Will Jay Cutler to Earl Bennett be gold each week or just a flash in the pan?
Earl Bennett is back in the lineup for the Chicago Bears. The receiver saw his first action on Monday night since a Week 2 chest injury sidelined him for most of the first half of the season. Upon his return, Bennett caught all five of his targets for 95 yards and a score.
Now he goes up against the Detroit Lions. What should we expect from Bennett this week?
I would expect more of the same as we saw Monday night.
Quarterback Jay Cutler is certainly no stranger to sacks. He was sacked a league-leading 56 times last season and has already been dropped 21 times this season. And the Lions are certainly no strangers to sacks. They have the fourth most in the league at 24, and sacked Cutler three times and were close on many other plays in their Week 5 meeting.
And Cutler is no stranger to Bennett, dating back to their one season together at Vanderbilt when the freshman Bennett caught 79 passes from the senior Cutler.
That connection will certainly need to be one that is used often if the Bears and Cutler want to survive Sunday afternoon.
Bennett might be more than just the third down threat as the Lions will bring the pressure and Cutler needs to get rid of the ball quickly. Bennett has already caught eight of 10 targets (80 percent) from Cutler this season and caught 46 of 70 (66 percent) last season. No other Bear receiver has that high of a catch rate this year or last.
Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice gave his group a “C-plus” grade after Monday night’s win against Philadelphia, and going up against Detroit doesn’t lead one to believe that grade will rise.
In the Week 5 meeting against the Lions, Cutler completed 28 of 38 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown with the three sacks in a 24-13 loss at Detroit. Now he gets Bennett back and is at home to try and improve those numbers.
Where the concern lies mostly with starting Bennett are the other Bears receivers that can cut into his production. Devin Hester, Roy Williams, Johnny Knox and Dane Sanzenbacher have all lead the team in targets in at least one game this season, and that is when all four were playing. Now you add Bennett back into the mix. Hester is battling a sprained ankle suffered Monday night and is expected to play, but that may open the door a little more for Bennett.
It is a short sample size this season, but Bennett’s fourth year is on pace to be his best in per game numbers. In two full games, (chest injury occurred in first quarter vs. New Orleans) Bennett’s targets (3.5), catches (4), yardage (57.5) and scores (.5) per game are all up.
Detroit has allowed PPR receivers to be successful this season. Last week, Denver’s Eric Decker (6-72-1) and Eddie Royal (6-41-0) produced. A week earlier, Atlanta’s Roddy White (5-52-1) and Harry Douglas (4-62-0) had PPR success. San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree caught nine of 15 targets for 77 yards in Week 6, and in the Week 5 meeting, Sanzenbacher (6-64), Sam Hurd (4-50) and Devin Hester (5-32) were all decent PPR plays. Detroit does not, however, allow many receivers to cross the goal line. The Lions have only allowed five TDs to receivers thus far.
A combination of the pressure Detroit will bring against a still poor Chicago offensive line and the connection Cutler has with Bennett leads me to believe Bennett is a solid PPR play this week. You could take a chance on him as a flex in non-PPR, but I think he’s a solid WR2 in a PPR league.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter