Do the Bears Still have a Problem at Receiver?

Christian Petersen

Football Outsiders followed up the draft by listing each team's post-draft needs - and for the Bears they listed receiver. What are your thoughts?

Even after the draft and free agency, it's still fun to poke at the team and see if there's still anything that needs to be addressed. And Football Outsiders put together their division by division outlooks looking at each team's remaining biggest need.

You need an ESPN Insider subscription to read the whole piece, but the NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert pulled out some snippets from the piece and under the Bears they wrote:

Football Outsiders' issue: Receiver
Football Outsiders comment: "When we pointed to wide receiver as a major flaw for the current Bears early in the offseason, it was to the consternation of a lot of Bears fans who saw the offensive line as the larger issue. The problem is that Jay Cutler is a see-it, throw-it passer. He's still a solid quarterback, but he's never thrown receivers open on a consistent basis. That amplifies the Bears' receiving problems, and while scheming can create the occasional big play for Devin Hester, Eric Weems, or Earl Bennett, they can't defeat man coverage often enough to benefit Cutler."

Seifert followed up by saying he doesn't agree with that classification of Cutler (that he's a "see-it, throw-it" passer), but that there still isn't much behind Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery or Bennett, so on that level he agrees with FO's assessment.

If we hop in the DeLorean (or simply use Google or the FO homepage), we get to the article they wrote prior to free agency and the draft, at the end of February about each team's biggest needs. And about the Bears, they wrote:

Biggest hole: Wide receiver and tight end
Remember when the Bears traded for Brandon Marshall? That was a fairly adept move by new Bears GM Phil Emery, because if Marshall hadn't been around last season, Jay Cutler might not have completed a pass. Marshall absorbed 192 targets, third-most in the league behind Calvin Johnson and Reggie Wayne, and he had to do this because the Bears had no other receivers who could beat man coverage. While part of that falls on the diminishing returns of year five of the Devin Hester ExperimentTM, as well as the general lack of receiving depth Chicago had while waiting for Alshon Jeffery to develop, another big factor was the trade of Greg Olsen to the Panthers back in 2011 by predecessor Jerry Angelo. Without a reliable tight end to serve as an underneath threat, Cutler was forced to spend a lot more of last season scrambling while waiting for his targets to get open.
Kellen Davis had a truly magical season, dropping seven passes on just 44 targets, and finishing with a -26.6% DVOA rating that placed him 46th out of 49 qualifying tight ends. Secondary tight end Matt Spaeth, primarily a blocker, caught the ball about as well as you'd expect a blocking tight end to, accumulating a -34.6% DVOA on the 10 passes thrown his way. The Bears often had no choice but to use both of their tight ends as blockers rather than waste their time trying to throw to them.

So the Bears had what can only be considered a sucking black hole at receiving tight end (two sucking black holes, actually), and that sucking black hole contributed to Cutler having to sit around (or run around) the pocket and heave the ball to Marshall because no one else could beat man coverage quickly enough.

I like Martellus Bennett as much as the next guy, but he's still only one receiving tight end. But if they're worrying about not having another receiver that can beat man coverage... Are they calling for a fourth wide receiver to be the team's biggest need? And don't they have a guy that can beat man coverage in Jeffery as he develops?

If the Bears' biggest need is still a receiver, then they're in a very good place. What are your thoughts on FO's post-draft commentary?

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