By Chris Emma–
Editor’s note: This is the third entry in a series of positional previews leading up to the start of Bears training camp. Find the rest of them here.
(CBS) As Dowell Loggains gets situated for his first season as Bears offensive coordinator, there are many topics top of mind.
Among the top concerns for Loggains is health at receiver. That could make or break the Bears’ potential on offense this season.
The Bears struggled to find continuity offensively in 2015, with injuries at receiver serving as the most glaring issue. Kevin White missed the entire season with a shin injury, Alshon Jeffery was sidelined for seven games with four different soft-tissue injuries and Eddie Royal also missed nine games.
In building around quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears placed talented receivers out wide with the hopes of creating a dynamic passing attack. Instead, Cutler was often left targeting replacement-level receivers and trying to make magic happen.
Jeffery and White are the keys for the Bears in many regards. So how does the depth chart shape up?
Starters: Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal
Imagine the Bears’ offense with a healthy Jeffery and White out wide. Oh, the possibilities.
“We’re excited about those two,” Loggains said of Jeffery and White. “I can’t wait to get them both on the field at the same time, something we haven’t seen in Chicago.”
Factor in Royal to the slot, and there’s an impressive trio at receiver. Health is the greatest concern for the Bears at this position.
Jeffery is the talented target who plays much larger than his 6-foot-3 frame. He makes life easier for Cutler, and the Bears are hoping that Jeffery makes White a better player, too, by drawing the top cornerbacks and creating chances for the No. 2.
Now in his fifth season, Jeffery is fighting for his future, playing 2016 under the franchise tag. He must go out and prove that he’s a top receiver to get the payday he desires.
White brings the size and the speed at receiver. His potential is untapped after missing the entire 2015 season, plus with just two years of work at West Virginia. The Bears love White’s upside.
Additionally, the hope is that Royal can serve as that sure-handed target in the slot. He and Cutler have a strong on-field rapport that could create chances.
The Bears have high hopes for their top receivers, but it all comes down to health.
Reserves: Marc Mariani, Josh Bellamy, Daniel Braverman, Marquess Wilson, Cameron Meredith, Deonte Thompson
Players like Mariani, Bellamy, Wilson and Meredith were thrust into starting spots last season after injuries to the starters, and they worked admirably in a difficult scenario created by health issues. Still, this wasn’t ideal for the Bears.
Mariani and Bellamy have likely secured their places on the active roster this season, and the Bears are intrigued by Braverman’s abilities as a slot receiver. Wilson is in a jam, working through a broken left foot that will likely land him on the physically-unable-to-perform list to start the season. That’s if he even makes the roster, as it’s not ideal to be a Phil Emery seventh-round pick on Ryan Pace’s roster.
Both Meredith and Thompson must find their place in special teams to stick. Thompson perfromed well as a return man late last season, though will have to reclaim that job with tougher competition.
Newcomers: Kieren Duncan, Derek Keaton, Darrin Peterson
When Kieren Duncan burst out of his stance and makes a move downfield, you have to notice. He ran a 4.32 official 40 at a regional combine and was clocked at 4.25 at his pro day at Colorado State-Pueblo.
One of the most intriguing longshots in training camp, Duncan will have his shot as a return man and maybe more.
At receiver, all bets are off.