Did receiver Earl Bennett curse the Bears on his way out of town? Since Bennett was nudged out the door after becoming a third wheel in the Bears’ offense last season, anybody who has dared to replace him has met with an unkind fate — and it’s only August.
† Marquess Wilson, the apparent seventh-round steal last year whose big-play potential made Bennett expendable in the first place, suffered a broken clavicle trying to make a diving catch on a deep ball in practice. He had surgery the next day and is out indefinitely.
† Chris Williams, the former Canadian Football League receiving and kick-return star, made an early impression in camp and looked like the next-best option to Wilson when he caught a 73-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Clausen in the preseason opener. But he suffered a hamstring injury eluding a defender on the play and hasn’t been on the field since.
† Zach Miller, who looked like an intriguing option to fill the Bennett role as a second tight end when he caught six passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason opener, suffered a season-ending foot injury five plays into the second preseason game.
† Eric Weems, who was handed a golden opportunity to win the No. 3 receiver job in the preseason, never connected with Jay Cutler — three targets, no receptions and one bawling-out at the hands of Cutler — and not only lost the job but was cut from the roster.
Considering that litany of disas-ter, it’s no surprise the Bears, clearly in what-have-we-got-to-lose mode, went to the nuclear option and signed enigmatic Santonio Holmes. Ten days earlier, the Bears worked out Holmes and signed the anonymous Greg Herd. With Wilson’s rehabilitation to carry into the regular season — perhaps four games in or more — and no solution to the No. 3 receiver hole in sight, the Bears turned to a player whose NFL reputation is the polar opposite of Bennett’s.
What are the odds the 30-year-old Holmes, who — for whatever reasons — was dropped by two playoff-caliber teams in the prime of his career and wasn’t even given a shot by any other NFL team until now, can be a factor with the Bears?
Probably better than you think. That’s the beauty of the Bears’ offense under coach Marc Trestman, who seems pretty adept at making workable pieces fit and at taming discordant personalities. Because of Trestman, players who won’t work elsewhere might work here.
It used to be almost the opposite. In 2011, the Bears brought in Roy Williams, immediately moved him into the No. 1 receiver spot ahead of Johnny Knox and suffered when Williams wasn’t up to the job. Now the Bears are signing Holmes and giving him a two-week trial to prove he can learn quickly and accept a complementary role in the offense. And — Bennett curse be damned — stay healthy.
And if he can’t, the Bears will move on to the next option. That’s the other beauty of Trestman’s offense: It’s less dependent on a No. 3 receiver. Last season, Bennett caught 32 passes (on 43 targets) for 243 yards and four touchdowns. At one point in his Bears career, Cutler couldn’t live without him. But with Brandon Marshall (100 receptions last season), Alshon Jeffery (89), Matt Forte (74) and Martellus Bennett (65), the third receiver is like the fourth Marx brother.
The Bears are thin enough on offense that they can’t afford to lose one of their Big Five. But the No. 3 receiver? The biggest issue should be finding someone who can avoid the Earl Bennett curse.