in pass plays of 40-plus yards (three), and also 29th in yards per pass attempt (6.1).

Thumbs Up
Even though his ability in the return game suffered drastically, as he didn't find the end zone once off a punt or kickoff, Hester did show enough ability to eventually morph into a 1,000-yard receiver one of these days. After a slow start to the season, the two-time All-Pro caught at least three passes in 10 of the final 13 games and led the wideouts with three TDs. But in order to get the most out of Hester offensively the rest of his career, the Bears will likely have to move him off special teams entirely.

Thumbs Down
Both Booker and Lloyd were complete failures even though they didn't cost the organization much money, with Booker proving to be nothing but a more-washed-up version of Muhammad and Lloyd avoiding contact like a vegetarian avoids one of those Brazilian steakhouses. Davis used to be a clutch receiver on third down, but he can't be counted on as anything more than a slot guy and seemed to drop an easy one each and every week. The coaching staff also deserves some blame here, as there was no reason not to give youngsters like Bennett and Brandon Rideau a shot since the veterans played so poorly.

2009 Preview
Hester should only get better and Bennett still has some upside considering what he accomplished at Vanderbilt, but the rest of the unit is a giant question mark right now.

WR Brandon Lloyd
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

If there is one position Angelo must consider in the first round of the NFL Draft on the offensive side of the ball, it's receiver. An elite talent like Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech will likely be off the board well before the Bears pick at No. 18 overall, but Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina and Juaquin Iglesias of Oklahoma could be good enough to warrant a selection that high in Round 1. And as far as free agency is concerned, T.J. Houshmandzadeh of the Bengals might be too expensive and is little more than a possession target, but Antonio Bryant of the Buccaneers put together a huge 2008 after sitting out all of '07 and may be the kind of attention-grabbing No. 1 the Chicago passing attack so desperately needs.

Not only would Angelo be wise to bring in a known-quantity free agent in addition to a Day-1 draft pick, but severing ties with Booker, Davis, and Lloyd immediately is another step in the right direction.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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