Chicago Bears Hope Earl Bennett Can Solidify 3rd WR Spot

By Ryan Heckman
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears have solidified many positions this offseason, and for those that haven’t been locked down, much competition has been established through the NFL Draft and free agency. New head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery have done an excellent job in creating a competitive atmosphere at the linebacker position, and surprisingly, the offensive line. One area the Bears still have a question mark, however, is the third wide receiver on the depth chart.

With starting wide receiver Brandon Marshall in place, Chicago is more than likely going to start second year pro Alshon Jeffrey opposite of him. Devin Hester has moved back to his return specialist role by request. Eric Weems is almost purely a special teams player, not having the necessary skills to be a consistent wideout. Dane Sanzenbacher was not even active last year for a handful of the Bears’ games. The Bears also drafted Marquess Wilson out of Washington State in the seventh round, but no one is sure the impact Wilson will have just yet. That leaves the most likely candidate in Earl Bennett to establish himself as the third guy in line.

Over the years, Bennett has been less than what you would expect out of a third receiver – sometimes having been the second option in the past. He has the ability to be a good possession receiver coming out of the slot, and most of his downfalls have come from the fact he hasn’t been able to stay 100% healthy.

There are two huge factors that could ultimately propel Bennett into a productive third wideout. The first, and most important, is the chemistry Bennett has been able to further with his quarterback Jay Cutler. Both Cutler and Bennett played together in college at Vanderbilt with Bennett being the gunslinger’s favorite target there. Cutler has said at times that he knows how Bennett will move and react on the field just out of sheer chemistry, and that is a great sign for Trestman and the new offense.

The second factor playing into Bennett’s potential success is just that, Trestman and the new offense. With a more diverse playbook that is sure to feature quite a few players, and not just Marshall, Bennett will undoubtedly get his chances to make plays. Anybody that knows where Trestman comes from and has taken a look at his previous positions as an offensive coordinator will understand that he allows many players to get involved, especially through the air.

Trestman will absolutely look to get his new tight end Martellus Bennett involved heavily due to the big guy’s athletic ability going down field, but Chicago will ultimately need a guy to step up in that third spot when going either empty backfield or four wide.

I believe if healthy that (Earl) Bennett can provide what the Bears need. If you remember back to the last game of the season against the Detroit Lions, he showed the ability to catch, make a quick move and break away with a burst of speed. As a fan, I haven’t seen something like that out of Bennett in recent memory. If Trestman continues to develop his quarterback, he and Bennett could provide fans with a couple more of those here and there in 2013. Let’s hope for the sake of Chicago that this scenario comes to fruition. Less than four months fans…but who’s counting?

Ryan Heckman is a writer for covering the NBA and NFL. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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