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2017 Chicago Bears Positional Review: The Wide Receivers

By Bryan Dietzler 

The 2017 Chicago Bears will have a bevy of wide receivers heading into training camp this summer. The hope is that they enhance a passing attack that is highly questionable right now.  They no longer have Alshon Jeffery to throw the ball to and because of that, they will rely on underachievers and guys who are “past their prime” to get the ball down the field through the air.

Just glancing at what the Bears have on the roster at this position, things appear to be a little scary.  However, things may not be as bad as they appear if you read into it.  There is a lot of “potential” in this group, and these guys could surprise us all.  But a lot has to happen for them to become an elite corps of receivers and make the Bears’ passing attack effective.

The following is an abbreviated look at all of the players that the Bears have listed at the wide receiver position on their roster.  There is a little bit about each player including where they have been and whether or not they will be on the final roster at the end of training camp.

Which guys will make the cut?  Let’s find out.

Josh Bellamy

Everyone will remember what Bellamy did for the Bears last season.  What did Bellamy do you might ask?  He dropped a lot of passes.  I remember being at the Bears’ game against the Titans where Bellamy dropped several passes that could have won them the game.  He was very frustrating to watch in 2016.  But despite that, the Bears brought him back, and now he stands poised to have another shot at making the roster.  Will he make it?

Bellamy will have to have an outstanding training camp to make this team.  Coaches will remember his struggles in 2016 and keep that in mind when they compare him to some of the other players at his position.  He has some skill, but he might not have enough to earn a roster spot when the dust settles at the end of training camp.

Outlook: I think that Bellamy won’t make the roster unless someone gets hurt.  I think that the talent ahead of him is too “good” for them to keep him.  He could dig into a spot on special teams if he can play lights out there in training camp, however.  Then he would have a better shot at making the roster.  However, it will take a special effort for him to make the team and be a Bear in 2017.

Daniel Braverman

Braverman came to the Bears with a lot of hype last season as fans felt that he could be a “quiet thunder” and help out a stagnant passing game.  His performance in training camp “sold” him to a lot of fans but it didn’t sell the coaching staff.  Braverman didn’t get that many opportunities to show his stuff in 2016 but will get a shot at making the roster again this summer.

The problem with some of these middle to lower tier guys making the roster is what Chicago has invested in the guys ahead of them.  They have some players, such as Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright that will easily make the roster (barring a complete meltdown).  Money and talent will dictate that.  Guys like Braverman will have to try to make their mark on special teams to earn a spot.

Outlook: Braverman is a bubble player on a roster full of bubble players at wide receiver.  I think he has a lot of talent and could potentially make it as a backup.  But this is going to be a tough roster to crack at the receiver position.  Expect Braverman to either just miss the cut and land on the practice squad or make it then spend time moving from the practice squad to the roster and back (due to injuries).  Like most people, I am cheering for Braverman, but I just don’t think he is better than quite a few of the guys ahead of him.  But we will see.

Victor Cruz

The Bears brought Cruz in to give them a veteran presence with experience that could help out the younger guys.  He is talented but how much longer will he last?  He has had injury issues throughout his career and had a serious injury (torn patellar tendon) not that long ago.  In all reality, Cruz is at the end of his career and may not last as long as the Bears would like him to.

I think that the Bears like his veteran presence and I believe that, above all else, that will be why he ends up making the team.  Chicago needs a player at the wide receiver position to act as a “coach on the field” and help bring the newer guys along.  Cruz can be that guy.

Outlook: Unless he gets injured in training camp and can’t go on, I believe that Cruz will end up making the team and will help keep the wide receiver corps together.  I think he might be the “go to guy” that quarterback Mike Glennon will be looking for in the passing game.  That reliable receiving option, if you will.  And if he can stay healthy, he might have one more good season before calling it a career.

Titus Davis

Davis has one year of NFL experience under his belt spending time with the New York Jets last season.  He didn’t see any action.  Some of the upside that Davis has includes being a very good route runner, an ability to find the ball in the air, adjust to throws and he the smarts to play the position.  What he lacks is the ability to get away from speedy cornerbacks and make that “home run” catch.  He will also drop passes and, having played at a lower level of competition in college, needs to be able to adjust to competing against an NFL secondary.

Could Davis end up being this year’s, Daniel Braverman?  Will he win the hearts of Bears fans with a solid training camp?  Could he leave people thinking he is deserving of a roster spot?  We will soon see.

Outlook: Consider his status up in the air as we head into training camp.  We will get a much better idea of how he will stand as training camp goes on.  You never know, he could surprise us, but my feeling is he will end up earning a spot on the practice squad.  I am looking forward to seeing him practice though, and see what he has to offer the Bears.

Tanner Gentry

Gentry, a rookie from the University of Wyoming, was often thrown to deep in college and has the skill to become a deep threat in the NFL.  That’s if he can crack the lineup, of course.  Some of the better things about Gentry include his ability to get out of his breaks quickly, play physically and run accurate routes.

The downside to Gentry is that he has a hard time gaining separation from defenders and needs to work on his route timing a bit.  He doesn’t do too well after the catch struggling to gain a lot of yards after the reception.

Outlook: Like Davis, Gentry is going to be one of those guys that you have to watch in training camp to see if he will make the roster.  A good training camp could cement him into a spot, but it’s much more likely he will be a practice squad player on the Bears squad or another team.

