By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Once upon a time, the Bears’ future at receiver seemed so clear — at least on paper.READ MORE: Northwestern University Bans All Social Activities At Campus Fraternities Until At Least Mid-October After Reports Of Drugging
Bears general manager Ryan Pace believed that Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White could form a dynamic duo, and that Eddie Royal would become the sure hands in the slot. Football isn’t played on paper, and none of Pace’s plans at receiver have come to fruition. Jeffery’s currently suspended with a future that’s unknown, White’s abilities after two surgeries are unclear and Royal isn’t living up to his contract.
Searching for answers in this difficult season, the Bears are looking to a pair of seventh-round picks in whom they hold belief. While four drafts separate Marquess Wilson, 24, and Daniel Braverman, 23, the two targets are similar in that they’re looking to prove worthy of an NFL future.
“To be allowed to really join them on game day, it’s a blessing,” said Braverman, who was promoted from the practice squad Tuesday.
Braverman was selected in the seventh round of this past April’s draft. He came to Chicago from Western Michigan as a small-school standout with plenty to prove. At just 5-foot-10, he would have to find a way to stand out.
Work is routine for Braverman, who’s the very last player off the practice field nearly ever day. He’s constantly working the Jugs machine, catching passes. Upon returning to the locker room, Braverman grabs his iPad and studies the film from practice.
“He works his tail off, he works hard,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who feels Braverman fits the mold of a Wes Welker or Danny Amendola. “There’s something to the kid.”
Why does he do it? What drives Braverman to go the extra mile?
“Just to not let any stones go unturned,” he answered. “When I’m done with all of this, I want to have no regrets.”
Preparing is just the beginning of the challenge. Braverman must go out and prove himself, beginning with opportunities on Sunday at Soldier Field against the 49ers. He expects to get a chance in the Bears’ offense.READ MORE: American Red Cross Seeking Blood Donations Amid Emergency Blood Shortage
Wilson knows well to appreciate such a chance. He’s missed 30 games in four NFL seasons — nearly two full seasons of work due to various injuries. Wilson broke his foot this offseason and was forced to the physically-unable-to-perform list, activated for Week 11 against the Giants.
Wilson was selected in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft, that after his stock dropped following a controversial premature departure from Washington State that stemmed from claims of “physical, emotional and verbal abuse” from head coach Mike Leach. He entered the NFL as an unknown. Four years later, that remains the case.
Confidence for Wilson is high after a career-best contest Sunday, an eight-catch performance that brought 125 yards and a touchdown. When the Bears attempted to cap their comeback late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Matt Barkley was looking Wilson’s way.
“You’re a receiver — every receiver wants the ball,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of like a race, who gets open faster. We all have to be ready for that ball at any time.”
Wilson wants the ball. It brings the chance to show his potential in the NFL.
Curiosity still looms for Wilson’s future. Perhaps he was a steal in the seventh round. He was Phil Emery’s pick. Pace is the one who must make the evaluations as to whether Wilson is part of his team’s future. As for Wilson, there’s no looking back.
“I’m here now,” he said. “That’s four years ago. I just play the game. I play it angry, I play it happy — whatever it takes just to do what I can on the field.”
Ideally, the Bears would have a winning record entering Week 13, and the arsenal of Jeffery, White and Royal would be producing eye-popping numbers. That’s what Pace envisioned when he constructed this roster.
However, the Bears haven’t experienced much ideal during this season. Now, they are forced to look for their future. At receiver, that means identifying the potential of two seventh-round picks that could stick on the roster.
It’s plenty clear to Braverman and Wilson what’s at stake.MORE NEWS: Suspect Tries To Break Into ATM In Portage Park Using Blow Torch