Can the Bears move the ball without Hester?

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- You don't normally think speed when you see Marty Booker running down the right sideline. And truth be told, Booker wasn't exactly open Wednesday afternoon when Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman spotted him. But Booker was locked in single coverage, an alignment that dictates a throw in most offenses.

A veteran of 10 NFL seasons, Booker fought off a defender with his left hand while stretching out his right. Grossman's pass settled perfectly in Booker's right palm, and he held on for a highlight-reel 40-yard reception.

It was perfect execution: Grossman threw to the right receiver, while Booker used veteran wiles to keep the defender away and soft hands to make the catch.

As unrealistic as it might sound, the Bears will need similar execution this season if they want to energize an offense that looks pretty bland from the outside. Once you get past the quarterback derby between Grossman and Kyle Orton, you realize that an equally pressing issue is a decided lack of playmakers at the receiver position.

The unexpected holdout of Devin Hester only adds to the deficit. Aside from Booker, the Bears are hoping to scrounge at least some plays from a group that includes Mark Bradley (38 career catches), Rashied Davis (39), Brandon Lloyd (three teams in four years) and rookie Earl Bennett.

Most observers expect the Bears to rely heavily on their running game this season, but they won't get very far if their receivers can't occasionally stretch the defense.

"We've got to prove ourselves," Booker said. "Everybody can speculate what they want to speculate on. But we know how it is, and we know how it's going to be. It's just on us to go out there and play with a chip on our shoulders. As receivers we just need to be consistent so that our offense can be the offense we want it to be."

Through two days of practice at Olivet Nazarene University, the Bears have connected on enough downfield passes -- mostly off the arm of Grossman -- to believe they have a chance to move the ball through the air this season.

Thursday, Davis stepped up. He caught a pair of long touchdown passes, the first going 65 yards and the second coming when he out-jumped a defender near the goal line.

With Hester holding out, coach Lovie Smith has made a point to acknowledge that his receivers have been catching the ball well this week. But it's no secret that Smith's receiving group would look decidedly more threatening with Hester on the field.

Consider the case of Lloyd, who might be getting his last chance to play in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers gave up on him in 2005 and the Washington Redskins did the same thing last season. He has 25 receptions in the past two seasons and hasn't scored a touchdown since 2005, but the Bears are giving Lloyd as good of a chance as anyone to earn a prominent role.

Give Lloyd credit for being realistic about the situation. Asked if he was excited about the possibility of starting this season, he laughed and said: "I'm just excited to have a job."