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Knox planning The Greatest Show on Grass

7/31/2010

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- If anyone had asked me before this weekend which Chicago Bears receiver was the best fit for their new offense, I probably would have named Devin Hester. After all, Hester is one of the NFL's best open-field runners, and gaining yards after the catch is a primary building block of Mike Martz's scheme.

But then, two things happened. First, I tracked almost all of the first-team passes during the Bears' opening practice Friday. Quarterback Jay Cutler threw more often to receiver Johnny Knox, by far, than any other receiver.

Second, I jumped on ESPN 1000 Friday night with my friend Jeff Dickerson and ex-Bears quarterback Brett Basanez. We started discussing the Bears' receivers, and Basanez suggested that Knox's ability to "control" his elite speed makes him an ideal fit for this offense. In other words, Knox can get to top speed without losing his ability to run precise routes.

So will Knox be the Bears' No. 1 receiver this season? We should be careful about drawing conclusions after the first couple days of practice, but I think it's a possibility we should all consider.

I caught up with Knox after Saturday morning's light practice, and ahead of the Bears' scheduled full-pads practice Saturday night. He said he has been excited about this season from the moment Martz was hired.

"Just from watching him when he was with the Rams," Knox said. "I used to watch the Greatest Show on Turf. Getting him here, hopefully we can make this the Greatest Show on Grass now."

How do you like that one, Bears fans? The Greatest Show on Grass. Has a Bear-like ring, does it not?

Anyway, Knox was 13 years old when Martz's offense helped the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title in 1999. While I'm not comparing him to Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt, I do think Knox has the physical skills that will give him a chance to be highly productive in this offense.

"Just watching Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt, they were guys around my size with the same speed," Knox said. "That's one thing that excels in this offense -- if you have speed and quickness."

As for Hester, I'm going to take a closer look at him during Saturday evening's practice and report back what I find. There is a line of thinking that Hester will need to refine his underdeveloped receiving skills in order to make this offense work for him, but I'm keeping an open mind.

One note: Bears safety Chris Harris left the morning practice soon after it started. Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune reports Harris has a back strain.