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The cyber mailbag has been getting stuffed in e-mail and on my Twitter account.

Are the Bears in play for Terrell Owens?

My initial take on T.O. to the Bears is NO, but keep in mind that the N in NFL stands for never rule anything out.

Before we go any further, let's get to the genesis of these e-mails and the rampant speculation that is all over the Internet. ESPN's Adam Schefter speculated that the Buffalo Bills could look to trade Owens before the NFL's trading deadline, which is next Tuesday. Schefter's short item starts out: "About a week before the Oct. 20 NFL trade deadline, the Buffalo Bills are not shopping wide receiver Terrell Owens." Then, he goes on to explain why it would be a good idea for the Bills, who could lay off roughly $4 million of the $6.5 million contract Owens signed with Buffalo this season.

The Bills are going nowhere in 2009, only to an offseason rebuilding with a coach not named Dick Jauron, but they built energy in their club and fan base by surprisingly signing Owens after he was cast off in Dallas. Do they want to admit failure and deal away the one player who spurred ticket sales? You've got to keep in mind the issues Owens caused in Dallas and before that in Philadelphia when you consider the idea of adding him to a locker room that Lovie Smith likes right now, one that is calm, veteran and clear of pretty much anything in the way of controversy. A ripple in the Bears locker room occurs when tight end Desmond Clark announces on his Internet radio show that he has a fractured rib. That's controversy for the Bears.

Owens has 12 catches for 202 yards and one touchdown for a miserable Bills' offense. He turns 36 in December, and he simply doesn't get off press coverage at the line of scrimmage like he did before. Scouts will tell you he doesn't have to be defended the way he did three or four years ago. If the production of the Bears' wide receivers has not been a surprise to the team, then it has been a surprise to everyone not residing at Halas Hall. Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett are all on pace to have more than 750 yards receiving, something no trio in franchise history has accomplished. Is any receiver going to the Pro Bowl? Probably not. But the Bears are far ahead of where many upset they didn't swing a trade for Anquan Boldin figured they would be.



Owens is a big target at 6-3, 224 pounds, and he could probably excel with Jay Cutler throwing him the ball. Cutler likes big targets, and he's not the least bit surprised that Kyle Orton has found success with Brandon Marshall in Denver. Throw it up for a big receiver and watch him go get it. Cutler likes big receivers and it's one reason he took to Devin Aromashodu in training camp and preseason. Owens would offer that dimension to the offense, one it really has not been getting from tight end Greg Olsen, who was supposed to have a breakout season.

The sudden emergence of rookie Johnny Knox through the first two games has raised an interesting question about a wide receiver that had a breakthrough during training camp and preseason--Devin Aromashodu.

Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake jokingly referred to Aromashodu as Wally Pipp and Knox as Lou Gehrig, a funny analogy but one that doesn't fit. Aromashodu can't be Pipp because he hasn't been out on the field with the Bears in the regular season yet. It's impossible to lose a gig he never had. But on the fields of training camp and in preseason, he quickly emerged as one of Jay Cutler's preferred targets. At 6-2, 201 pounds, he has good size, and the relationship was evident at the very beginning of camp. It was cemented in preseason when Cutler actively worked to feed him the ball.

But a slight quad pull sidelined Aromashodu for the season opener at Green Bay, creating an opening on the game day roster for Knox, who otherwise appeared destined to be inactive. He took the opportunity, and a few passes from Cutler, and ran with them. The Bears have only dressed four receivers for the first two games--starters Devin Hester and Earl Bennett--Knox, and Rashied Davis. It's going to be hard to justify bumping up another wide receiver when you consider special teams needs. Davis is a four-phase contributor on special teams, and that matters. He forced the game-ending fumble against Pittsburgh on the kickoff coverage unit. It's clear Cutler wants to see Aromashodu at some point, but the wideout will likely have to prove useful for special teams coordinator Dave Toub. Fourth and fifth wideouts have to be major special teams players.

Charles Tillman will be questionable for Sunday's game at Green Bay when the injury report is released later this afternoon.

Coach Lovie Smith said that the decision will rest in the hands of medical people, but at this point, two days before the start of the season, you would have to imagine a decision has been made. Tillman had back surgery in July, and just returned to the practice field on Monday. He completed his fourth practice this afternoon, and he and fellow cornerback Zack Bowman were the last two players on the fields behind Halas Hall.

"Either way,'' Smith said when asked if he didn't know or just didn't want to say. "What difference does it matter? Don't want to say, don't have to say, what I have to say is give you a questionable for him and that's what I'm saying right now and why would I want to say anymore.''

Tillman, well coached on the matter, said his gut feeling is ... what else? Fifty-fifty.

