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Ex-Rams receiver Holt, ESPN analyst Jaworski imply Bears’ receivers limited

The Packers’ Sam Shields breaks up pass intended for Bears’ Johnny Knox last month. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

The Packers’ Sam Shields breaks up a pass intended for the Bears’ Johnny Knox last month. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 16, 2011 11:19AM

Look around the league, and quarterbacks and receivers are threatening to break a number of records.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Wes Welker are on pace to shatter records owned by Dan Marino and Jerry Rice.

Then there are the Bears. Six receivers have combined for 39 catches, 578 yards and two touchdowns. By comparison, Welker has 40 catches, 616 yards and five touchdowns.

This wouldn’t be so jarring if a certain someone wasn’t the offensive coordinator. After all, Mike Martz orchestrated ‘‘The Greatest Show on Turf’’ with the St. Louis Rams, one of the greatest offenses in NFL history.

On Thursday, I chatted with former Rams receiver Torry Holt, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection who had 920 catches for 13,382 yards and 84 touchdowns in his career. He was diplomatic in talking about the Bears’ receivers.

When I asked him if the Bears have enough talent at the position, Holt said: ‘‘Of course. Johnny Knox can play now. But in that system, you have to give those guys a lot of time [to get open].

‘‘I think these guys can do well enough in this system. It’s a matter of sustaining it game after game after game. That’s what we did.’’

After a solid rookie season (52 catches for 788 yards and six touchdowns), Holt exploded for 82 catches for 1,635 yards in his second season. He said the Rams’ offense, which also featured quarterback Kurt Warner, receiver Isaac Bruce and running back Marshall Faulk, played ‘‘a certain way.’’

‘‘There was a certain standard and speed we played at, and that’s hard to do,’’ Holt said. ‘‘[The Bears] have some guys there, but it’s not the group that we had. I don’t want to compare that Bears receiver group to our group. They don’t have what we had, but they can still do well.’’

Asked if the Bears added enough to the position during the offseason, Holt said: ‘‘You can never have too many guys at the receiver position. I guess they felt they wanted to go with Roy [Williams]. Unfortunately, he’s not giving them anything.’’

Holt said Devin Hester is a proven weapon as a returner.

‘‘We know that, but how much can he give you as a receiver?’’ he said. ‘‘That’s still to be seen.’’

Holt also described Earl Bennett as a ‘‘possession guy.’’

Overall, Holt said this of the Bears’ receiving corps: ‘‘They don’t scare a team.’’

I had a separate conversation with ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski. Like Holt, he didn’t openly rip the Bears’ receivers, but he didn’t praise them, either.

‘‘I think there’s enough talent for this to be a good group,’’ Jaworski said. ‘‘But I don’t think it’s the Green Bay Packers. This can be a good group but not a great one.’’

Speaking of receivers

A couple of seasons ago, taller receivers were en vogue, especially with the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald and the Texans’ Andre Johnson
making frequent acrobatic catches over helpless and hapless defenders.

But the Lions’ Calvin Johnson might be taking it to another level.

First, he stands 6-5. The
Dolphins’ Brandon Marshall is 6-4, and Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson are 6-3.

Second, he is faster, running the 40-yard dash in the 4.3-second range.

Third, he has a 43-inch vertical leap, which is higher than Marshall, Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and the Chargers’ Vincent Jackson.

Calvin Johnson already has eight receiving touchdowns this season. According to STATS, 23 of the 32 teams have fewer than eight
passing touchdowns.

‘‘There’s a lot of times when you’re in good position, but there’s nothing you can do but clap your hands and be like, ‘Man, that’s a great play,’  ’’ said Bears cornerback Zack Bowman, who is 6-1.

Bowman pointed to one of Johnson’s touchdowns against the Vikings in which the cornerback was in perfect position.

‘‘Then Calvin towered over him and caught the ball,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘Everything you could possibly ask, [the cornerback] was doing.’’

One way to frustrate retired Randy Moss was to beat him up at the line of scrimmage. But Bowman said you have to be careful with Johnson, who is built almost like a tight end.

‘‘Against man coverage, I wouldn’t get overly physical,’’
Bowman said. ‘‘Once he gets by you, it’s a foot race. Then you know it’s going to be a ball [in the air].’’

Quick hitter

Through four games, Bears defensive end Julius Peppers has only seven tackles and two sacks, although he does lead the team with 15 pressures.

Peppers also got off to a
relatively quiet start last season. In the Bears’ first eight games, he had 14 tackles and two sacks. In their last eight, he had 29 tackles and six sacks.

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