As part of my extremely prolonged and ongoing series reviewing each unit of the Bears and their performance in 2010 and my hopes for 2011, I now move onto the wide receivers.
#13 Johnny Knox-
Johnny's an extremely frustrating player. It's hard to say he's been a disappointment, as his production over the last two years has been outstanding for a guy from a small school whose mere existence on the roster came about as a throw-away in the Cutler trade. He had 960 yards receiving this year and averaged an absolutely outstanding and DeSean Jackson like 18.8 yards per catch. He's got 10 TDs in two years. He's a great return man when he gets chances.
You know and I know, as much as I hate even debating the existence of "toughness", Johnny Knox doesn't have it. Maybe he's just not smart enough to run proper routes. Maybe he just doesn't see the ball on all of those jump balls that he never gets his head around on. Either way, I know I have to stifle the urge to strangle something cute and innocent every time I see Jay Cutler blamed for another "mindless interception" when we all know it was Johnny's fault for standing there and throwing his arms up for a flag while watching a DB wrestle the ball out of the air or cutting behind the defender on a slant. He led the league in most interceptions on passes thrown his way. Not all of that's his fault, but a good deal of it sure as hell is. Apparently it pisses off Marshall Faulk, too. Now, I'm not advocating giving up on Johnny Knox. He's a very talented and very cheap young player. Hopefully he learns from his mistakes and improves his route-running and effort. I'd be more happy, however, if the Bears found another legitimate target so Cutler doesn't find himself forcing the ball to Johnny as often.
#23 Devin Hester-
Devin is what he is. The whole "is he a #1 receiver?" debate of the last few years has been a mostly pointless exercise. He's shown great flashes of talent, but he's never really put it all together. Alot of that isn't his fault. He's not targeted very often, and his skills really are better suited to lining up in the slot in this offense. His skills as a returner are absolutely invaluable and he's a threat when he's at the line of scrimmage. I think the Bears have started to appreciate him for what he is and have shifted away from Relying on him on offense, and that's probably a good thing. He's a good piece to have to move around and cause match-up problems, but he's never going to be an every-down target. That's okay.
#80 Earl Bennett-
I love Earl Bennett. I make no secret of this fact. The Black Bobby Engram is an unstoppable third down threat and his effort is incredible. He throws great blocks and I will always remember him dragging the entire Lions' defense for 15-20 yards in the second Detroit game. That said, he's a complementary player. His speed isn't great enough to make him a consistent deep threat, and his size isn't going to cause many matchup problems in the red zone. There's just a missing piece and it sure as hell isn't
#19 Devin Aromashodu-
Someone out there is still pissed that this guy didn't get many targets this year and won't be back next year. That's fine. That guy is an idiot. Devin was a guy that benefitted from a Hester injury last year and had a couple great games that were almost entirely Jay Cutler's doing. I don't remember Devin making a single catch (outside of his snag against the Giants in the Preseason last year) where I was all that impressed. The hype was stupid and Mike Martz knew it. Even worse, Devin himself believed it and apparently acted like an entitled fuckwad when his reps got cut after his four drops in the opener. Nice thinking for a guy who had finally broken free of the practice squad. See ya.
#81 Rashied Davis-
Rashied is an excellent special teams player. He also earned his way onto the field as a receiver late in the season and responded with some pretty good play out of the slot. I'd never have him higher than #4 on the depth chart, but he's a pretty good value at this position.
So we know what the Bears are missing. I'm not trying to join the horde of idiots who spent the last two years hoping the Bears would throw away valuable picks in a go-for-broke attempt to get Anquan Boldin or be dumb enough to sign Terrell Owens. Chad Johnson may be worth a shot if the price is right (meaning a 5th round pick or lower), but somewhere in the draft or in free agency there's got to be somebody big enough to throw a damn Fade to. That's not that hard.
Chances are, if the Bears fix the offensive line, they could bring back this exact same corps and they'd do light years better next year and I'd feel silly for saying this, but sometimes the difference between a nice receiver and a great one comes down to a few missed plays in a game. I hate going with something so statistically unproveable, but watching the Superbowl I couldn't help but notice the drops by Jordy Nelson and James Jones, both of whom are talented receivers who could probably start for a lot of teams like the Bears and do pretty well. Then you saw Greg Jennings with his two touchdowns and a perfectly run seam route from Rodgers to Jennings for a huge 3rd down conversion on GB's last scoring drive and you realize that it really, really helps to have That guy. Hopefully the Bears will find him soon. Whoever he is, I don't think he's Andy Fantuz.