Bears Answer Questions at Wideout in Releasing Depth Chart
After all, the leading receivers -- in terms of catches -- last season were running back Matt Forte and tight end Greg Olsen. Devin Hester was the top wideout, with 51 catches and 665 yards. Rashied Davis caught 35 balls, but no other wide receiver in training camp caught a single NFL pass in 2008.
Juaquin Iglesias, Johnny Knox and Derek Kinder were drafted, while Earl Bennett received a virtual "red-shirt." Eric Peterman was added as an undrafted free agent. Brandon Rideau and Devin Aromashodu have survived mostly as practice squad guys for a few years, and they are also in the mix.
The preseason depth chart, which the Bears released Tuesday night, appears like so for the wideouts:
WR - Hester / Davis / Iglesias / Peterman
WR - Bennett / Rideau / Aromashodu / Knox
Now, it was pretty obvious from the get-go Hester would be the top receiver overall, and he is. It's nice to see the Bears are already confident enough in Bennett to list him as the starter above the more experienced -- but far less talented -- Davis.
There's another truth we can seemingly ascertain from this chart, in addition to what we know about Bennett's rookie year: The Bears don't like using rookie wideouts. In fact, the best rookie receiver in Lovie Smith's tenure is a toss-up between Mark Bradley (18 catches for 230 yards in '05) and Bernard Berrian (15 catches for 225 yards in '04). We've seen what Berrian became after that modest start, and Bradley had a great string of games for the Chiefs once the Bears let him go last season. Knowing this bodes well for Bennett in 2009 and beyond, but what about the two modestly-hyped rookies?
Knox was reportedly a star in OTAs due to his blazing speed. Leading up to the release of this depth chart, it was thought that he was going to be featured in the Bears plans for the 2009 season. Being listed as the fourth guy on one-side of the field isn't exactly a vote of confidence.
Iglesias was said to already be polished after playing in many big games for Oklahoma, but news about him has been pretty slow from the Chicago area. We can probably conclude he's in this learning process the Bears put Bennett through.
On the flip-side, Rideau and Aromashodu have received positive reviews on several different occasions from both Cutler and the coaches.
All in all, it seems as though experience has mattered in the Bears camp at receiver -- just as it has throughout the Smith era.
Other items of interest on the depth chart:
- Danieal Manning is listed as the starter at free saftey, while rookie Al Afalava from Oregon is the backup to Kevin Payne at strong safety. There were some worries from Bears fans that the untalented Craig Steltz or ineffective (at best) Josh Bullocks would see significant playing time.
- Strong-side linebacker is listed as a three-way battle between Jamar Williams, Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa. Expect Tinoisamoa to emerge, but this will be a great battle during the preseason games.
- Hester is still listed as the punt returner and the second kick returner (after Manning). We'll see if an increased workload on offense makes him even more futile in the return game or if he can regain his superior step on special teams.
- Josh Beekman seems to be holding off Frank Omiyale at left guard for the time being.
- Nathan Vasher doesn't seem to have much competition at right corner. Hopefully that changes when Zack Bowman returns from injury (Trumaine McBride and Corey Graham are listed neck-and-neck at left corner with Charles Tillman on the shelf for a bit).