Last year as a rookie, after he was picked in the fifth round out of Abilene Christian, Johnny Knox caught on quickly enough to catch 45 passes for 527 yards and 5 touchdowns in Ron Turner's offense.
George LeClaire | Staff Photographer
For the second time in as many years, Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox is learning a new offense.
Last year as a rookie, after he was picked in the fifth round out of Abilene Christian, Knox caught on quickly enough to catch 45 passes for 527 yards and 5 touchdowns in Ron Turner's offense, even though he missed the final two games with a sprained ankle.
This year, with Mike Martz installing his offense, it's as if Knox and everyone else are rookies again.
"It's like learning how to become a receiver all over again," said the 6-foot, 185-pounder with blazing speed. "Just working on the basics: running routes, catching the ball, knowing where I'm supposed to be at the right time."
But there's a big difference for Knox this time around. He already has proved that he can produce at the highest level.
"I feel a lot more comfortable because I know how things work," Knox said. "I know how meetings work and how practice works. I know how to study for this offense, but it still is a new learning process just like last year for me."
Last year Knox was a huge question mark. Sure, he had posted some eye-catching numbers in college: 118 catches, 2,227 yards and 30 receiving touchdowns in two seasons at Abilene. But that was Division II, a long way from the NFL. Plus, Knox was so thin he appeared, at first glance, to be frail.
But he didn't play that way.
From Day One, he flashed soft, sticky hands, and his timed speed - 4.31 seconds in the 40 - translated without a hitch to the playing field. He went over the middle without hesitation or fear.
This off-season, with last year's starter Earl Bennett slowed a bit following arthroscopic knee surgery, Knox has been taking most of his reps with the first team, paired with Devin Hester in a tandem that gives the Bears exceptional speed and big-play potential.
"Our two starters, I think, are terrific players," Martz said, "so we're getting each guy an opportunity to move up and be counted on. There are a lot of good things going on out there."
And Knox is in the middle of it. Martz's offense is more complicated than Turner's was, with more plays and multiple formations. But it's also a pass-heavy offense that features wide receivers and should provide enough air traffic to keep three or four wideouts happy.
"It relates to my abilities," Knox said. "It's a much faster pace, and I feel like, with my speed, I can develop and make good things (happen in) this offense."