As we enter the NFL dead zone of activity, it is a good time to reflect, ponder and pontificate about the future success this team might enjoy as a result of the recent off-season…an active one at that! I’d like to start the dialog with a look at some of the players on the receiving end of the forward pass who I believe will play a prominent role in the 2013 season. GM Mouser says receivers must “catch” the ball when thrown to in order to be successful.
This may seem like a statement of the obvious, but all of us Bear fans have endured heart breaking dropped passes from guys like Devin Hester, Roy Williams, and most recently, Kellen Davis. And through all of this, our leadership was steadfast in their assertion that they were fielding the best players to help the team win. I beg to differ! So did Phil Emery. At some point, one must do something different, even if it is wrong. I sure would have like to have seen Matt Spaeth or Kyle Adams running a route down the middle. Never fear Bear fans, Bennett and Bennett to the rescue! And lets not forget last year’s 4th round selection, Evan Rodriguez.
I believe Mark Trestman will prove to be a breath of fresh air with regard to play calling. Receivers that catch the ball will be favored over those that look like they can catch the ball. Trestman will call plays that work and in receiving terms, this means higher completion percentage, more attempts, and ultimately more production in terms of yards and points. We will see jab, jab and then knock out punch.
Both Tice and Martz started with the knock out punch and got knocked out repeatedly…sorry for the boxing analogies, but every seven step drop is an attempt at a knock out punch. Three step drops followed by slants, crossing patterns, screen plays and yes, I believe we will see “sprint, right option” too. Those play represent jabs and body punches. They are designed to wear down the opponent, get them off-balance, leaning and then…POW, the knock out punch! Bennett and Bennett will be part of that strategy.
Martellus Bennett, the Bears newly signed Tight End, will be a huge upgrade over Kellen Davis. Martellus is both a good blocker and a respectable receiver. His career did not start in a way that would lend one to think he is the next Bears savior at Tight End, but he is coming off a career year with the Giants having accumulated 55 receptions for 626 yards and 5 TD’s. From a physical standpoint, Martellus is listed at 6’6″ and 265 pounds so expect him to be a big part of the Bears red zone offense.
Bennett must continue to improve his play and gain the confidence of both Trestman and Cutler to continue to build on his success. As Bennett is in his prime and the Bears transition to a high percentage, pass-first oriented offense; I see no reason that Martellus regresses from a statistical standpoint. My prediction is 60+ receptions and 8 TD’s.
Earl Bennett, on the other hand, has been with the team since he was drafted out of Vanderbilt in 2008. Earl’s numbers were best in his rookie season as he accumulated 54 receptions for 717 yards and two TD’s. His production has been steadily falling ever since for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons include injury but I believe the biggest reason to be a combination of play calling and Jay Cutler’s reliance on other targets.
I can not easily count the times last season that Cutler forced the ball in to Brandon Marshall while he was double covered…my DVR showed multiple times Earl Bennett crossing underneath the coverage, wide open. The knock on Bennett has been his lack of speed, but I don’t see it and I didn’t see it in the last game against the Lions when Bennett took a swing pass to the house for TD. He sure looked fast on that play.
Expect a big season from Earl as Trestman demands from Cutler to spread the ball around. I see Bennett thriving as a slot receiver in this offense. Bennett has shown that he is physical and has pretty sure hands. He did suffer a couple of key drops last season, though that is not the norm from him as I see it. While many Bear fans were clamoring for adding more depth at the Receiver position, Emery chose to use his key resources (FA’s and high Draft picks) on positions other than Wide Receiver. I suspect that Emery feels that his current receivers are good enough to win. Time will tell as it always does.
So Bear fans, do you see the Bennett & Bennett duo as an assett or a liability?