ARKUSH: Martellus Bennett stands out on first day
BOURBONNAIS – In this season of firsts for the Bears, all eyes were on the offense during the first practice of training camp. How did it go?
As the first whistle blew at 9 a.m., the sky darkened and it began to rain as the wind picked up and temperatures dropped toward the 60s. Please, please tell us this wasn’t a harbinger of things to come.
On his first pass attempt, Jay Cutler was intercepted by Chris Conte on a ball deflected en route to Brandon Marshall, in part because it was thrown behind the All-Pro receiver. The first penalty of training camp belonged to Bears Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod for a false start, and Cutler’s second pass was juggled twice by his new tight end, Martellus Bennett, before he finally hauled it in. You really can’t make this stuff up.
Actually, it really wasn’t all that bad and the sordid details above are almost all of what went wrong at Camp Trestman, Day One. In fact, the new head coach told us immediately after practice that, for the most part, he thought his club executed well on both sides of the ball and that he was particularly pleased with Cutler, who he thought was “extremely sharp.”
I can’t agree that Cutler was all that sharp, as he was inaccurate on more than a couple of throws, a problem that has dogged him throughout his career and one of the particular traits Trestman was brought in to fix. But Cutler was completely engaged, clearly in command and focused on leading and communicating constantly with quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.
The guy who really stood out for me was Bennett, not Earl but Martellus, as it couldn’t have been any clearer that he is going to be this offense’s second or third option after Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
After being surprised by that first Cutler pass to him, he caught everything in his zip code and seemed to be Cutler’s favorite target. Best of all, this guy loves an audience.
Commenting on his relationship with Cutler, Bennett told a small group of reporters, “I know Jay really well, I talk to him after every single play because it’s something I saw Romo and Witten do in Dallas and it worked really well for them. Of course, I always come back to the huddle and tell him I was open on every single play because I don’t want him to throw the ball to anyone else.”
The tight end went on to explain, “I sit right behind Jay in all the film meetings and whisper in his ear. I know it sounds kind of creepy, but I think it’s important. Of course, Jay gets up and walks away from me all the time.”
Asked how he’s assimilating to his new team and all his new teammates, Bennett said, “Well, of course I’m probably the most interesting person on the team, but I’m loving this. It’s fun, kind of like going to a new school.”
What’s great about Bennett is none of his bluster comes off as arrogance, he just seems to want to have fun. And while almost anyone would dread a new school, Bennett is embracing his.
Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Trestman’s offense won’t be either. But the combination of Cutler continuing to appear to be starting to “get it,” and Bennett wanting and enjoying it so much put a nice punctuation mark on the first practice.
Reality is that Bennett was never able to challenge Witten for serious playing time in Dallas and, given a chance to be the man in New York last year, he was more just a guy than a real giant. But the Giants’ offense wasn’t built to feature and target Bennett the way this Bears offense appears to be, and the early returns are extremely promising.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.