Cameron Meredith

For some reason, people have Meredith pegged as a number one wide receiver and a “solid” one at that.  With just two years of catching passes with ten starts, he isn’t quite a number one receiver just yet.  But he has potential.  Can he deliver?

Meredith could end up being one of the best receivers on the team, and I predict that he will have a strong season.  If Glennon can get him the ball, I think that he will be able to do some good with it.  He could end up being that number one receiver that everyone thinks he can be.

Outlook: Meredith will compete with guys like Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright for the number one receiver spot.  Wright and Wheaton are going to give him a run for his money, so it promises to be a tight race between those three for that top spot.  But I think that Meredith has the edge.  He is going to be a good receiver and will catch a lot of passes for the Bears in 2017.

Ruben Randle

I think that Bears fans may have forgotten about Ruben Randle.  He was picked up earlier this year and figures to be part of the competition in training camp.  But can he make it onto the team’s final roster?

Randle has been in the league for four seasons and almost a fifth, but he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles at the end of preseason last year.  He didn’t play football in 2016.  With a year off is he rested up or is he rusty?

Randle came close to gaining 1000 yards in 2014 but never got over that mark in four seasons.  His eight touchdowns in 2015 were the most he scored in a year.  He did help on punt returns early so perhaps Chicago could use him on special teams but that might be unlikely.

So why was Randle off a full year from football?  He had some trouble with discipline when he was with the Giants, and this probably forced a lot of teams to shy away from him.  Perhaps, with a year off, he will have cleaned up his act and will be better.  If he can, he could be useful to the Bears on offense.

Outlook: I think that, unless some of the other guys ahead of him get injured, Randle is going to exit training camp early.  I think that his better days are behind him and that most of the other talent on the roster is better than he is.  Maybe I will be wrong, but I don’t think I will be.

Deonte Thompson

Thompson was often used as a special teams player during his first couple of seasons in Chicago but was used as a receiver more in 2016.  Thompson is not going to be a number one wide receiver by any means and may solely make the team based on his special teams ability.  But, he can be a third or fourth receiver if needed.

He could be a clutch receiver but can he be consistent?  If he can improve his ability to catch the ball, Bears’ quarterbacks might look for him more often.  He might be creative after the catch and gain those extra yards.

Outlook: If the Bears use him as a wide receiver more in training camp then you will see Thompson line up on offense much more during the season.  I think that he will make the team because of his return ability though, but Chicago should try to work him in on offense also.  He won’t be a 1000-yard receiver, or even a 500-yard receiver but could get that critical catch for a first down or catch that last second touchdown pass.

Markus Wheaton

Wheaton was another free agent pickup by the Bears this offseason.  Chicago hopes that he can jump start his sluggish career in Chicago and live up to the hype that followed him into the NFL.  When he was with the Steelers, Wheaton played consistently to begin his career but tailed off especially last year.  Why?  Pittsburgh had several good wide receivers ahead of him, and he lost his starting spot.  Also, he injured his shoulder and was placed on injured reserve with a torn labrum.  Now he is fully healed and ready to go.

There are some that think that Wheaton will be the Bear’s number one wide receiver when training camp is done.  That is not out the question.  He will compete with guys like Meredith and Kendall Wright for that number one spot and just might win it.  The battle for that top spot, with these guys involved, will be the most watched positional battle in all of training camp.

Can Wheaton get back to do what he should have done to start his career and be a top of the line receiver?  I think that he can be great and could live up to the Bears’ expectations.  The talent ahead of him is not as strong as it was in Pittsburgh so I predict he will make a strong case to be number one at wide receiver for the Bears.  It’s got between Wheaton and Meredith.

Kevin White

I have not mentioned Kevin White’s name as being part of the competition for the number one wide receiver spot.  Why?  White, despite the fact he has been with the team since 2015, has only played in four total games catching 19 passes for no touchdowns.  We don’t know what we have in him yet.

Another big question is whether he can stay healthy.  He has suffered from leg problems since day one and has not been able to stay on the field.  This coming season will be crucial for him to prove that he can stay upright and contribute.  Should he get injured again, I think it’s safe to say it will be his last go around in Chicago.

Outlook:  I say this “?”.  Should he be able to stay healthy, I think that he could be a vital asset to the team.  Will he be a number one receiver?  I doubt it.  At least not at the start.  I think it will take him some time to get used to things again and this will slow him down.  But don’t be surprised if he ends up shining at some point.  Of course, it will all depend on whether or not he can stay healthy.  And that’s a bit “if.”

Kendall Wright

We are finally to the end of our look at the Bears’ wide receivers heading into training camp.  Going in alphabetical order leaves us with Kendall Wright as the last player to preview.  Wright is a free agent acquisition formerly of the Tennessee Titans.  He has been in the league since 2012 and was a former first round pick.  His best season came in 2013 when he went over 1,000 yards, but he has been regressing ever since.

Pace must have thought that Wright could resurrect his career in Chicago, so that is why he brought him in.  Wright has talked big, but he needs to show what he can do on the field.  And we will soon get a chance to see exactly what he has.  I think he has something to offer, but it’s not going to be high impact.

Outlook: I have previously mentioned that Wright is going to compete with Bryant and Meredith for the number one wide receiver spot.  However, I think that Wright is not going to earn that spot.  Something about him has me thinking that he will be a second or third option and will contribute but will not do as well as some of the other guys.  But, hopefully, I am wrong about him, and he can step up and get back to the 1000 yard form he had just a few seasons ago.  But, we will see.

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