The Bears are adamant their corps of wide receivers is going to turn out to be far more productive than anyone expects even if they don't venture out into free agency and make a move for someone with proven credentials like Plaxico Burress.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner quickly turned the conversation to what his team does have, not what it doesn't have when asked about the prospect of pursuing Burress.
"I don't even want to get into that,'' Turner said. "I'm excited about the guys we have right now. I think our group of receivers can be a lot better than what people think. I'm excited about where we are going offensively. We just need to come out and try to get better every day."
The reservation being held for this group is that there is so little experience that it's impossible to count on anything. Just ask general manager Jerry Angelo how rookie wide receivers pan out in their first season. Four of the Bears' 10 wide receivers are rookies, and three of them are draft picks. Seven of the wideouts have never started. Here is a look at the roster, career starts and career receptions:
Rashied Davis 15 career starts, 74 receptions
Devin Hester 8 career starts, 71 receptions
Devin Aromashodu 1 career start, 7 receptions
John Broussard 0 career starts, 4 receptions
Earl Bennett 0 career starts, 0 receptions
Brandon Rideau 0 career starts, 0 receptions
Juaquin Iglesias, rookie
Johnny Knox, rookie
Derek Kinder, rookie
Eric Peterman, rookie
With just 24 career starts at the position, it looks like the Bears are in need of help, at least from the outside looking in. On the inside, Brandon Rideau is doing everything he can to prove he's a big target who can be a productive player in his third season with the organization. Rideau, who spent much of the last two seasons on the practice squad, stands out at 6-3, 198 pounds. He's the biggest target at the position.
He was upset to not make the 53-man roster at the end of the summer last season. After all, Rideau felt he had shown everything he needed to, leading the NFL in touchdowns in preseason with three. Of course, nearly all of his production came in the final minutes against third-stringers who weren't long for their teams' rosters.
"He couldn't control [when he was playing],'' Turner said. "But he's taking care of what he controls and that's his opportunities. He's getting opportunities and so far he's making the most of them."
Rideau was promoted to the active roster in the second half of the season and dressed for two games but saw little action. Quietly, he is getting time with the first team during the voluntary offseason program. The more work he gets with the starters, the better his chances are of seeing time there in training camp. The Bears will keep five wide receivers, six if someone states a strong case to make the final roster. With Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Rashied Davis and rookie draft picks Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox, they have five likely candidates. Right now, two months from camp, Rideau figures to be the guy who will have to force Angelo to consider keeping a sixth.
"I feel like I am making strides,'' he said. "I feel like I have a great opportunity, I'm blessed to have this opportunity and I want to make the best of it. I've been around this offense for three years now so I am one of the more familiar guys so I can move around a little bit.
"It's looking brighter this time around. It's all about what I want to do with it. The coaches talk to me and they say, `Hey, you've got opportunities, just make plays.' That's pretty much all they have to say. They want to put the best guys on the field and I have to come out and prove that I am one of the best guys."
Rideau knows his height and long arms set him apart from the remainder of the roster, but that only goes so far.
"I have to be able to play bigger,'' he said. "You can be big and not make plays and then you're sitting on the bench, it doesn't matter. It's just about how you compete and how you make plays."
He feels like he's developing a solid rapport with quarterback Jay Cutler, the man who has been charged with improving the wide receivers. That is only going to help. Ultimately, Rideau needs to prove now he deserves a chance in preseason. Then, he has to capitalize against top competition.
"He's had a real good offseason,'' Turner said. "I think he can step up and play for us and help. I like Brandon. He's going a really good job."