Athletic TE will flourish with Cutler
If Bennett fails to catch 55 to 65 passes from Jay Cutler in the fall, then something has gone horribly wrong for the Bears on offense.
The first four training camp practices have shown that Bennett not only has the ability to get open down the field, but the ability to catch the football.
What a novel concept for the Bears: A tight end who can catch.
Former Bears starting tight end Kellen Davis made a habit of dropping passes in critical situations last season. It got so bad that Cutler refused to throw to Davis or even look his way late in the year. I've criticized Cutler's decision-making, but he made the right call ignoring Davis. How is a quarterback supposed to be effective if he doesn't trust his receivers on the field? Sometimes Cutler loses faith in people too quickly, but not in the case of Davis.
The Bears spent good money in the offseason to upgrade at tight end, and so far, Bennett doesn't seem like the kind of player a quarterback will ignore. He's got huge hands and long arms, which makes him an ideal target in the red zone. Plus, he can work the middle of the field, a major problem area of the Bears' offense last season.
No, this is an easy choice.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod and right guard Kyle Long can make an impact, but they play positions that really don't lend themselves to breakout plays. Linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson are expected to be significant contributors on defense, but they play next to perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs.
At tight end, it's wide open. Bennett has money, job security and a chance to make a serious difference for the Bears in 2013.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.
LB has better chance to thrive
New left tackle Jermon Bushrod would seem an ideal candidate to hold this designation, along with other new Bears such as tight end Martellus Bennett and rookie guard Kyle Long. But the aforementioned all play on offense, and we all know the struggles that unit has experienced over the years, not to mention the Bears go into 2013 with a brand new system.
An established veteran himself, Williams is joining an already established and highly productive defense. By the way, Williams isn't exactly a nobody. Williams has started in 115 of 127 games in a nine-year career, has produced five 100-tackle seasons, and ranks sixth in the NFL in tackles (565) in the past five years.
Not to denigrate any of the other newcomers, but Williams simply has a better chance to be more successful than Bushrod, Bennett and Long.
Bushrod suffered a right calf injury on Monday, and the length of time he's out takes away from the repetitions the offensive line needs in order to gain the type of continuity it seeks. The line's lack of cohesiveness has been apparent through the first two fully padded practices, and Bushrod's latest setback could lengthen the group's timeline for coming together.
Bennett, meanwhile, produced a career season in 2012 (55 catches, 626 yards). But throughout his career he's been largely enigmatic. Bennett is expected to become a presence in the middle of the field in a new offensive scheme led by an also-enigmatic quarterback, who will be a protected by an offensive line that has three new starters, likely including Long.
Williams finds himself in basically a plug-and-play situation on one of the league's best defenses, which is bringing back nine starters from the 2012 season. His supporting cast is simply better, which in turn will give Williams the opportunity to be the most impactful new Bears player of 2013.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.