Earl Bennett sees a Chicago Bears' defense that is still dominant and an offense capable of being explosive thanks to additions such as Brandon Marshall. And the Bears receiver also sees his team as being the best in the highly competitive NFC North.
"I feel like defensively we still have the best defense in the league with (Brian) Urlacher coming back and (Lance) Briggs and (Julius) Peppers and (Charles) Tillman at the corner spot," Bennett said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "And then offensively, the additions we made with Alshon (Jeffery), Brandon, Michael Bush and re-signing (Matt) Forte. We just got to keep Jay (Cutler) healthy. I feel like we're definitely the best team in our division."
It's a division that boasts two of the NFL's most high-powered offenses in the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, both playoff teams last season. The Lions ranked second in the NFL with 412 yards per game last season with the Packers coming in sixth at 388.
The acquisitions of Marshall, Jeffery, Bush, the re-signing of Forte and a more "player-friendly" offense under new coordinator Mike Tice give Bennett confidence that the Bears can develop into an explosive offense.
"I feel like the top three or four receivers should come close to 1,000 yards," Bennett said. "I know Matt is going to run for 1,000 yards. I look for Jay to throw for at least 4,000 or better yards. We want to be an explosive offense, but it's just up to us to go out there and do it. We look good on paper, but it means nothing if you can't go out there on Sunday and prove it."
Bennett said the presence of Marshall, who had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons playing with Cutler in Denver, will help the other receivers.
"Having Brandon here is a huge boost for us because of what he does to defenses," Bennett said. "He's going to draw a lot of attention to himself. It's just up to me and the other guys to go out there and make plays and take some of the pressure off him. We're looking forward to the challenge, and I know all the guys are ready."
Orchestrating it all will be Cutler, who returns healthy after missing the last six games of the 2011 season with a fractured thumb.
"Jay is definitely an elite quarterback. The thing about it is you've got to keep him up off the ground and let him do his thing," Bennett said. "We know when he was in Denver he wasn't hit as much, and he ended up going to the Pro Bowl and helping them go to the playoffs (actually, Denver did not make the postseason with Cutler). So you've got to keep him clean and the skills guys, the receivers and running backs, have to make his job easy once he gets the ball in our hands."
Earl Bennett talks with "Waddle & Silvy" about Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler and why he thinks the Bears are the best team in the NFC North.