"I'm in the paper all week long,'' Tillman said. "What the hell?''

Tillman said the difference today as opposed to earlier in the week is he is no longer sore.

"It's really not about me pushing them to make me play,'' he said. "They're going to make their decision and the doctor is going to make his decision regardless of what I say or what I do. They have the green light to whatever it is I need to do. I'm just prepared if I get it, prepared if I don't get it. That's why I've been saying 50-50 all week.''

Either I missed the story online that is in Saturday's print edition, or somewhere it got lost in the shuffle on the World Wide Web. So here is the unedited version of the story that is or was to be printed in Saturday's paper:

The Bears are going to have to evaluate one of the first goals of their offseason after discovering Friday running back Kevin Jones will miss the season with a torn ligament in his left ankle.

Jones, who they were featuring Thursday against Cleveland at Soldier Field to get a little extra work in before the regular season begins, jumped into the air along the sideline and when he landed on his left foot it buckled. An MRI revealed the damage and he will undergo surgery next week. Rehabilitation is expected to take 10 months, but Jones proved he was a quick healer when he came back from a torn ACL in his right knee last summer.

While he was a luxury addition last year, Jones was headed for an expanded role as Matt Forte's primary backup when he returned with a $3.5 million, two-year contract. Adrian Peterson might have been on the bubble to make the club and now he's a lock for the 53-man roster when it's officially announced later today along with Garrett Wolfe. The Bears could seek a free agent but word around the league was they are content to roll with three backs for now.

``We were anxious to give him a lot of carries and see where he was,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ``I feel bad for him. He's had a good training camp and I know he was looking forward to getting a chance to make some plays and was excited about playing. You hate to see it.''

The question is whether or not Forte will get off the field. He rarely did last season, participating in 84 percent of the club's offensive snaps, the highest figure for a back in the league. Forte was third in the NFL with 316 rushes, and when you add in 63 receptions, he had 379 touches, most for the Bears since Walter Payton had 434 in 1984. Turner talked on multiple occasions last season about working in others, and the danger now is it will be all talk again. Forte was dogged by a toe injury late last season and the workload wore on him a little bit on his way to setting a rookie franchise record with 1,238 yards.

``It's tough,'' Forte said. ``A.P. has been playing, this is his eighth year, he knows what he's doing too. We've got Garrett too. We don't have any issues with that. We're real confident with both of them getting in the game.''

An 18-yard touchdown catch from Brett Basanez Thursday night against Cleveland was too little too late for wide receiver Brandon Rideau. He was informed he will be released.

Rideau has four touchdown catches over the last two preseasons, but it looks like he has lost out to Devin Aromashodu and Rashied Davis, who are expected to make the team.

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There is throwing darts against the wall, taking a stab at something, giving it the ol' college try and taking a shot in the dark.

Somewhere amongst those exercises falls my effort to select the Bears' 53-man roster before it is selected by the men who make the decisions--Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and their staffs. The best guess after evaluating training camp, preseason, past history and everything else that goes into trying to enter another man's mind will appear in Thursday's edition of the Sun-Times. We'll lay it out here on Thursday for continued discussion, a much worthier topic than what you're actually looking forward to seeing in the preseason finale vs. the Cleveland Browns. Final cuts, by the way, are due to the league office by 5 p.m. Saturday.

But I'll list some bubble players here, some that made my 53 and others who didn't:

Offense

Adrian Peterson: A coach once called the veteran running back a security blanket for his ability to stick around. He doesn't do anything particularly well where he jumps out at you, but he does everything the right way and is about as reliable a player as you will find on the roster. In my estimation, a roster spot comes down to him and tight end Michael Gaines (more on that in a little bit). Peterson ran hard and ran well last Sunday in Denver, prompting one scout from another organization to inquire about what kind of guy he is. If the Bears let Peterson go, he's likely to find work elsewhere. The obvious plus to keeping a player like Peterson is his ability on special teams, but he wasn't quite as strong in that phase last season as he was in previous years.

Devin Aromashodu: From the looks of things there are three wide receiver battling for two roster spots. Yes, it strikes me as odd that the team that gets off the bus running is going to keep six wide receivers, but that's what happens when they draft three and plan to keep two--Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox. Aromashodu has the least special teams value of the wide receivers on the bubble, at least based on his use in preseason. But he's a big target who Jay Cutler started referencing early in training camp before anyone knew who he was. When Aromashodu is on the field, Cutler looks his way. if the quarterbacks gets a vote, and boy we know he'd like one, he sticks.

