With training camp less than a month away, we will take a look at some key matchups to pay attention to during training camp in July and August. Some will be for spots on the depth chart, others will be for spots on the roster, and we start at wide receiver.
For the first time in quite awhile, the Chicago Bears have seven wide receivers that are worthy of being on an NFL 53-man roster. The issue with that is that the Bears will most likely only put six wide receivers on their own 53-man roster which means, if the Bears escape training camp without any significant injuries at wide receiver, one of the key guys on this roster will find himself looking for a new team.
We know that DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool are set as the top three wide receivers and we also know that rookie Tyler Scott is a lock for the 53-man roster. That leaves two spots left for three players. I know Equanimeous St. Brown isn’t exactly a dynamic pass catcher, but he does block well and knows the offense and Luke Getsy trusts him. I think they want to keep St. Brown on the roster for those reasons, especially his blocking.
That leaves Jones and Pettis fighting for that WR6 spot. This position may not be solved on offense, it may be solved on the punt unit. The Bears need a punt returner. They expected Jones to be that punt returner last year, but he struggled so much in that department that they stripped him of the position and used Pettis in that role. If Jones still can’t handle punt returning duties, they may need to keep Pettis on the roster because while Jones has established himself as a solid kick returner, punt returning is a far more important aspect of the modern NFL than kick returning, which may not even be a part of the game within the next five to ten years or so.
If Jones can’t handle punt returning duties, they don’t seem to have anyone else on the roster that can do it besides Pettis. If they don’t want to give up on Jones yet and they need to keep Pettis on the roster for punt return duties, they could decide to cut St. Brown, but they definitely like him to help their outside zone run scheme.
Keeping seven wide receivers certainly seems excessive for a team that likes to run the football and will utilize plenty of two tight end sets with Cole Kmet and Robert Tonyan. Training camp and preseason games are going to be important for both Jones and Pettis. If Jones can establish himself as a punt returner, Pettis will almost certainly be the odd man out. But if Jones continues to struggle in that area, the Bears are going to have a tough decision ahead of themselves when they cut their roster down to the final 53 players the first week of September.