Much of the offseason has been focused on the new offense and Bears fans have not tempered their excitement for it. All the new weapons, the familiar faces and coaches and system should make this a very successful season for Jay Cutler and the offense as a whole. The Bears could be in for an unprecedented offensive year statistically. Since it's June and all 32 teams are feeling optimistic, there are plenty of bold predictions going on. One of the more bold ones came this week from the Bears' own Earl Bennett, in an article about how he's studied Eddie Royal's role in the Denver offense. Earl said:
"We might have three or four 1,000 yard receivers in this offense," Bennett said. "It's a player friendly offense. If we have any advice on certain routes or certain plays the coaches listen, not to say they're going to change it, but they listen. They take our input and Cutler has played in this offense so he has a real good grasp on it. Everybody knows what's going on, you can play fast and just make plays.'
Three of four 1,000 yard receivers?! I know we're all excited, but is that really realistic?
This quote did not leave Muhammad with a glowing reputation among Bears fans, but one of the reasons it struck such a nerve was because it was somewhat true. The Bears haven't had an 1,000 yard receiving season in 10 years. The Bears, a charter franchise with over 80 seasons of history, have 11 1,000 yard receiving seasons in their history. This is the fourth fewest in the league behind the Texans (5), Ravens (9) and Browns (10). The Texans have only existed for 10 years and the Ravens for 15. The Browns haven't had a QB history much better than the Bears so that's somewhat of an excuse for them. Some teams, however, have one guy with almost as many or more 1,000 seasons by themselves than the Bears do total, for example Tim Brown of the Raiders had 9, Chad Ochocinco had 7 with the Bengals, the Colts have 8 by Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice had 12 with San Francisco! Even teams with relatively short histories and a good amount of losing, like Jacksonville, they have 13 1,000 seasons and Tampa Bay and Carolina each have 12.
So let's get back to Bennett, his quote may seem not-so-far-fetched, it's not that hard to have just two 1,000 receivers. Going back to 2007 (five seasons) there have been a total of 14 teams with two 1,000 yard receivers (and I include TEs in the "receiver"). In 2011, where there were new passing records and four QBs threw for 5,000 yards, three teams had two 1,000 yard receivers (the Patriots, with Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker, the Giants' Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks and the Steelers' Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown), and the Patriots came darn close to the trifecta, with Aaron Hernandez hauling in 910 yards.
However, there have been only four circumstances of teams having three 1,000 receivers (and/or TEs); the 1980 Chargers, the 1989 Redskins, the 1995 Falcons, the 2004 Colts and, most recently, the 2008 Cardinals. This begs the question; do you even want to have three 1,000 receivers? None of the previous teams won the Super Bowl.
The Bears had two 1,000 yard receivers in 1995, Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham (1,037 and 1,301 respectively). The next-closest to multiple 1,000-yard seasons came in 1999 when Marcus Robinson posted a franchise best 1,400 yards even and Bobby Engram finished with 947 yards.
So, now, coming full circle, could the Bears actually hit Bennett's prediction? For starters, it's possible; with Brandon Marshall and Earl Bennett they have two guys who are certainly capable of it (especially with Bennett filling 2008 Broncos receiver Eddie Royal's role, who had 980 yards) and then throw in this Devin Hester package and a potential breakout rookie year from Alshon Jeffery and throw in Kellen Davis and, sure, it's certainly possible the Bears have three or four potential 1,000 yard guys, I think it's unlikely to happen though. I don't think Bennett was being literal though, I think he was just emphasizing the potential the offense gives the team.
Especially with the run game considered. The 1-2 punch of Matt Forte and Michael Bush is going to grind out yards so the Bears won't need three 1,000 yard receivers, which is a good thing. Plus, it's easy to predict "three or four" big receiving years when in the non-contact offseason practices the run game can't really be practiced. Thinking "oh yeah we'll be chucking it around like we are in practice" is easy to do, but the Bears will run it quite a bit. Either way, this is going to be an explosive offense, and with good health, will likely re-write the Bears' offensive record book.