Earl Bennett's Time To Shine For The Bears

DETROIT - DECEMBER 05: Earl Bennett #80 of the Chicago Bears catches a 12 yard pass for a first down as Louis Delmas #26 of the Detroit Lions makes the stop during the game at Ford Field on December 5 2010 in Detroit Michigan. The Bears defeated the Lions 24-20. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The big news coming out of Chicago has been the trade for former Miami Dolphin wide out Brandon Marshall. This finally gives the Bears the number one receiver that the fans and members of the team (Jay Cutler) have literally been crying out for. It is without question a huge upgrade for the Bears who have lacked any real star power at that position for a long time. But this could also present an opportunity for other players to take the spotlight.

Other players such as Earl Bennett.

Four year pro Earl Bennett. The man who spits in the face of uniform regulations. A true fan favourite, and the only receiver that Jay Cutler has ever really looked close to trusting. This is partly due to the fact they have been playing pitch and catch since their college days at Vanderbilt.

Bennett is never going to be an elite receiver in this league, but he has adequate speed, good hands and decent athleticism. And he is reliable. Perhaps a quality that doesn't get as much credit as it should. Ask Roy 'stone hands' Williams about reliability.

Since 2009 he has played nearly every game for the Bears, and was going strong last season until he was injured towards the end of the campaign, with some suggesting he was a victim of the Saint's bounty program - don't get me started on that.

The arrival of Brandon Marshall could give Bennett the chance to really show what he's made of. There's no doubt that Marshall will get the lion's share of attention from opposing defensive backs. This would hopefully free up Bennett to take advantage of lopsided coverage, and start adding to his six career touchdowns.

Bennett averages 13.4 yards a catch and only has three fumbles on 124 career receptions. Like I said, he's reliable. And that's one of the reasons Jay Cutler feels comfortable throwing him the ball.

Recent reports are pointing to WR Johnny Knox's recovery possibly taking longer than expected. Knox suffered a serious back injury late in the 2011 season, and the outcome could have been a lot worse. The Bears expect him to return to playing football, but when that will be and to what level he can play is not yet known.

This adds to the opportunity for Bennett to make a mark on the team. Like I have said before, Devin Hester just hasn't panned out as a receiver, and while he looks set to remain at that position, I would like to see him used more dynamically, and not just as another player for Cutler to throw the ball to.

The rest of the receivers include Roy Williams, although his contract is up and he is a free agent. Can I just ask if there is any love for Williams amongst our readers? I think he lacked commitment and looked like he didn't want to be out there at times.

One man I hope to see get going again is Dane Sanzenbacher. I am big fan of his, and he did some good things on his way to catching 27 passes and three touchdowns last season. After a strong start, he had a stretch of games where he was pretty much a non entity, but I look forward to him getting another chance this season.

The Bears also added ex Giant Devin Thomas to the mix, and hopefully he can bring something to the table and at least give Cutler another target.

But I really feel that this could be Bennett's year. Bears fans have been singing his praises for some time now. But now it's time for the rest of the league to stand up and take notice of Earl 'the pearl' Bennett. Orange shoes and all.

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