Chicago Bears: Wide Receiver End of the Year Evaluations
The next position up in my end of the year evaluation series for the Chicago Bears is the wide receivers. This position group came into the season with high expectations for the first time in quite some time. General manager Phil Emery made the move to acquire the troubled, but talented WR Brandon Marshall. The move put the WR back together with his former Denver Broncos teammate Jay Cutler, where they had great success for two seasons.
Emery traded up in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft to take WR Alshon Jeffery; a first round talent that dropped to the second round. Devin Hester was thought to be in for a solid season considering he will be given less snaps and not be counted on as the team's number one WR. Earl Bennett with the addition of Marshall would find himself better opportunities to get open.
Inept play-calling from first time offensive coordinator Mike Tice is likely the reason for this position underperforming the way it did this season. Just imagine if the position performed up to their expectations, Lovie Smith would still be Bears head coach and the team would have been in the playoffs.
Instead we saw Smith get fired for the offense short-comings as the Bears failed to reach the post season for the fifth time in the last six years.
Here’s a look at the how the WR position graded out for the 2012 year season and my analysis on each player heading into the 2013 season.
Brandon Marshall 2012 Grade: A+
2013 Outlook: The Bears traded for Marshall to be the team’s number one WR; he certainly lived up to the hype. Marshall broke franchise records for receiving yards and receptions in a season as he was Jay Cutler favorite target and most times Cutler's only target.
Marshall is in the prime of his career, so from a physical perspective Bears have nothing to worry about. You just hope mentally Marshall takes into the new head coach. If Marshall does the skies the limit for him and Jay Cutler, as they already have a great rapport with each other.
Earl Bennett 2012 Grade: C-
2013 Outlook: It was obvious the addition of Marshall effected Bennett who served as the team’s primary possession WR in the past. General manager Phil Emery remains high on Bennett and feels like a new offensive coordinator can get the best out of Bennett.
Although I still think Bennett can be an effective third WR, he most likely will be competing for his job in the off-season. Whether that person is someone on the existing roster or Emery adding a WR remains to be seen, 2013 will be a critical year for Bennett.
Alshon Jeffery 2012 Grade: B
2013 Outlook: It was a tough first year for Jeffery who suffered a couple of injuries throughout the season. In the little time we saw Jeffery, he showed flashes that he can be a future playmaker for the Bears. He’s already skilled at getting off press coverage and his catch radius is second to Marshall on the team, but he needs to improve as a route runner.
Jeffery should be a lot better in 2013 with an off-season in the weight room and working out with Marshall. He’s likely to be the team’s number two WR heading into the season.
Devin Hester 2012 Grade: F
2013 Outlook: Six years later, we are finally done with the Hester experiment which set the team back a few years at the position. Hester had his worst statistical year as a Bear, both as a WR and return man.
It’s likely that Hester career in Chicago is over. He’s regressing rather than progressing in his WR development and he has diminished as a returner. It will serve well for both parties if they went their separate ways.
Eric Weems 2012 Grade: B
2013 Outlook: Since I really didn’t expect much out of Weems from a wide receiver perspective, I couldn’t bring his grade down too much. The Bears strictly brought Weems in to be a standout special team player and he had a very solid season in that part of the game. Weems could likely assume full-time return duties if the Bears get rid of Devin Hester in the off-season.
Joe Anderson 2012 Grade: B
2013 Outlook: Anderson was called up from the practice squad towards the end of the season and played well on special teams. His performance in that area the last few games might have earned him a spot on the roster going into training camp this up-coming summer. Anderson will likely get a chance to show the new offensive coaching staff that he deserves playing time on offense.
The 6-1 196 pound WR showcased good route running and hands during the preseason last year, and could challenge someone like Earl Bennett for playing time.
Brittan Golden 2012 Grade: INC
2013 Outlook: Golden spent all but the last two weeks on the Bears practice squad (last two with Jacksonville Jaguars); the Bears signed him to a future/reserve contract a few days ago. Golden caught the coach’s eye last year in training camp with his down field speed and route running. His best position could be in the slot as a poor man’s Lance Moore.
His speed downfield definitely compliments WR’s Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Earl Bennett, who are pure possession WR’s.