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10 Most Important Bears of 2017: #5 Cameron Meredith is ready to be Chicago’s #1

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NFL: Washington Redskins at Chicago Bears Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Cameron Meredith quickly became one of my favorite Chicago Bears to watch last year. His week to week improvement was fun to track, and by year’s end, he was playing like a number one wide receiver. I’m not saying he’s about to step into Julio Jones territory, I’m just saying he was putting up WR1 numbers down the stretch last year.

I won’t get too far into the stats, because anything I write up will pale in comparison to Patti’s Number Plunge on Meredith, but did you realize that in the last five games of the 2016 season, Meredith had 31 receptions, and 439 receiving yards? That averages out to 6 and 88 per game, with a 16 game extrapolation to 99 catches for 1,405 yards.

Meredith still has room to grow as a professional, but he’s come so far in such a relatively short time playing the position, that the sky truly is the limit.

Pro Football Focus looked at his yards gained per route run in comparison to second year wide outs, and he was in some good company.

And herer’s what they have on his success per route.

Dan Durkin of The Athletic, said that Meredith “is an impressive young prospect,” and that he is “versatile, smooth, elusive and savvy.” He recently tweeted out some interesting nuggets about Meredith that I’ll share here. Check out how productive he was working out of the slot in 2016.

You may be wondering why Meredith, who started 10 of the 14 games he played in last year, and at 6’3”, spent so much time working from the slot. That’s because the NFL is a match-up league, and the Bears wanted to get their best wide out in favorable match-ups.

Even if he begins the play lined up as the X (split end) or the Z (flanker), the Bears can dictate where Meredith lines up based on formation. I explained some of this, albeit in a very scaled down way, a few years ago in the following article.

With so many veterans added this offseason that feel comfortable working from the slot, we should expect to see Meredith working more from the outside. But he’ll still spend plenty of time working the middle of the field on crossing routes.

Speaking of the new veterans on the Bears, Victor Cruz, Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright totaled 72 receptions for 1,053 yards last year. In 2016, Meredith had 66 grabs for 888 yards. There are a lot of question marks at the receiver position for the Bears. Including the returning, but oft-injured, Kevin White. If he becomes what he should become based on his lofty draft status, then the importance of Meredith having a big year decreases, but as I’ve said before, I’m not expecting anything from White. Anything he gives the 2017 Bears is gravy.

There is Meredith’s pesky thumb injury to consider, but let’s end on a positive note. Here are a few more fun Tweets.