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Bears’ offense functions better when WR Earl Bennett is more involved

Updated: October 15, 2013 7:30AM



Wide receiver Earl Bennett couldn’t stay off his iPad even though his recovery from a concussion practically demanded it. He knew the Bears were constantly installing offensive plays, so he snuck looks at his iPad and at the offense.

As a result, a habit was created.

“It helped me out a lot, and now even when I leave [Halas Hall], I get into the iPad and make sure I know every position because you never know what can happen over the course of a game,” Bennett said. “You have to prepare for anything.”

And that could be a larger role Sunday against the Vikings.

Bennett was cleared to play a few days before the game against the Bengals. He was the No. 3 receiver behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, getting 18 offensive snaps. Bennett was targeted once and made a six-yard catch on a slant.

The Bears used plenty of multiple-tight-end personnel groupings against the Bengals to negate their strong front seven. They never used more than three receivers in any grouping or formation. That could all change against the Vikings, who have a young secondary.

After a cautious approach before the opener, Bennett’s workload increased this week. A healthy, more involved Bennett might actually be the missing link that allows coach Marc Trestman to open up his offense.

The Bears’ offense and quarterback Jay Cutler made some of their biggest plays in camp against the first-team defense when Bennett was involved, making catches down the sidelines between defensive backs.

“He’s caught up,” Trestman said of Bennett’s work this week. “He was around the football. He’s had catches both days in practice [on Wednesday and Thursday] and been one of the targets in practice as well — and that bodes well for us.”

In a way, this season has turned into a prove-it year for Bennett, who has been slowed by injuries and poor offenses since his breakout year in 2009 (54 catches, 717 yards). The Bears renegotiated Bennett’s deal right before the season began. He took a $1 million pay cut, but some money can be earned back through incentives.

“For me, it’s all about going out there and helping the team the best ways possible,” Bennett said. “I let my agent and financial adviser handle the finance part. Me, I just go out there and play football.”

And when Bennett plays and is a part of the offense, things tend to go well for everyone. The Bears were 5-0 last season when Bennett had three or more receptions.

Bennett also likes Trestman’s offense because it doesn’t restrict him to being primarily a slot receiver. Plus, there’s an emphasis on spreading the ball around. And he still feels like he has a connection with Cutler.

“I feel like I’m back at it, back into it,” Bennett said. “The biggest thing is just continuing to know your stuff and continuing to go over it because we put in a lot every week. You just have to make sure you’re ready when your number is called.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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