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By no means am I putting more stock in the offensive line's performance against the New York Giants than a preseason game warrants but I have to admit my confidence level in the group rose precipitously. And as for the poor showings of the third-down defense and special teams the other night, I just don't care. Neither, and I say this without even a degree of doubt, neither will carry over into the real games. (I would be writing a long-winded diatribe against the annual August overreactions of Haugh & Friends but who has time anymore?)
My concern for the Bears after a pair of preseason games is on the outside. The receiver position. The boys who catch the ball. It's not an "oh no we'll never win with this group" concern or a "who is out there on the free agent market" concern but it is a concern nevertheless. Who are the Bears receivers right now? What are their roles? After reading daily Tweets from every beat writer in Bourbonnais and watching every snap of the first two preseason games, here is what I know:
- The Bears best passing game option is dumping the ball off to the back. This includes Marion Barber, a player I've never associated with catching the ball but has nevertheless been impressive.
- Roy Williams has yet to make any plays running a vertical route.
- Devin Hester has yet to make any plays not running a vertical route.
- Earl Bennett still shows up every once in a while and makes a great catch.
- Johnny Knox, clearly the Bears best receiver a year ago, has been somehow relegated to playing the fourth quarter of preseason games and is losing early-game time to half-his-potential rookies.
Are these really the collection of players, in current form, that can execute the Mike Martz offense? There's some speed and potential out there but not a single player on this roster has the presence, hands or discipline of a Torry Holt or Isaac Bruce. I'm not saying you need All-Pros outside to be successful but in this shortened offseason that has led to first-string QBs around the league lacking for timing with most of their receiving corps, I can't imagine that it wouldn't be helpful for the Bears to have some order to things at the position. And I can't imagine that order would not involve Knox.
Knox is the story for me currently. The speedster from Abilene Christian amassed nearly 1,000 yards last year and did it on only 51 catches (18.8 per). And yet there he was lined up at wideout in the fourth quarter of a meaningless scrimmage at the MetLife Meadowlands - Snoopy in the Swamp. It doesn't make sense.
But then again, we've seen it before. Mark Bradley. Devin Aromashodu. This leadership allows you only to be so successful at wideout before they cut your legs out from underneath you and banish you to the practice squad. I don't know why. Nobody does. But if Johnny Knox's attitude is the reason he's been relegated to the B-side of the receiver album, I say screw his attitude and just throw him the damn ball. He's proven it when it matters. He's proven it on Sunday. And when you're thin at receiver, the solution is not benching your best player at the position on moral grounds.
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