Bears

Bears receiving corps playing with chip on shoulder

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Bears receiving corps playing with chip on shoulder

Friday, Jan. 14, 2011
9:03 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Theyve heard it so long, they probably should be used to it.

The Bears dont have a No. 1 receiver.

The Bears need to draft a receiver in the first round.

Wide receiver is the Bears weak link.

They should be used to it. But theyre not. It still rankles.

And thats a good thing. A very good thing.

We always carry a chip on our shoulders, said Earl Bennett, one of those who never seems to be quite good enough. Last year we carried a chip and it just rolled over to this year.

You always hear the same thing: The Bears dont have any receivers, no receivers, they need a No. 1. Well, we feel like every guy in this group is a No. 1 so we just got to continue to go out and prove everybody wrong. This year its, the Bears need to draft a receiver. But I feel like everybody in this group has done a great job.

Big names, go home

The Bears have no receivers in the top 50 for receptions. Johnny Knox is the only one in the top 50 in yardage (960 yards, 21st).

Yet theyre still playing. Top-10 receivers like Brandon Lloyd (Denver), Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis), Andre Johnson (Houston), Calvin Johnson (Detroit) and Santana Moss (Washington) will be watching this weekend, along with a lot of other so-called No. 1s, when the no-name Bears receivers are busy in Soldier Field.

Theres a lot of receivers who wish they were on this team, Bennett said. The great thing about us is that everybody in here plays together and no one worries about whos No. 1 or any of that.

Actually, Bears receivers take turns being No. 1-for-a-day. Four different wide receivers posted team-high or tied for honors for games this season. Bennett led five times. Knox led five times. Devin Hester led once. Rashied Davis came off the bench for game-high receiving yardage in Green Bay,

The Bears rank a dismal 28th in passing yards. But the seasons of Dallas (6th), Denver (7th), Houston (4th), Indianapolis (1st), New Orleans (3rd), Philadelphia (9th), San Diego (2nd), Washington (8th) and the New York Giants (10th), nine of the top 10 passing offenses based on yardage, are finished this year.

They can have the numbers; the Bears will take the playoffs.

Nobody believes

And they will take the doubters.

Its a positive for us, said receivers coach Darryl Drake. Theyve come to the realization that its probably always going to be the case. Thats just the nature of being in Chicago.

But for us its motivation. I dont ever want them to get comfortable and think that its not there because sometimes you can think that youre there and you dont work as hard. I want people to say theyre worried because Earl Bennetts in town. People have to account for Earl Bennett. People have to account for Devin Hester. Thats all that matters. These guys are still in the process of growing at the NFL level.

Hester is 28. Knox is 24. Bennett is 23. Devin Aromashodu is 26. The old guy is Davis, and he is a leader on special teams. Only Davis and Hester has been to the NFL playoffs, to a Super Bowl.

The only guy whos been through all of this war is Rashied, Drake said. Theres never been a game where I sensed that they were in awe or afraid. It was always, Lets go get it done.

And possibly with a touch of lets show everybody.

Every week all year weve had a chip on our shoulder, every week we go out like weve got something to prove, Knox said. Thats something Ive heard --- that weve got no receivers --- since Ive been here, last year and up to this year weve gotten better and its shown.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bears roster lacks veteran cut candidate

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USA Today

Bears roster lacks veteran cut candidate

The Bears battle for the 53-man roster doesn’t have many contentious positions entering training camp.

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy brought back largely the same roster from their breakout 2018 season, finding replacements for the few players gone in free agency.

Outside of kicker, the entire starting lineup is pretty much set for Week 1, and the main competitions to stick with the team are at the bottom of the depth chart.

It leaves the roster with no notable veterans that stand out as candidates to be cut. ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson was asked to name one for an article, and he couldn’t come up with any.

He mentioned Taquan Mizzell, who made the move from running back to wide receiver this offseason, but as Dickerson pointed out “Mizzell is hardly a well-known commodity around the league.”

