The addition of veteran free agents like wide receiver Roy Williams and Sam Hurd, along with running back Marion Barber has piqued interest in a Bears offense that was essentially along for the ride last season during the journey to the NFC title game.
But it's Devin Hester's improvement at wide receiver in his second year in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme that has teammates and coaches psyched.
"Devin Hester is having an unbelievable camp," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "He's so much more comfortable in the system. In this system, if you think, you're not going to be very effective. He's not thinking, he's just out there reacting, and he's running super fast like he always does. I'm happy with him, and I think he's happy where he's at right now, too."
In 2009, Hester posted career bests with 57 catches for 757 yards. But his production dipped last season, when he finished with 40 receptions for 475 yards, averaging a career-low 11.9 yards per grab.
Williams has temporarily taken Knox's spot in the starting lineup, but considering he led the team with 960 receiving yards last season and is a legitimate deep threat, Knox will get a lot of snaps regardless of who starts. Earl Bennett is the most reliable of all the wide receivers, meaning that the top four targets could all have similar numbers.
Cutler also appears much more at ease in his second year in the system, although his performances have been up and down, which isn't surprising given the influx of new talent.
On the maligned O-line, fallout from the Bears' failure to re-sign six-time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz was significant, and it's likely to be a season-long issue, depending on how well his replacement, Chris Spencer, performs.
"It's sad," said linebacker Brian Urlacher. "I learned a lot from Olin. I don't play O-line, but just from watching him when I was a rookie and the last 11 years watching the way he works. He plays hurt, plays injured, never complains, just goes out there and practices and does his job. It's too bad they couldn't get it done."
Right guard Roberto Garza played shoulder-to-shoulder with Kreutz for seven years, and he might be the player who is most affected by the 13-year veteran's departure.
"It's tough to see him go," Garza said. "He means a lot to this entire team, to this organization, and we're going to miss him. He taught us a lot of things about how to play football and how to go about doing the every-day grind. We're going to take that and keep using what he taught us."
On defense, tackle Henry Melton has been one of the most impressive players in camp so far, looking nearly unblockable at times from the three-technique position. And defensive ends Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers have also dominated, but that could be partially due to the ineffectiveness of the young offensive line.
Free agent linebacker Nick Roach was re-signed to play on the strong side, but the Bears were reportedly interested in Lofa Tatupu.
The secondary appears settled, except for one cornerback spot, which will go to either Tim Jennings or Zack Bowman. Strong safety Chris Harris and free safety Major Wright appear set as the other starters.
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.