Rashied Davis: Of the wideouts who circulate through with the first team, none got less action than Davis. He's trying to regain some momentum after a 2008 season in which he was used completely out of position by the coaching staff. Davis simply hasn't done much on offense and Cutler has not thrown a pass to him in preseason. But if you were starting to cross him off your list, he made tackles on the first two special teams plays of the game at Denver. Davis also has experience in the slot, even if Earl Bennett is getting most of the work there right now, especially in some of the packages where tight end Greg Olsen is flexed out wide.

Brandon Rideau: He opened the preseason as the No. 3 wide receiver on the depth chart and he's remained in that spot as he was the first one off the sideline when the Bears went to three at Denver. But Cutler has not looked his way like he has Aromashodu. Rideau, however, scores points because he's been more active on special teams than Aromashodu. They are both about the same size and offer something different for the quarterback in the system.


Michael Gaines: Signed to be a blocking tight end and an H-back who could also line up in the backfield, Gaines just hasn't gotten a lot of action in preseason. It's hard to justify keeping four tight ends on the roster unless there is going to be a specific duty for each one on Sundays. Typically, the Bears keep a fourth tight end for practice purposes on the practice squad, and the expectation is they will do that again this year. Gaines could help, though, because Jason McKie is the only fullback expected to make the roster. Having Gaines would give the team some flexibility if they needed help at the position during a game.

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Saving the biggest puzzle for last, we conclude our position-by-position training camp previews with, what else, the wide receivers.

Projected starters: Devin Hester, 5-11, 190, 4th season, Miami; Earl Bennett, 6-0, 204, 2nd season, Vanderbilt

Others

Devin Aromashodu, 6-2, 201, 3rd season, Auburn
John Broussard, 6-1, 181, 2nd season, San Jose State
Rashied Davis, 5-9, 187, 5th season, San Jose State
Juaquin Iglesias, 6-1, 205, Rookie, Oklahoma
Derek Kinder, 6-1, 202, Rookie, Pittsburgh
Johnny Knox, 6-0, 185, Rookie, Abilene Christian
Eric Peterman, 6-1, 202, Rookie Northwestern
Brandon Rideau, 6-3, 198, 3rd season, Kansas

Projected depth chart

WR: Hester, Davis, Knox
WR: Bennett, Iglesias, Rideau

2009 salary cap numbers

Devin Aromashodu $465,200
Earl Bennett $595,409
John Broussard $390,200
Rashied Davis $1,581,666
Devin Hester $6,885,833
Juaquin Iglesias $554,900
Derek Kinder $319,416
Johnny Knox $361,060
Eric Peterman $310,666
Brandon Rideau $465,200

Number of wide receivers on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 6

Projected number of wide receivers on 2009 roster at start of the season: 6

The skinny: From general manager Jerry Angelo on down the Bears know they don't have this position where it needs to be. Angelo acknowledged the Bears would have used their first-round draft pick on a wide receiver had they not traded the pick to acquire Jay Cutler. Then, he tried to trade for Anquan Boldin when the draft began. Finally, the Bears did enough snooping around on Plaxico Burress to earn their Jr. Inspector Clouseau badge. Think right about now Burress wishes now he'd done his couple months in the pokey? It looks highly unlikely that Burress will help Cutler and the Bears this season and that puts the onus on Cutler to make some of these players better. Ideally, the Bears would be in a situation where they would only keep five receivers on the roster, but if Iglesias (third round) and Knox (fifth round) earn roster spots, as expected, they'll probably need to try to cover for the inexperience with numbers. Say what you want, and we're not demeaning any of the players at this position, but it's a quantity over quality matter here. Quite frankly, that could help Rideau in his bid to win a job.



So how much better can Cutler make the Bears' receivers? There is certainly something to a quarterback making a wide receiver better but he's not the difference between Eddie Royal's 91 catches as a rookie last season in Denver and Bennett's 0 catches as a rookie last season. Cutler isn't going to clone Brandon Marshall in the Olivet Nazarene dorm rooms, either. He can make the receivers better and that starts with them developing a trust and a rapport. Cutler has to know what the receiver is going to do before he does it. That comes with reps, lots of them.

Who says you need a Pro Bowl wide receiver to win the Super Bowl?

Not Rick Gosselin, that is for sure.

The veteran Dallas Morning News' scribe did an interesting breakdown of Super Bowl winners from 1991 to present and how the makeup of offenses has changed. History proves you don't need an elite receiver to win the Big Game, not anymore any way. It's good news for the Bears, right? They have nine wideouts on their roster right now and two of them have more than seven career catches--Devin Hester and Rashied Davis. The other seven--Devin Aromashodu (7), John Broussard (4), Earl Bennett (0), Juaquin Iglesias (0), Johnny Knox (0), Derek Kinder (0) and Eric Peterman (0)--have 11 combined receptions. Yes, more than half of the receivers on the roster have not caught a pass in the NFL making position coach Darryl Drake's job about as important as anyone's entering this season.

