Posts tagged with: Devin Hester

Are the Bears asking too much of Manning?

Danieal Manning will play both nickel back and free safety this season for the Bears. He’ll also return kickoffs.

The question is, Will he be good at any of these positions?

I’m sure he’ll be good at returning kickoffs. Manning is deadly fast, and proved last year that he’s nearly as devastating on kickoff returns as Devin Hester was until last year.

But I’m not so confident about Manning’s work at either free safety or nickel back. The Chicago Tribune recently ran a feature story about the number of positions Manning has been asked to play. Problem is, I remember seeing Manning get burned several times in the secondary the last couple of years.

The guy’s fast. Some say he’s the Bears’ best pure athlete. The guy just doesn’t seem to know how to cover anyone.

The secondary looks to be one of the Bears’ big weaknesses this year. I don’t think Manning’s play will change that, unfortunately.

Can Hester commit to double duty?

There was a lot of concern when the Bears converted Devin Hester to a full-time wide receiver. The worries weren’t that Hester wouldn’t develop into a solid receiver. No, the concerns were that he’d no longer be the top kick-return man in the NFL.

Judging from last year, those concerns were valid. Hester went from being the most feared returner in the game to one who spent an inordinate amount of time running backwards, fumbling or getting dropped for a loss. And to top it all off, Hester, though he turned into a solid receiver, wasn’t exactly an all-star at his new position, either.

It hardly seemed worth it to make the change.

Today, the Bears say that Hester will become a true number-one receiver, especially with strong-armed Jay Cutler throwing to him. Bears officials envision Hester routinely streaking down the sidelines, snagging balls and racing to the endzone.

Problem is, it’s hard to picture Hester ever being a better receiver than he once was a kick returner.

Chicago Tribune writer David Haugh addresses this issue in today’s paper. He writes that it’s essential for Hester to commit equally to returning punts as he has to catching passes.

I’d agree with Haugh that Hester has to commit to returning punts. But I’d disagree with the catching passes part. Hester should never have been turned into a wide receiver. By doing so, the Bears simply took their greatest strength for two years and turned it into a weakness while barely upgrading the wide-receiver position.

An outsider’s view of the Bears receivers

To hear Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo tell it, the Bears have the league’s deepest crew of wide receivers. They see Devin Hester as a budding star. Earl Bennett, who caught exactly zero passes last year, has improved greatly. And the rookie wide receivers the Bears drafted are all poised to become the next Jerry Rice.

Of course, all of this is nonsense. The Bears receivers are terrible. The team might have the worst receiving corps in the NFL. Thank goodness for tight ends Desmond Clarkand Gregg Olsen.

It’s interesting, though, to read about what bloggers covering other teams think of the wide receiver situation here in Chicago. For instance, you might check out this post on the Lombardi Avenue blog. The writer of the blog, which covers, not surprisingly, the Green Bay Packers, refers to a radio interview given by Donald Driver, in which the Green Bay receiver says that the Bears have no real quality wide receivers.

The blog writer, wisely, agrees with Driver.

It’s no secret across the league that defensive backs don’t fear the Bears wide receivers. It’s a shame that the Bears acquired a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler, but still have hardly anyone for him to throw to.

Not everyone thinks Bears wide receivers stink

What’s the biggest problem with the Chicago Bears, right now?

Did you say “wide receiver?” If you did, you’re like most fans out there. Including me.

However, there are some out there who aren’t as worried about the receiver position. You can read this post over at the Bleacher Report blog. The writer argues that the Bears aren’t that bad at receiver. He points to Devin Hester and tight ends Desmond Clark and Gregg Olsen as the reason why.

I’ll agree that Clark and Olsen are two of the best receiving tight ends in the game right now. And that’s a true advantage for the Bears.

But Hester? He’d be fine as a number-three receiver, maybe even a number-two. But as a number-one receiver? He’s not even close yet. He led the Bears in receiving last year wtih decidedly below-average catches and yards. This might change with new quarterback Jay Cutler throwing him the ball. It may not.

And after Hester, who exactly is the number-two receiver? Is it fumble-fingered Rashied Davis, who can’t catch anything? Or is it Earl Bennett, who caught exactly zero passes in his rookie season?

There’s no denying that the Bears’ wide receivers are a lame lot. Yes, they have their tight ends and a good pass-catching running back in Matt Forte. But they still need a receiver that can put some fear in opponents. They don’t have that now.

Is it up to the tight ends to provide the passing offense this season?

Jay Cutler may wish he was back in Denver by the time this season ends. Of course, if the Bears do find a veteran wide receiver somewhere, than Cutler will probably have a fine time this year.

Will that happen? Who knows? For now, though, the Bears organization continues to insist that Devin Hester, who led the team with 51 catches for 665 yards, is a number-one receiver. I guess that makes dropsy-plagued Rashied Davis a number-two. Shudder.

