Receivers eager to see ball thrown their way
BOURBONNAIS ó In some of the NFL's high-octane passing offenses, there's concern that there won't be enough footballs to go around, enough touches to keep everyone happy, enough opportunities to soothe the egos of talented skill-position players.
The Bears have never really had that "problem," but it could be an issue this season for the first time in a while.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall had 118 receptions for 1,508 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he remains the alpha male in the pass game. Tight end Martellus Bennett caught 55 passes for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns with the Giants, and the Bears are paying him to at least duplicate those numbers.
Running back Matt Forte had "just" 44 receptions last season, but speculation is that in the Marc Trestman-Aaron Kromer offense Forte will be much more of a threat in the passing game. He had more than 50 catches in each of his previous four NFL seasons and could challenge his rookie personal best of 63 grabs.
Alshon Jeffery is expected to sustain the sporadic production he flashed when healthy as a rookie. And Earl Bennett, a long-time favorite of quarterback Jay Cutler, is looking to recapture his 2009 form when he caught 54 passes for 717 yards.
At least one of them is bound to be disappointed this season, even though Marshall knows the offense will be more productive if he doesn't have to carry such an uneven share of the load this season.
For now, it's a friendly competition.
"It's pretty fun," Martellus Bennett said. "Anytime (Earl) Bennett makes a play, me and Alshon look at each other like, 'We can't let him one-up us.' So everyone's out there fighting to get (the ball). We all want to be open, we all want to get the ball.
"We're happy when another guy makes a play, but we also feel challenged. So, if Brandon makes a great play, I have to make one. It's my turn. 'Come on coach, call something for me, I want to make a play. And Alshon's the same way. So you got three big guys out there that are not only competing against the defense, we try to out-do each other."
While Marshall has little left to prove individually, he knows that the Bears' group of receivers is held in low esteem, but he says it has the potential to change that perception.
"We don't get a lot of credit (in the media)," Marshall said. "They actually say we're one of the weakest units on the team. But look around at the players that we have on this field. You see Alshon Jeffery making huge plays, going up in the back of the end zone, (on the) sideline, (making) toe-tap catches. Martellus Bennett, Earl Bennett, we're doing it all. We're excited and ready to come together as a unit."
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