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Speedy Knox would be best complement to Bears’ Marshall


The Bears want see more consistency from wide receiver Johnny Knox. | AP

The Bears want to see more consistency from wide receiver Johnny Knox. | AP

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Updated: December 1, 2012 4:55PM



In case anyone’s wondering, the Bears miss Johnny Knox. While everyone prayed for Knox’s recovery after the chilling back injury he suffered against the Seahawks, his absence was hardly lamented once the Bears acquired Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

But seven games in, the loss of their most
productive receiver and most dangerous downfield threat the previous two seasons is looming large.

Marshall is having a Pro Bowl season with 50 catches for 675 yards (13.5 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. But he has accounted for 57 percent of the Bears yards from wide receivers. Devin Hester is second with 157 yards on 11 catches.

When Marshall was shut down by the Packers in a 23-10 loss on Sept. 13, nobody stepped up. Earl Bennett had two catches for 21 yards. In five games against the Packers, Knox has 17 receptions for 399 yards (23.5 per catch) and one touchdown.

‘‘I miss him because of what he brought to the table — the speed factor. The ability to stretch the field,’’ Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. ‘‘Johnny was getting better and better before he [was injured]. He was averaging 20 yards a catch.’’

Through 10 games last season, Knox had 36 receptions for 712 yards (19.8 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. He was on a pace for 58 receptions for 1,139 yards — only 75 fewer than Marshall had with the Dolphins last season (81-1,214, 6 TDs).

‘‘You [would] benefit tremendously because now people have to decide whether they want to double [Marshall] or play him man-to-man,’’ Drake said. ‘‘They’re having to decide [that] now. It may even have been a little more with Johnny. It may not. But it causes problems. When Johnny got hurt he was really coming along.’’

Knox lost 30 pounds off his 6-0, 185-pound frame after surgery and still looked uncomfortably thin earlier in the season. But he has gained back much of his weight and looks much closer to football shape.

‘‘Things are starting to come back,’’ Drake said. ‘‘He’s getting better.’’

Officially on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, he’s still unlikely to play this season. But he’s getting closer to realizing his promise of playing again. That’s good for Knox. And good for the Bears. They can use him.

Jennings feels the draft with his interceptions

Tim Jennings sure knows how to pick ’em.

The Bears cornerback leads the NFL with six interceptions, including five against quarterbacks who were the No. 1 pick in the draft: two each off the Colts’ Andrew Luck (2012) and the Panthers’ Cam Newton (2011) and one against the Rams’ Sam Bradford (2010). His other interception is off the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, only the 24th overall pick (2005), but the reigning MVP.

Last year, Jennings intercepted the Lions’ Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009.

As a freshman at Georgia in 2002, Jennings not only intercepted Mississippi’s Eli Manning — the eventual No. 1 overall pick in 2004 — but returned it 64 yards for a touchdown.

Also at Georgia, Jennings had interceptions against three other eventual first-round draft picks: Florida’s Rex Grossman (No. 22 in 2003), Auburn’s Jason Campbell (No. 25 in 2005) and Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler (No. 11 in 2006).

Before this season, Jennings hasn’t had a lot of interceptions (seven in six seasons), but the ones he gets aren’t cheapies. Not only are they off good quarterbacks, but they usually make a difference. Twelve of his 13 NFL interceptions and eight of his 10 at Georgia have come in victories.

THE LIST

Jay Cutler has played in two playoff games in his career — he only finished one — and the only one he won came against a sub-.500 team. But, as Sunday’s comeback victory over the Panthers proved, he’s developing a knack for winning.

In his last 12 starts, Cutler has a
mediocre 83.0 rating (16 touchdowns, 11 interceptions), but he’s 11-1. This season, Cutler has been sacked 25 times in seven games, the second-highest rate per pass attempt in the NFL behind the Cardinals’ Kevin Kolb. And his 78.9 rating is 23rd in the NFL. But he’s 6-1.

That’s far and away the best record among quarterbacks in the bottom 15 in passer rating. In fact, Cutler is the only one with more than four victories.

Quarterback Rating Record

Matt Cassel, Chiefs 69.0 1-5

Brandon Weeden, Browns 70.8 2-6

Mark Sanchez, Jets 72.8 3-5

Andrew Luck, Colts 74.6 4-3

Cam Newton, Panthers 75.2 1-6

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins 75.8 4-3

Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars 77.9 1-6

Michael Vick, Eagles 78.6 3-4

Tony Romo, Cowboys 78.8 3-4

Jay Cutler, Bears 78.9 6-1

Matt Stafford, Lions 82.1 3-4

Sam Bradford, Rams 82.4 3-5

Philip Rivers, Chargers 82.4 3-4

Russell Wilson, Seahawks 82.4 4-4

Matt Hasselbeck, Titans 83.3 2-3



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