The best receivers on the team are actually Gregg Olsen and Desmond Clark. Too bad they’re tight ends. The third best receiver is probably Matt Forte. Too bad he’s a running back.

That makes Hester the fourth best receiver on this squad.

Cutler can throw deep. That might help Hester. Or it might just frustrate Cutler when he finds out that no other Bears receiver can get open deep on a consistent basis.

My hope is that this post will soon become moot. There’s always hope that the Bears actually will pick up a real live NFL receiver.

Stranger things have happened. I mean, look at what the Bears did in April. They actually found a quarterback. Who would have predicted that?

Why the Vikings are still the favorites in the NFC North

I really want to believe that the Bears, powered by the strong arm of Jay Cutler, will win the NFC North this year.

It’s hard to force myself to believe this, though. Yes, it’s a fairly weak division. But I still think the Vikings, though they’re certainly not Super Bowl contenders, are still the smarter choice to win the division.

Here’s why: The Vikings have a good, tough defense. They have arguably the game’s most explosive running back. And if Brett Favre plays for them this year, they’ll have a quarterback who is just good enough.

The Bears meanwhile, still have a lot of question marks. Yes, Jerry Angelo did fill some holes, most notably with Cutler, finally acquiring a quarterback that defensive backs will fear. But remember, that Bears defense has been lousy since the SuperBowl year. Brian Urlacher appears to be winding down. Mike Brown is gone, with not much talent to replace him.

I’m still not sold on Matt Forte, either. Yes, he had a solid rookie season. But he wore down terribly as the season went on. And he’s more of a solid back when he’s on. He’s not a gamebreaker.

Then there are the receivers. Simply put, this is a terrible group. Devin Hester is not a number-one receiver, no matter how many times Lovie Smith says he is. And we’re relying on Earl Bennett? The same Earl Bennett who caught exactly zero passes last season?

I’m sorry, but there are too many holes on these Bears.

Which Bear has the most to prove this year? Urlacher

There are a lot of Bears that have something to prove this year.

Devin Hester has to prove he’s a number-one receiver. Jay Cutler has to prove he’s ready to be a leader. Rashied Davis has to prove he can actually catch the ball.

And then there’s Brian Urlacher. Remember when he was one of the most feared defensive players in the league? Well, those days are gone. Injuries have made sure that Urlacher will never again be that dynamo that caused opposing offensive coordinators so many headaches. But that doesn’t mean that Urlacher can’t still be a force on the field.

He’ll just have to do it in a different way.

Urlacher has always had trouble shedding blockers. Hopefully, Lovie Smith will use Urlacher’s speed. He sitll has that. And he can still use that to disrupt passing plays and chase down running backs, if Smith figures out a way to get him away from big, meaty blockers.

If Urlacher has an outstanding season, so will the Bears’ defense. If he struggles again, expect the defense to give up its share of long drives and points this season.

Saw a guy wearing Muhsin Muhammed jersey yesterday

I was in downtown Chicago yesterday when I saw someone wearing a Muhsin Muhammed Bears jersey.

At first I was amazed. Muhammed didn’t exactly have a stellar career while in a Bears uniform. In fact, near the end of his tenure here, it really was “boo” — and not “Mooooose!” — that you heard when he was on the field.

Then I thought a bit about this. Muhammed wasn’t great with the Bears. But he at least got into position to make catches. He ran good routes. He caught the ball when a Bears quarterback actually managed to throw it somewhere near him.

Was a he a touchdown machine? No. Did he catch 100 balls in a year? No. Was he a deep threat at all? No.

But he sure was better than Rashied Davis or Marty Booker or Brandon Lloyd. He was probably a more consistent receiver than is “number-one” receiver Devin Hester, too.

So maybe seeing that Muhammed jersey wasn’t so weird. Or maybe the guy wearing it didn’t have any other clean clothes.

Toomer or Boldin? This isn’t really a debate, is it?

These Bears, most notably coach Lovie Smith, have often treated their fans like they’ve never watched an NFL game. Remember last year, when the Bears insisted that they were happy with their wide receivers? Fans certainly weren’t. And after watching a year of Rashied Davies drop passes and Marty Booker practice his disappearing act, no one was happy with the Bears receivers.

Now comes word that the Bears might, just might, take a look at former N. Y. Giants mainstay receiver Amani Toomer.

It’s true that Toomer’s probably better than any receiver currently on the Bears roster, including any late-round draft picks. But it’s also true that Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin is 10 times better than Toomer.

Yes, I know it’d take a near miracle, but maybe the Bears can do something to get Boldin here. Can you imagine the passing yards the Bears would rack up with Cutler passing to Boldin? There might finally be reason to keep your eyes open the next time the Bears have the ball.

It’s hard to believe, but the Bears’ fate this season depends more than ever on the offense. The defense has proven during the last two years that it can’t stop anyone when it matters. The Bears need to win shootouts this year. I’m not sure they can do this with Devin Hester as their top receiver.