By: Brady Stiff
Earl Bennett is not a “sexy” receiver. He’s not the biggest, fastest, strongest, or flashiest guy in the NFL. He is, though, ultra-reliable, and the best receiver on the Bears.
If anyone on the offensive side of the ball from the Bears deserves Pro Bowl consideration, it’s Earl Bennett. Yes, Jay Cutler has played well (most of the time). Sure, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox are speed demons. But there’s no question in my mind that Cutler’s number one target is Bennett. It was demonstrated yesterday against the Lions. Cutler hit him seven times for 104 yards. The one I remember most is when he made the catch, then dragged several Lions for 5-10 more yards.
A quick look at Bennett’s numbers shows 39 catches for 457 yards and three scores. What that stat line doesn’t show, however is the number of third down conversions from Cutler to Bennett. It seems like every time the Bears need to pick up a first down through the air, number 80 is option number one. During this current five game winning streak, the Bears are 36 of 68, which is just better than 50%. The top team this year in third down conversions is the Falcons at 48%. Cutler has thrown to Bennett on third down 14 times, and completed 9 of those throws. It amy not seem like a lot, but it’s clear Cutler trusts Bennett. He’s a smart, sure-handed receiver and he hasn’t fumbled all year.
The top receivers in the league this year as far as yards go are Brandon Lloyd (an excellent mid-season fantasy pickup for me I might add), Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and Terrell Owens. Lloyd, White, and Wayne all have close to three times the amount of receiving yards as Bennett. Dwayne Bowe leads the league with 14 touchdowns this year to Bennett’s three. Three other guys are in double digits.
The point I’m trying to make is that while his numbers don’t stack up with the league leaders, and probably not too many people know his name outside of Chicago, there’s been nobody more valuable to the Bears on offense this season. Bennett won’t win the MVP, and he may not even get a single Pro Bowl vote, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the Bears wouldn’t be 9-3 without the services of Earl Bennett.