Breakout Stars: Candidates on O

If Mike Martz is as brilliant as he believes he is on offense, then the Chicago Bears are going to put up better numbers on that side of the ball in 2010. Here are three potential breakout candidates:

Devin Aromashodu

By now, we all know Aromashodu's story from 2009: beat out Brandon Rideau for the sixth and final receiver spot; earned a place in the rotation with tremendous training camp and preseason; minor quad injury forced him to the inactive list for Week 1; finally got a shot down the stretch; performed like a legitimate No. 1 the final month. Technically, Aromashodu is not a starter right now, but he is going to be a big part of Mike Martz's offense and has lined up all over the field throughout the offseason program. The best combination of size and speed on the team, the 6-2, 200-pounder could be a late bloomer in the mold of Rod Smith, who began on the Denver practice squad as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Missouri Southern but still posted eight 1,000-yard seasons and went on to make three Pro Bowls.

Devin Hester had two years to develop into a primary target, and while he deserves a lot of credit for learning how to be a wideout at the game's highest level, he's simply not a No. 1 and doesn't share the same connection Aromashodu has proven to have with Jay Cutler.

2009 Review: 24 receptions, 298 yards, 12.4-yard average, 4 TDs
Breakout 2010: 77 receptions, 1,066 yards, 13.8-yard average, 9 TDs

Johnny Knox

Since we already know what Hester is as a receiver these days, which is pretty good but not really an every-down difference maker, if Aromashodu doesn't take a big leap forward in the passing game, then perhaps Knox will. Like Aromashodu, Knox has looked terrific thus far during both minicamp and OTAs, but unlike Aromashodu, he's actually in the starting lineup at the split end position (X) and doesn't need a specific personnel package to be on the field. Knox already showed that he's much more than a speed merchant as a rookie, and his hands, route running and knowledge of the game should only get better in Year 2.

RB Chester Taylor
AP Images: Nam Y. Huh

With Martz's scheme calling for longer routes and more throws down the field, it would be far from surprising to see Knox drastically improve his yards-per-catch average and deliver a whole bunch more highlight reel-worthy plays once he gets his mitts on the pigskin.

2009 Review: 45 receptions, 527 yards, 11.7-yard average, 5 TDs
Breakout 2010: 61 receptions, 881 yards, 14.4-yard average, 8 TDs

Chester Taylor

It might seem a bit bizarre to see Taylor's name on a list of possible breakout stars in Chicago this season, as he came into the league in 2002, is soon to be 31 years old and did run for 1,216 yards his first year as a Viking before the arrival of All-Pro Adrian Peterson. Nevertheless, even though Taylor is not going to challenge for the starting job in Bourbonnais, should Matt Forte look less like the sensation he was as a rookie in 2008 and more like the disappointment he was as a second-year pro in 2009, then Taylor's role will only increase week after week. His shifty feet should work well behind an offensive line that is going to feature more zone blocking than it has in the past, plus his hands out of the backfield are as good as Forte's.

While coach Lovie Smith has said Forte is his lead back and will continue to be going forward, the Bears actually have more invested financially in Taylor at this point, and they didn't sign him on the first day of free agency just to be an insurance policy – and, of course, Forte isn't Peterson.

2009 Review: 94 carries, 338 yards, 3.6-yard average, 1 TD; 44 receptions, 389 yards, 8.8-yard average, 1 TD
Breakout 2010: 168 carries, 757 yards, 4.5-yard average, 4 TD; 51 receptions, 464 yards, 9.1-yard average, 2 TD

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John Crist is the Publisher of, a Heisman Trophy voter 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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