Last year the Chicago Bears opened the season with six wide receivers on the 53 man roster and one on the Physically Unable to Perform list. That same scenario could play out again this year with the recently injured Marquess Wilson a candidate for the PUP list.
The Bears, like many teams, use a three wide out set quite often. Of the 204 different lineups the Bears used on offense last season, their top one (58 plays) featured WRs Marquess Wilson, Alshon Jeffery and Marc Mariani. Their second most used line up (39 plays) was also a 3 WR set featuring Wilson, Jeffery and Eddie Royal. Their next most used (32 plays) was also a 3 wide look with Jeffery, Royal and Mariani.
In all the Bears were on the field in a 3 wide out set on 188 plays (18.4%).
So far the only receiver injury concern heading into camp is Wilson’s broken foot. Jeffery and White are both 100% after their ailments of a year ago.
Jeffery and White will open the season as the starting wide outs, barring injury, and both should be playing with a chip on their shoulder. Jeffery, to prove to the Bears that he’s an elite talent worthy of cashing an elite check, and White, who will be trying to bounce back from missing his entire rookie season. These two competing not only against defenses, but also against each other for the title of WR1 could make the offense special.
I think a healthy Eddie Royal is a very good slot receiver, so if he makes it through camp and the preseason 100%, I see no reason the Bears would cut him.
I have a feeling Wilson will begin on the PUP list, so that technically ensures his spot for a while at least. Once he’s recovered the Bears will reevaluate and decide his fate.
A good bet to make it
I think the Bears were surprised at how Marc Mariani took to an expanded role as a receiver. He was money on 3rd downs for the Bears last year and his ability to return kicks and punts should give him an edge to stick on the roster.
Special teams prowess could also keep Josh Bellamy around another year. Last season he played in over half the Bears’ snaps in the 3rd phase, plus he finally broke through on offense, catching his first ball of his four year career and totaling 19 receptions for 224 yards, with 2 TDs.
On the bubble
If the Bears do keep 6 wide outs, that leaves these six players fighting it out for one spot. Sure one or more of these youngsters could beat out one of the guys I mentioned above, but they’ll have their work cut out for them during camp and preseason.
I think most fans are hoping rookie Daniel Braverman can show enough to stick around. Some are even predicting he beats out Royal for the primary slot WR job. With as hard as he’s worked this offseason, I wouldn’t put it past him.
Cameron Meredith played last year because of all the injuries to the wide outs, and I thought he looked decent. He appeared in 11 games, making 11 catches for 120 yards. He played a little on special teams last year and he could be a practice squad candidate in 2016.
Deonte Thompson gave the kick return game a spark last year, but he’ll have some competition for that role this season.
The Bears have three undrafted rookies in camp that will try and impress, Kieren Duncan (5’11”, 175), Derek Keaton (5’10”, 189) and Darrin Peterson (6’2”, 214). Duncan is the speedster (4.25 hand timed forty at his pro day) that can also return kicks, Keaton was mostly a return specialist in a run first offense in college, and Peterson is the most prolific wide out to ever play at Liberty. All three are long shots to make the roster, but could find a gig on a practice squad somewhere.