2009 Position by Position Review: WR

After a disappointing 7-9 record in 2009, it's time to take a look back at the Chicago Bears and discover what went right and what went so incredibly wrong. Wednesday, we comb over the wide receivers.

2009 Review
If there was one reason to doubt new quarterback Jay Cutler would be able to do the same things in the Windy City that he did in Mile High, it was the lack of accomplished pass catchers he had at his disposal.

However, the wide receivers did some nice things this season and performed much better than most of the experts figured they would, although the finer points of playing the position – the scramble drill, adjusting routes, blocking downfield – still need some work. Devin Hester and Earl Bennett proved to be competent starters, with Hester catching at least four passes six games in a row and Bennett recording no fewer than two receptions in 15 of 16 contests. Off the bench, rookie Johnny Knox came out of nowhere as a fifth-round draft pick from a Division-II school to score five offensive touchdowns, plus one more on a kickoff return, and forgotten practice-squad veteran Devin Aromashodu appeared to be the best of the bunch after finally getting regular playing time in Week 14.

Rashied Davis is officially nothing more than a coverage guy on special teams since he only caught five passes for 35 yards, while third rounder Juaquin Iglesias got the proverbial redshirt year and never dented the stat sheet.

Inside the Numbers
The Bears have mistakenly forced Hester into the primary-target role, and while he did have a four-game stretch midseason of no fewer than six receptions and no less than 81 yards, the explosive plays aren't there since he only averaged 13.3 yards per catch and scored just three touchdowns. Perhaps Aromashodu is the No. 1 Cutler needs, as he caught 22 passes for 282 yards and four TDs the last four weeks alone.

WR Earl Bennett
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

Thumbs Up
Knox would have been inactive for the season opener had Aromashodu not come down with a minor quadriceps injury, but the former Abilene Christian Wildcat showed some very good hands on top of his track-star speed. He'll never be a gamebreaker since he has below-average wheels, plus he's not as big as the 6-0 and 202 pounds the media guide says he is, but Bennett proved that patience is a virtue with 54 receptions for 717 yards and was all guts catching balls over the middle.

Thumbs Down
Not only did Hester miss three games toward the end of the season with a calf problem and couldn't finish a few others because of ticky-tack injuries, but the passing attack didn't miss him one bit when he was out of action. The coaching staff deserves all of the criticism it got for keeping Aromashodu on the bench for so long, and maybe even more since Cutler had been singing his praises going all the way back to training camp.

2010 Preview
While it would be nice to have a bona fide No. 1 capable of beating double teams and opening up the rest of the field for his teammates, Cutler appears to be happy with the receiving corps and should be able to get even more out of it next season.

It may not happen because of the financial commitment they've made to him and the support they've given him publicly, but the Bears would be wise to move Hester out of the starting lineup and use him as more of a slot specialist and mismatch creator – like the Vikings have done with the equally-unpolished Percy Harvin. Aromashodu has late bloomer written all over him and needs to be a major component of the passing game in 2010, with Bennett the trusty possession target and Knox the quick strike waiting to happen. Assuming Davis has played his last game with an orange C on his helmet, Iglesias can then slide into the rotation and give Cutler a solid quintet to throw to each and every week.

Cutler got hot the last two games once he had some time, putting together a strong touchdown-to-interception ratio of 8 to 1, so general manager Jerry Angelo should resist the temptation to add wideouts and instead stockpile offensive linemen.

Agree? Disagree? Let your voice be heard on our message board RIGHT HERE.

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

Bear Report Top Stories