Outside of quarterback, no position for the Chicago Bears has experienced such a significant shift this off-season as the wide receiver corps. With the departure of now Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, Bears management found themselves staring at a substantial gap between top receivers Cameron Meredith and Kevin White and the remaining depth.
However, the Bears quickly addressed this need with the additions of former Pittsburgh Steeler Markus Wheaton and former Tennessee Titan Kendall Wright. While the Bears will not release an official depth chart until training camp, a possible lineup come kickoff could look like the following:
While the first four players on this chart seem to be no-brainers, the last few spots are completely up for grabs. Before delving into an analysis of the last few players fighting to be on the roster, it is important to know the qualities of those who have seemingly already made it. As listed above, Cameron Meredith finds himself on top of this particular depth chart.
While White, a player with more upside and raw talent, would be expected to get the nod over the recently undrafted reserve in Meredith, unforeseen injuries have led to him playing in only four games over the course of two seasons. In these four games, all coming in 2016, White was only able to bring in 19 catches for 187 yards. For this reason, Meredith has to be placed higher due to his consistency last season.
Behind these two is the recently added Kendall Wright. Wright finds himself at number three on this listing because he is the most likely wideout to be playing out of the slot. Wright appeared to be underused as a slot receiver during his time in Tennessee, but will have a chance to revitalize his performance under former Titans and current Bears offensive coordinator, Dowell Loggains. Under Loggains in 2013, Wright set career highs in both receptions and yards, catching 94 passes for 1,079 yards over the course of the season. Management and fans alike are hoping Loggains will be able to bring out the Kendall Wright of 2013 for the upcoming season.
After Wright comes another offseason addition in Markus Wheaton. Wheaton is best known for his blazing speed and ability to get past defenders both in and out of the slot, and for this reason, will likely find himself as a fourth-string wideout ready to give Meredith and White a breather or help out in the slot should the opportunity present itself.
After Wheaton is where depth begins to get somewhat fluid. The Bears have many options for the last two roster spots in Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Daniel Braverman, and Tanner Gentry. Due to the plethora of options, the analyses for these players will be brief. First is Joshua Bellamy, a five-year veteran who has provided solid help for the Bears over the last couple of years. Bellamy has never been able to climb his way up the depth chart since arriving in Chicago in 2014, but has served as an occasional bright spot here and there for a few seasons. He is the most knowledgeable in regard to how the Bears offense is run and what the coaching staff expects from their players.
Second is return-man Deonte Thompson. Thompson does not offer much in terms of offense, but is a key player on special teams as he was ranked 2nd in the NFL in kickoff return average in 2015. While he took a step back in 2016, it is expected that the Bears hold onto Thompson in hopes that he returns to his previous success of two seasons ago as they do not have many other return options outside of running back Tarik Cohen and the previously mentioned Wheaton.
Next is 2016 7th round draft pick Daniel Braverman. Braverman, out of Western Michigan, spent most of the 2016 season on the Bears practice squad until he was called up due to multiple injuries to the receiving corps. While he did not play in any of those games, he accrued at least some NFL experience which gives him a step up on the Bears final option, Tanner Gentry. Gentry, an undrafted rookie just recently signed by the Bears, offers skills similar to those of Braverman and put them on display in the Poinsettia Bowl during which he recorded 113 yards and two touchdowns against BYU.
At the end of the day, the Bears know that they have plenty of holes to fill for a team coming off a 3-13 record. Ryan Pace and company seem to believe they have found some plugs, but as many know about the NFL, only time will truly tell.
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