When Alshon Jeffery broke his hand in the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars there was disappointment in his loss, but optimism that Earl Bennett could step up in his place. Bennett is a solid option and a favorite target of quarterback Jay Cutler. He is a solid option as a slot receiver and can be counted on to make critical catches in the clutch.
The need for Bennett to step up and excel in Jeffery's absence is critical to the continued success of the Bears' offense. At some point Bennett needs to take his production to another level from the level that has earned him so much praise.
Bennett hasn't been healthy for an entire season since his first year, which in some circles might earn you the injury prone label. He has only played an entire 16 game season once in his career, 2009 was the last year Bennett achieved that mark.
As popular and or valuable Bennett is as a tough blue collar wide receiver, his value may be considered slightly inflated. Only once in his career has had over 100 yards receiving in a game.
His best strength may be that he makes extremely tough catches in very memorable fashion. Bennett is also known for his consistency in making catches, having the lowest drop percentage of any wide receiver in the NFL in 2011.
What Bennett needs to do is to become a more consistent game to game threat, especially with the Jeffery injury. Teams are going to attack Brandon Marshall, and make other receivers step up their game to beat them. Bennett has to be a counted on option more than just a clutch receiver.
Bennett has to be more physical at beating press coverage, he needs to get more separation in his routes. Bennett doesn't have route running problems, he just can be out muscled a lot easier than Marshall and Jeffery.
While Bennett has been a favorite of both Cutler and the fans, while Jeffery is injured he needs to prove he can be counted in each game that Jeffery is out.