The Bears' improved offense features perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the league with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. What they may lack in terms of elite speed they more than make up for with their size, their strength, their physicality and their catch radius. They make tough catches look easy and routine.
Longtime Bears fans are not used to the elite level of receivers that the team fielded. Now with those guys, in addition to playmakers like Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett the Bears are far-removed from the days when Earl Bennett was the tallest receiver on the team.
In fact, it seems most fans aren't sweating the fact that the Bears let Bennett go this offseason.
A lot of that has to do with the hype of the man who is the favorite to replace him, as much as it is about the receivers in front of him on the depth chart.
Marquess Wilson, a seventh-round pick last year, has been called time and time again a "first-round talent who fell to the seventh round." That designation is tossed around every year, usually attached to a player with injuries or an off-field reputation that makes teams leery. In Wilson's case it was that he quit on his college team after not getting along with his head coach.
However, he claims he has grown up and after a year with the Bears there has been no reported problems.
Wilson caught two passes last year for 13 yards in 10 games with one start.
Since then he's been the darling of all the reports, with coaches gushing about him even before last year, the hype train surrounding Wilson has been building for quite some time.
Expectations for Wilson should be tempered though, because what Alshon Jeffery did in 2013 is as much a testament to his work and training as it is the skill set he had in place beforehand. Jeffery was a top WR talent in the 2012 NFL Draft and while Wilson had that potential, he still is considered raw. Plus, his role will be less of what Jeffery was asked to do.
Wilson, however, should possess similar skill sets to those of Jeffery and Marshall. His 40 time isn't a heck of a lot different (4.45-4.51 for Wilson depending on the source, while Marshall is listed at 4.52 and Jeffery 4.48) and he's also tall (6'3") with good hands and body control. Hopefully, working with the Pro-Bowlers will help Wilson learn how to gain separation from NFL defenders and bulk up as well.
Wilson should see the field a lot as the third receiver for coach Marc Trestman. Ideally he'll be a move-the-chains possession guy and work in the open space created by having the beasts that are Jeffery and Marshall on the outside.
He will be counted on but, with plenty of other options for the Bears in the passing game, it's hard to put an estimate on what his final stats could be. I think if he were in the 35-45 reception range with 450-550 yards and three or four scores that would probably be considered solid. While that may seem low, Forte, Marshall and Jeffery accounted for 70 percent of the team's completions last year so opportunities could be limited. However, if they are comfortable with him the Bears could have more pass attempts and get Wilson involved more.
What do you expect from Wilson in 2014?