Spotlight Shine: Ranking the WRs

Each week during the offseason, Tyson Qualls plans to analyze one position for the Chicago Bears to see how they measure up with the other 31 teams in the NFL. Where do Devin Hester and the WRs rank?

Summary
The Bears receiving corps of Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu was streaky at best during the course of the 2009 season. Hester, one of the game's greatest return men, was posting a decent campaign when a calf injury derailed his chance of a 1,000-yard season in Week 13. Aromashodu stepped up admirably in Hester's absence, averaging 70 yards and scoring four touchdowns in the final four games of the season. Knox was consistent, yet he never had that elusive breakout game. Bennett also posted over 700 yards, but he never broke the century mark in a single game. At this point, while the Bears have four great No. 2s and 3s, they lack a true talent to help take pressure off of Jay Cutler and Matt Forte.

Strengths
The clear-cut strong point of the Bears' wideouts is their speed. Hester is a well-known commodity and one of the fastest players in the League. Knox ran a blazing 4.34 40 at the combine last year. Together, Knox and Hester make up the quickest receiving duo in the NFL. Aromashodu and Bennett are no slouches either, running a 4.35 and 4.50, respectively. With a cannon-armed quarterback like Cutler at the helm, having players with the ability to get downfield in a hurry is a necessity. If the Bears were able to add a possession receiver with a bit of muscle, such as a Hines Ward or Derrick Mason type of player, it would greatly increase the potency of their current crew.

Weaknesses
What the Bears have in speed, they lack in stature. With the exception of the moderately tall Aromashodu (6-2), the rest need shoe lifts just to get to six feet. As cornerbacks continue their evolution in the NFL, size has become a key component. Chicago could use a receiver with height to help counter-balance the current situation. With this squad, Cutler cannot replicate jump-ball opportunities like those available with Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, Randy Moss in New England or even Sidney Rice in Minnesota. Acquiring a player that can consistently go up and get fade patterns in goal-line situations would be a valuable asset to the Bears' struggling – 27th in the league – red-zone offense.


WR Earl Bennett
AP Images: Charles Rex Arbogast

Potential
The Bears have four receivers that have the potential to be superb second options. Hester is a guy who can thrive as a slot receiver/kick returner. As a No. 1 option, however, his size and lack of experience limits his ability to carry a team. All the receivers are young and still have time to vastly improve their skills. Bennett, at only 22, has the best chance to step up and be the go-to receiver that Cutler desperately needs. Knox lacks size, but with great coaching, he could eventually develop into a poor man's Wes Welker.

Final Word
The Bears need to decide which of the four receivers are going to give their team the best chance to win over the next five years. After that decision is made, the next one must be who to trade or cut. Having Knox, Hester and Aromashodu on the same team is an obvious overkill. All of those players essentially bring the same skill set to the table. The Bears would be better off to send Aromashodu packing, put Knox in the slot, move Hester back to full-time return duties, add a solid veteran and allow him to compete with Bennett for the starting position.

Rank: 16th

The Bears rank 16th overall at the receiver position. Directly in front of them are the Denver Broncos, and directly behind them are the Seattle Seahawks. In the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings are sixth, the Green Bay Packers are seventh and the Detroit Lions are 24th. The highest-ranked receiving unit in the NFL belongs to the Indianapolis Colts.


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Questions or Comments? Contact Tyson Qualls via Twitter @tysonqsports or send emails to tysonqsports@gmail.com.


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