Earl Bennett is arguably the most intriguing Chicago Bear heading into the 2009 season. Bears Nation carries somewhat of an idea in regards to the Chicago product offensively at quarterback, running back, tight end, fullback, line of scrimmage, and wide receiver number one. Importantly, who will step up and fill that open wide receiver #2 role opposite to Devin Hester?
Rashied Davis, for all of his clutch receptions, is still best suited to perform as a slot receiver; and the Brass at Halas Hall had made no effort to make a viable run at a free agent wide out. The confusion at wide receiver two is further exacerbated by the fact that Earl Bennett was only on the field for roughly 20 plays as a rookie and recorded no statistics.
Who is Earl Bennett?
Earl Bennett is the all time leading receiver in the history of the Southeastern Conference. Bennett recorded 236 total receptions, 2852 yards, and 20 touchdowns in the most brutal conference in all of college football from 2005 – 2007. Bennett totaled more catches over his first two years in the SEC than any other athlete and is the first ever football player to account for 75 or more receptions during three separate seasons.
Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, or LSU, you ask?
No. Earl Bennett put these yards together at Vanderbilt; and his sophomore and junior seasons at the school were without the services of the other worldly Jay Cutler at quarterback. Bennett put these record setting numbers together at the traditional doormat of the SEC, where he was the university’s only viable threat on the offensive side of the ball. Vanderbilt is known for academics, not football.
Oh, yes. Earl Bennett arrived at Nashville with a 3.8 G.P.A. from West End High School in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Chicago Bears quickly pounced upon Earl Bennett with the 70th pick in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Earl Bennett, Chicago Bears Wide Receiver, Scouting Report
Earl Bennett is 6’1 205 and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash.
These measurements are solid, but not imposing. Bennett overcomes these numbers with solid route running, technique, intelligence, strength, and hands. Reports out of Bears practice facilities indicate that Bennett is catching every football that is thrown his way.
Although Bennett was labeled as a possession receiver out of college, he has clearly shown the ability to break tackles and go for the deep ball, as evidenced by his 223-yard game versus Richmond. More importantly, Bennett does not shy away from contact, and is an exceptional target dragging across the middle of the formation.
Earl Bennett runs precise routes, with ideal burst out of his breaks. Bennett loves to drive his man deep and cut back across the gridiron for crossing patterns that rely upon pure timing. This receiver will concentrate and look the ball into his hands before cutting up field and breaking tackles.
Earl Bennett, Chicago Bears Wide Receiver Must Learn Playbook
Earl Bennett’s lack of playing time at Soldier Field last season was indeed, a mystery to Chicagoans. According to the rookie draft pick:
“I struggled [learning] the plays.”
Obviously, this will not cut it in the NFL. Ideally, Bennett would be brought along slowly to learn his craft as a third or fourth option in the passing game at the slot position. Of course, the Chicago Bears have never been confused with any offensive juggernaut.
The Jay Cutler acquisition solves the problem of a franchise quarterback. However, Devin Hester is a project at Alpha Dog Wide Receiver and the balance of the split end / flanker corps is completed by the likes of Bennett, Rashied Davis, and Oklahoma rookie Juaquin Iglesias.
The Chicago Bears are thin at wide receiver, to say the least.
Earl Bennett will compete with Rashied Davis, former Arena League standout, for the starting job. Davis is a mere 5’9 187 and is better suited for the WR3 slot, than Bennett. Still, the Chicago coaching staff will not need to obsess over Davis actually lining up at the wrong end of the formation.
This complimentary wide receiver scenario really is the lesser of the two evils.
Again, Bears management has refused to make a serious run at a viable playmaker through free agency. Plaxico Burress and Tory Holt are both names that have been floated through the rumor mill, only to be met with minimal response from general manager Jerry Angelo. In fact, Holt has already been signed to a 3-year, $20 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Maybe, just maybe, Halas Hall is aware of something that the casual fan fails to recognize.
Perhaps Earl Bennett will recreate the magic and chemistry that he obviously enjoyed while playing pitch and catch alongside Jay Cutler as a Vanderbilt Commodore standout.
Remember, Brandon “Baby T.O.” Marshall and Eddie Royal were unproven prospects and complete unknowns, prior to being paired with quarterback Jay Cutler at Mile High.
Earl Bennett, Chicago Bears Wide Receiver, Profile and Scouting Report, Sources:
The Official Web Site of the Chicago Bears, http://www.chicagobears.com/index.html
Earl Bennett Profile, http://www.nfl.com/players/earlbennett/profile?id=BEN327033
Chicago Tribune, Chicago Bears’ Earl Bennett’s Problem: Learning the Plays, http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/mar/19/sports/chi-19-bears-bits-chicago-mar19