Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
“Why are the Bears starting Devin Hester and Roy Williams and benching Johnny Knox?… — Troy Oviedo, FL
“Hester is a better receiver than he gets credit for, and I think he’s still growing. He’s also probably been the most impressive receiver in Bears camp so far. Whenever I talk with opposing defensive coaches or pro scouts about the Bears offense, they consistently express concern about containing Hester. What I don’t get is the coaching staff anointing Williams a starter ahead of Knox. If Knox didn’t do anything to earn a starting job last year, Williams has done less to earn one this year. I understand Knox still is developing, but Knox had 430 more receiving yards than Williams last year, and his average per catch was 18.8 compared with 14.3 for Williams. It’s not like Williams has lit up camp, either.”
A few points here:
1) Johnny Knox isn’t exactly being “benched”. I’d say the Bears will be playing quite a lot in four wide receiver sets. So it isn’t as if Knox is going to be spending entire games watching from the sideline.
2) I’m wondering – and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one – if Hester isn’t finally going to be playing more in the slot where many, most notably offensive coordinator Mike Martz, think he should be playing. When Martz arrived in town one of the first things he said was that Hester would be great in the slot only to be almost immediately shot down by head coach Lovie Smith.
3) Martz comments about Knox being given the job last year have little to do with Williams. Whatever else you can say about Williams, he’s a veteran in the league who has shown he can compete. I’ve got a suspicion that Knox’s stock is way down specifically because the job the Packers did on him. They really beat him up off the line of scrimmage and the Bears are probably particularly concerned that it happened twice. To be frank, while watching the games I thought the Packers took Knox’s spirit and he simply quit. In any case he certainly didn’t fight for the ball the way anyone would have liked to see him do for much of the year. We’ll get to see what he’s made of now that he’s competing for playing time.
The wide receivers should be very interesting to watch tonight. As Brad Biggs, also at the Tribune, pointed out today, “If one free-agent addition hits it big, the Bears hope it’s Roy Williams.” No matter what the organization maintains, they weren’t going to beat the Packers with the same group at the same positions as last year.