Chicago Bears Wide Receiver Roulette - Round 3

 

Another day is to another dollar as another woman is to another holler. Oh, and another week means another round of the Chicago Bears wide receiver roulette! So, this was another somewhat unpredictable week as you, the fans, voted Johnny "Fort" Knox to the second position on the roster for wide receivers and sent Vic Hall to the pits of the practice squad. It's shocking that you guys had absolutely no love for Vic Hall, then again Vic Hall had less of a chance of finding love in this stacked wide receiver group than Flava Flav had of finding love on a reality TV show.

 

For those that are actually concerned about the man behind the seven votes he received, Vic Hall was a wide receiver in perhaps the Bears mind only. He was primarily a cornerback/ST player with Virginia, while also having a small bit of skill at QB, but wasn't a huge stand out at any one position. That's really all there is to say unless you're in the market for 5ft 9in conversion jobs at wide receiver.

However, there is a lot more to say about Fort Knox, so follow me while we take a look at the second player with golden connotations on the team. Also, don't forget to vote in this round as we have quickly removed most of the chaff making this vote even more important to keeping your favorite receiver in the game.

Taking a look at the voting, Johnny Knox raced past the other receivers much like he does to cornerbacks on the field. Knox ended up with over 400 votes, which is close to a 300 vote margin over his next closest competitor, Devin Hester. If Johnny Knox continues his development as a receiver this year, Knox will singlehandedly go down as the nail in the coffin when it comes to who got the better end of the Cutler from Denver deal. Franchise QB and a possible pro-bowl receiver for a couple of first rounders? Yes. Please.

Let's go back to the well again to my good friends over a CBS Sports and their fantastic draft coverage for a couple of excerpts from his scouting report. First up, the positives.

Positives: Adequate height with wiry upper body strength and good muscle definition in his arms. Not your typical slight small-school receiver. Good initial quickness off the snap to get into his route. Reliable hands; snatches the ball and adjusts to poor throws. Gets up to high-point and secure the catch. Sinks his hips and displays quick feet going into and out of routes. Has good vision and is elusive running in the open field. Works hard to block downfield, and will sustain and even dominate against smaller corners. Experienced as a punt returner.

Athletic Ability: Knox has outstanding quickness and good athletic agility. He shows the flexibility, burst and acceleration to get behind the defender consistently, but seems more comfortable working on controlled routes than threatening the deep areas of the secondary. He has good feet and an exciting second gear on the move. He runs with a normal stride, but is quick to turn on the after-burners. He has good balance and change-of-direction agility. He shows the second-level speed and explosiveness with a fluid natural running motion to run past most defenders in isolated coverage. GRADE: 7.0

Competitiveness: Knox is aggressive going for the ball in a crowd, but would have better success if he can improve his marginal-to-adequate strength. He has developed that ability to come through in the clutch. Despite his almost frail-looking frame, he is very tough and determined going for the ball. When on his "game," he will give a good, consistently high effort and is the sort that will play through minor pain. GRADE: 6.5

Quickness: Knox is very quick through his routes and shows good movement off the ball, with nice stop-and-go action. He is blessed with outstanding quickness on the field, which helps him execute short and sharp cuts. His initial burst is sudden, especially when left uncontested. He quickly gains advantage on the defender due to his speed, but is still learning how to gear down in order to prevent from out-running the ball. GRADE: 7.7

I think these positives are about as dead on as I've ever seen a scouting report be, and fit exactly to what we've all seen on the field. Speed, quickness, effort, and that second gear from hell. I've said before to others that watching Knox play receiver reminds me a lot of when I was watching Hester play returner. Whenever he is on the field and gets targeted even before the camera pans to him I have this gut feeling that he already has two or three steps on the defender and this one could be going to the house.

Johnny Knox is the very definition of a scrappy wide receiver, standing at six feet even and weighing in at 185, his wiry build and drive for success make him a threat across the field. Knox is the kind of receiver that doesn't just go up to get the ball, he goes up to get his ball. He plays with the mindset that any time a ball is thrown in his direction that he isn't going to allow the defender to take anything away from him. If you would like a player to compare and contrast with that'd be our very own former Bear and current Viking Bernard Berrian. Berrian was the epitome of leaving his QB out to dry, from not fighting for balls to simply standing there as the CB took the ball the other way.

Knox's speed and quickness is going to take him a long way in this league, and his drive to become a better player should serve him well in that regard. Known for being one of the last guys off the practice field, having the opportunity to work with Mike Martz should allow Knox to add some very proficient route running to his already fantastic functional speed. Should he get to where he needs to be as far as his routes go in this off season, you can expect to see a lot of TD next his name throughout the season.

However, every banana has a few blemishes so lets take a look at some of his negatives coming out of college.

Negatives: Thin through the hips and legs. Gets a lot of his yardage after short routes, screens and swing passes. Lacks elite speed or quickness, but had enough to be special at the FCS level. Easily tripped up in the open field. Does not switch the ball to the outside hand. Despite his strong effort, he lacks the bulk and strength to be effective against NFL defenders. Dances and runs backward too much after the catch or on returns - will not get away with that at the next level.

Route Running: For all of his explosive speed, route running is still an inconsistent area for Knox. He needs to be more consistent sinking his weight in order to negotiate out of his breaks better. He does not have the strength to power through tackles, so avoidance is key for him having success catching the ball. He also shows too much gather before he gets depth on intermediate patterns. He displays excellent quickness and foot speed in and out of his breaks when he drops his pads. When he plays at a low pad level, he shows good set up and body control, but needs to use his hands better to prevent the defender from attacking him and trying to reroute him with a strong push.

Football Sense: Knox needs route refinement and must show better determination to run with the ball, as he does a lot of dancing after the catch rather than just turning and heading upfield. He has the functional vision not to run into spots often. He finds the open areas quickly and does a nice job of working back for the ball, but relies more on his speed rather than football experience. He is a good learner, but needs a few reps and is still developing his retention skills. GRADE: 5.8

Blocking Ability: Knox will give adequate effort, but only to pester. He does not have the power to sustain or wall off. He is quick to position as a cut blocker, but not strong enough to make an impact. GRADE: 4.8

One thing that keeps getting repeated throughout is his low ranked attributes, and in his negatives is his relative lack of lower body strength. Now, I'm of two minds on this issue. I'll agree that he is light on the bottom and could use some more muscle not only for durability concerns, but also for driving through the bump and run, or sustaining blocks. However, I also worry that bulking up his legs too much might cause him to lose some of that fantastic  quickness that makes him so good. Consider my opinion on this one left up to the training staff, if they think he can add 5-10lbs of muscle to his lower body and maintain his speed and quickness then they should get on it immediately, if not, then definitely don't.

As far as the rest of his negatives go, they are almost all related to NFL-readiness and experience, both of which have been remedied to some extent already and should be even more resolved by the end of the pre-season this year. In a system predicated on very good route running, Knox sh ould be about shoulders deep in a crash course as you are reading this, so we can only hope it pays off come game time. The more reps he gets, the better Johnny Knox should become, and if his initial season was any indication, he's going to be very very good.

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