"Neither of the last two Super Bowl champions - Pittsburgh in 2008 or the New York Giants in 2007 - had a Pro Bowl wide receiver that season. Neither had a Pro Bowl quarterback, for that matter. The Steelers finished 17th in the NFL in passing and the Giants were 21st.


"When the New England Patriots won back-to-back titles in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, their top wideouts failed to crack the NFL's top 30 in receiving those seasons. Deion Branch finished 42nd in 2003 and David Givens 40th in 2004. Baltimore's top wideout in its 2000 championship season was Qadry Ismail, who finished 68th in the NFL.


"Only two NFL champions in the 2000 decade lined up a Pro Bowl wide receiver in their Super Bowl seasons - Troy Brown for the Patriots in 2001 and Marvin Harrison for the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. The rest preferred quantity over quality on the flank."

Gosselin provides a chart comparing the top wideout for the Super Bowl champs from 2000 through 2008 to the top wideout for the Super Bowl champs from 1991 through 1999. Five wideouts from the 1991 to 1999 group made Pro Bowls. Two in the more recent group were selected, including Harrison for Indianapolis in 2006, the year the Colts defeated the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

There are some key points made in this story but the question right now is not if the Bears have an elite wide receiver for new quarterback Jay Cutler. The burning question is whether or not the Bears have enough wide receivers worthy of regular playing time in the NFL? I doesn't matter if you have Cutler or Kyle Orton at quarterback, you're not going to make a living pushing the ball downfield to tight ends and running backs.

What can a dominant receiver mean in the postseason? Consider Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, whose four-game postseason run included 30 receptions for 546 yards and seven touchdowns. To put that in perspective, Hester was the only Bears wide receiver with more yards in 2008, and the Bears haven't had a wideout score that many times since Marty Booker had eight touchdowns in 2001.

Pittsburgh's Santonio Holmes was the third wide receiver to claim Super Bowl MVP honors in the last five years. You might not need a Pro Bowl wide receiver, but you have to have one who can perform big on the sport's grandest stage. It's been 12 years since a running back was named Super Bowl MVP.


*** Over at the National Football Post, Matt Bowen likes the addition of strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa to the Bears' defense, but the thing that jumps out from this read is his assessment of new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.

"I doubt they'll disappoint with new D-line coach Rod Marinelli, who's gotten rave reviews from former players I've talked to as well as Bears GM Jerry Angelo. "The best teaching coach in the league," I've heard more than once.''

The Bears injected a little youth into the line with third-round pick Jarron Gilbert and fourth-round selection Henry Melton, but otherwise they're hoping to rediscover their swagger of 2005 and 2006 with virtually the same personnel. Some have questioned the ability of Marinelli to come in, wave a magic wand and make it happen. Bowen and other league insiders believe Marinelli can make it happen, and everyone knows the hard work Marinelli has ahead for the linemen. We've written it before, we'll write it again, pay attention to the individual D-line drills in training camp.

*** It seems that the last month or so has been one projection followed by one list followed by another projection. Well, here's another list ... this time ESPN's John Clayton puts together the top five general manager-coach combinations in the NFL. He ranks Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith fourth.

"Lovie Smith-Jerry Angelo, Chicago Bears: This one might surprise some because Angelo isn't a vocal general manager and the Bears, as a team, usually slip under the radar. They stay in contention most years in the NFC North, and made it to the Super Bowl in 2006. Angelo made one of the biggest moves of the offseason, acquiring quarterback Jay Cutler, who could take the Bears to 11 wins. In the meantime, Smith has taken over the play-calling duties on defense and expects an improved, more aggressive unit this fall."


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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.

Need No. 1--WIde receiver

Players on roster

WR Devin Hester (signed through 20013)
WR Earl Bennett (2011)
WR Rashied Davis (2010)
WR Brandon Rideau (2009)
WR John Broussard (2010)
WR Devin Aromashodu (2010)

Need

Let's see if we can get this straight. Prior to the trade for quarterback Jay Cutler just more than three weeks ago, general manager Jerry Angelo said the Bears had talked themselves into drafting a wide receiver in the first round with the 18th overall selection. Angelo thought there was a good chance the Bears could land a "blue'' receiver in that spot, meaning a guy who has a chance to be an elite performer. The Bears needed to upgrade their receiver corps and Angelo was willing to take the plunge after drafting only one wideout in the first round in the combined tenures of his time with the Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kyle Orton needed the help and it was on the way. OK. What exactly has changed?

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Devin Aromashodu category.

Desmond Clark is the previous category.

Devin Hester is the next category.

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