There's a lot to be excited about for the passing game of the Chicago Bears in 2013. Head Coach Marc Trestman is bringing his West Coast Offense and his quarterback whispering skills to a team that has struggled when the ball was in flight. Trestman has been tasked with bringing the Bears offense into the new millennium, and new wide receivers coach Mike Groh will need to get his players to mesh with the offense.
Jay Cutler is obviously the trigger man, but the wide outs will need to be on their game in order for the offense to truly flow. Luckily for the Bears, they have one of the very best to ever play the position.
Brandon Marshall will hold every receiving record in Chicago franchise when he's done, and he'll be mentioned with the all time greats. He brings such a presence to the field, and just by lining up, he creates so many mismatch problems for a defense.
As excited that I am to see Marshall play in the new offense, I'm more excited to see the development of second year man Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery flashed some serious skills last year, but his rookie mistakes really hurt him. He's in great shape after working out with Marshall in the off season, and I expect him to go over 50 receptions, and be a serious red zone threat.
Earl Bennett had to work through some injuries in 2011 and 2012, but his rapport with Jay Cutler is still there. He averaged 50 receptions and 639 yards in '09 and '10, and with him solely focused on the slot, I see a very productive 2013 campaign in his future.
The top three players on the Bears depth chart seem set in stone, but behind them things could get interesting. It could come down to nine players battling it out for two spots.
A good bet to make it
I thought Joe Anderson did some nice things last year as a special teamer once he had an opportunity, and early word from camp this year has him standing out as a receiver. Anderson will probably still need to be more than just a wide out to ensure his chance at sticking, but I've seen flashes from him that make me believe he could be an NFL receiver.
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On the Bubble
Anderson's main competition may come from Eric Weems, who has plenty of experience covering kicks, but he can also return them. If Anderson can essentially replace what Weems can bring to the team, then Weems is on the bubble. But if Anderson struggles on special teams then look for Weems to find his way on the 2013 roster. I suppose there is a chance the Bears keep both Weems and Anderson, but I think that would be kind of redundant.
I think the Bears will carry at least five receivers, and with Marshall, Jeffery, Bennett, and Anderson/Weems, that leaves room for only one other bubble guy to make his dreams come true.
Devin Aromashodu will probably look good in camp and in preseason, but I don't think he'll get the benefit of the doubt over the younger receivers unless he really stands out. DA will have to severely distance himself from the youngsters if he wants to make the team.
I believe seventh round draft pick Marquess Wilson will be given every opportunity to make the active roster. The early entrant to the NFL draft was one of the top wide outs in his class, and had it not been for his college troubles, he could have had some buzz surrounding him in the 2014 draft. So far he's stood out in camp on a few occasions.
More From WCG: Bears Playbook - Marquess Wilson's West Coast Style
The 6'5" Terrence Toliver could be a match-up problem for shorter corners, and he may stand out playing against third and fourth stringers once preseason kicks off. I can see him getting the Brandon Rideau Award, but ultimately being cut.
Brittan Golden is on his second stint with the Bears so he has that going for him.
Jerrell Jackson has some physical tools -- 22 bench reps, 4.5 forty, 41' vertical leap -- that he could parlay into a special teams role, but he's a long shot to make the final roster.
Look for all these bubble guys to have plenty of chances in the preseason games, and expect at least one of them to find a job on the practice squad.
The Hester effect
A player we haven't mentioned, but could impact the amount of WRs the Bears keep, is return specialist Devin Hester. If Hester is performing at a ridiculous level during camp and the preseason games, he's a sure fire lock for the final 53, he's probably a lock regardless, but we'll get into that more in the specialists position battles post. Hester on the team could alter how many receivers the Bears break camp with.
If Devin is truly covering punts, and playing a bigger special teams role, then the Bears could get by with just keeping one wide out that can double as a special teams ace. If Devin is just a returner, the Bears may need to keep an extra WR that can play the 3rd phase too.
I also wouldn't rule out a visionary offensive mind like Trestman's finding a way to get #23 involved in the offense. It could happen...
My early prediction for the final 53 man roster has five WRs; Marshall, Jeffery, Bennett, Anderson, and Wilson, with Hester sticking around too. Depending on the plans for the fullback position, the Bears may have an extra spot to play with, and a 6th receiver could make it over a FB.
What do you think the Bears do at wide out? Four, five, six? And will Hester ever see the offense again?
More from Windy City Gridiron:
- Chicago Bears Training Camp: Competition Abounds at Line and Receivers
- The Bears Den: July 30, 2013 - Training Camp news and notes
- Players to watch in Bears training camp
- Chicago Bears Training Camp Day 4 Recap: DE Turk McBride out for the season
- Ten Thoughts on the NFL: Chicago Bears and beyond
- Bears to Get Back Sedrick Ellis' Signing Bonus And Other Camp Notes