Former third-round pick Jonathan Bullard hasn’t lived up to his draft status, but the Bears have seemed comfortable keeping him around in a backup role.

The Bears roster has very little fat to trim. The only other player who could potentially qualify is cornerback Sherrick McManis, since the team has so many young players at his position, but he’s been working at safety to increase his value, and he’s one of the team’s best special teams contributors.

The trim down from the 90-man roster shouldn’t have too many significant surprises, which is why so much of the attention this offseason continues to go to the kicker position.

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

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USA Today

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

Alex Bars was cleared to practice last week, allowing him his first chance to put on a helmet since tearing his ACL and MCL Sept. 29 while playing for Notre Dame. The undrafted guard was able to participate in veteran minicamp, allowing him to shake off some rust before his real push for a roster spot begins in training camp next month. 

Many speculated Bars would’ve been as high as a mid-round draft pick if not for that devastating knee injury. It didn’t take the 6-foot-6, 312 pound Bars long, though, to decide where he wanted to go after not being picked in April’s draft. Call it the Harry Hiestand effect. 

Bars played under Hiestand’s tutelage at Notre Dame from 2014-2017, and said he always wanted to wind up with the Bears to work with his former coach — just as 2018 top-10 picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey hoped to as well. 

“I remember talking about that, because they both wanted to play for him,” Bars said. “They understand where he can take you and how phenomenal a coach he is, so they both wanted that. And I’m just the same way.”

While Nelson transformed the Indianapolis Colts’ playoff-bound offensive line and McGlinchey showed plenty of promise with the San Francisco 49ers, the reunion of Bars and Hiestand carries some intriguing possibilities for the Bears. Bars has always had upside — he was a four-star recruit out of Nashville in 2014 — and getting to work with Hiestand may be the best way to tap into that potential. 

“He knows me very well, I understand his technique very well,” Bars said. “So having that connection, that player-coach connection all four years through college is huge.”

Hiestand called Bars after his injury last fall and offered some words of encouragement, which only furthered Bars' wish to play for his former college coach in the NFL. 

"That meant everything," Bars said. "He cares so much off the field as well as on the field. That’s who he is."  

Bars wasn’t able to participate in OTAs or rookie minicamp, but Hiestand doesn’t see that as putting him in a tough spot to make the Bears' 53-man roster. And there will very much be an opportunity for Bars to make a push during training camp, given 10-year veteran Ted Larsen only has $90,000 in guaranteed money on his one-year contract. 

It may not be the more eye-catching roster battle during training camp, but the Bears hope they can find interior offensive line depth through competition in Bourbonnais. And Bars, now cleared to practice, will get his shot. 

“He’ll have the chance because he’s smart, he understands the technique, he knows what to do,” Hiestand said during OTAs, when Bars hadn’t practiced yet. “He’s learning the offense even though he’s not doing it. But when we put the pads on that’s when you make or don’t make the team.” 

It’s often unfair — yet far too easy — to place high expectations on undrafted free agents. For every Cameron Meredith or Bryce Callahan who gets unearthed, there are dozens of anonymous players who struggle to stick on an NFL practice squad. 

But Bars is among the more important undrafted free agents on the Bears given his connection with Hiestand and the position he plays. While Kyle Long is healthy, he hasn’t played a full season since 2015, underscoring the Bears’ need for depth on the interior of their offensive line in the immediate future. 

And the Bears would save a little over $8 million against their 2020 cap if they were to make the difficult decision to cut Long in a year. If Bars develops into the kind of player plenty in the NFL thought he could be before his knee injury, that would make releasing Long a little easier to swallow at Halas Hall. 

For now, though, Bars is just hoping to make the Bears. Anything else is a long ways away.

“I’m excited to be here, thrilled for this opportunity and it’s all about productivity,” Bars said. “Just need to be productive and prove you belong on this team.”

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