Can Cutler Get More from the WRs?

The Chicago Bears finally have a Pro Bowl passer, making the move for Jay Cutler this offseason. But the receiving corps is still bad, and reinforcements are needed quickly. However, how much better can the returning Windy City wideouts be with Cutler? Bear Report takes a peek into its crystal ball.

Devin Hester

The Pros: One of the more gifted open-field runners the game has ever seen based on what he's done as a return specialist already, Hester started to figure it out on the offensive side of the ball with 25 catches in his last six games this past season. The remarkable thing is that he hasn't been especially effective on fly patterns and quick screens, where his speed and elusiveness can be put on display, but he's done well working both the sidelines and the middle of the field.

WR Devin Hester
Warren Wimmer Photography

The Cons: Hester still has a long way to go in terms of running his routes, and the tremendous catches he seems to make day-in and day-out on the practice field have not showed up on game day as of yet. He'll most likely never develop into a steady primary target because of his average size and lack of polish, and he's yet to prove he can be a reliable deep threat despite all that speed.

Best Case: While Kyle Orton sure looked Hester's way more and more as the season continued on, he doesn't throw a particularly accurate deep ball and missed out on opportunities for big plays. Jay Cutler can sling the pigskin as well as any quarterback in football, and his average of 7.4 yards per attempt is light years better than Orton's 5.8 at this point of their respective careers.

Worst Case: Hester turns out to be closer to a gimmicky No. 3 than a dependable No. 1, meaning he can't be counted on to come up with a 9-yard catch when Cutler really needs to convert on 3rd and 8. Brandon Marshall, Cutler's go-to guy in Denver more often than not, is a monster at 6-4 and 230 pounds and possesses physical tools Hester simply can't match.

Prediction: 61 receptions for 921 yards (15.1 yards per catch) and 6 touchdowns.

Earl Bennett

The Pros: Since the two of them overlapped for a year at Vanderbilt, Bennett is the only member of the Chicago receiving corps that can say he knows what it's like to catch passes from Cutler. Straight out of high school, the former Commodore was Cutler's favorite weapon and instantly became one of the more productive wideouts in the talent-rich SEC.

WR Earl Bennett
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images

The Cons: It seems strange that Bennett is currently in line to start opposite Hester, as he didn't see the field very much as a rookie and is still yet to reel in his first NFL reception. While he has decent size and decent speed and decent hands, there just isn't an aspect of his game that jumps off the scouting report and suggests he'll be able to make the leap from Saturday to Sunday successfully.

Best Case: Maybe Bennett and Cutler do indeed think on the same wavelength, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the two of them pick up right where they left off in Nashville when they were nothing more than happy-go-lucky collegians. Nobody is going to expect Montana-to-Rice any time soon, although there should be some familiarity between the two that was never there with Orton at the controls.

Worst Case: The coaching staff wasn't confident enough in him to give him a chance last year even though he was a third-round draft pick, and then Bennett raised even more questions at last month's minicamp by admitting he had trouble picking up the playbook. He may be the leading receiver in SEC history, but remember he broke a record held by Craig Yeast – he was out of the NFL after only three years.

Prediction: 43 receptions for 533 yards (12.4 yards per catch) and 3 touchdowns.

Rashied Davis

The Pros: A hard worker each and every day and a joy to be around in the locker room, Davis has turned himself into a quality football player and can be a demon on special teams. Even though he's never put up consistent numbers and struggles at times when lining up out wide, he's come through with some huge catches out of the slot in crucial situations the last three years that have turned the tide in ballgames.

WR Rashied Davis
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images

The Cons: He's simply not big enough at 5-9 and a tightly-packed 187 pounds to get off the corner's jam consistently, as he wants badly to be known as an every-down receiver but only seems to have success working against linebackers and safeties in three-wide formations. Despite all those clutch grabs in 2006 and 2007, Davis dropped countless passes in '08 that hit him right between the numbers.

Best Case: Assuming Hester looks more like a No. 1 and Bennett turns into somewhat of a No. 2, Davis has shown in the past that he can do some damage in the middle of the field as a No. 3 option out of the slot. Limiting his snaps offensively would be another way to get more out of him on special teams, as he can be a tremendous tackler on the coverage units.

Worst Case: Davis only kept his job last year because Bennett wasn't ready to step up and take over, and you can make a convincing case that he wouldn't be in the four-man rotation for half the teams in the league. Cutler doesn't take kindly to drops, plus he has no recollection of Davis once being Mr. Clutch like Orton did.

Prediction: 29 receptions for 345 yards (11.9 yards per catch) and 2 touchdowns.

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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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