The following is the fourth of nine position reviews of the 2013 season.*
When the Bears signed tight end Martellus Bennett on the first day of free agency last March, they envisioned the 6-6, 265-pounder making a major impact as a receiver and a blocker.
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Bennett did just that in his first season with the Bears, establishing career highs with 65 receptions and 759 yards and equaling a personal best with five touchdowns. He also was an effective blocker, helping teammates such as Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall create big plays.
Bennett proved to be an immediate difference-maker, catching three key passes for 43 yards and one touchdown in a 24-21 season-opening victory over the Bengals.
He gave the Bears an early 7-0 lead when he leaped high in the back of the end zone to haul in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler with safety George Iloka draped all over him. Bennett adjusted his route on the play, which he had worked on repeatedly with Cutler in practice.
A week later against the Vikings, Bennett caught two TD passes for the first time in 78 career NFL games, including a 16-yarder from Cutler with just :10 to play that gave the Bears a 31-30 victory. The veteran tight end beat cornerback Chris Cook in the left corner of the end zone.
"The corner came in with Earl [Bennett] and the safety stayed kind of inside, so the only place really to put it was on the back shoulder and turn and let him make a play, and he did," Cutler said. "He made a play, stayed in bounds, and was able to extend the ball for a touchdown. It was a great play on his part."
Bennett tied for eighth among NFL tight ends in receptions, tied for ninth in yards and tied for 12th in TD catches. In addition, his 65 receptions in 2013 were the second most by a tight end in Bears history, topped only by Hall of Famer Mike Ditka's 75 catches in 1964.
Bennett also stood out off the field, mostly due to his unique personality. During interviews he would routinely discuss unicorns, cake and Harry Potter movies, or talk about how he grew up admiring Muhammad Ali and pro wrestlers Triple-H and the Rock.
Although reporters often saw Bennett as a happy-go-lucky, fun-loving quote machine, Trestman stressed that there's a serious side to the tight end as well.
"He's very professional in meetings," said the Bears coach. "He's very business-like. He's a diligent note-taker, probably as much of a note-taker as I've ever [seen]. He writes down everything; every coaching point, everything we say in team meetings, he writes it all down.
"You see the colorful end of it, but there's also a very serious football-oriented guy. He's a hard-working guy, one of our hardest workers, so that's the side you may not see and we see every day."