Halfway through a weather-shortened practice on Friday morning (the forecasted rain never actually came), the Chicago Bears broke out of 11-on-11 work and centered attention on Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler and the skill position players, as the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense focused in on the passing game in 7-on-7s.
Eyeballs tend to gravitate to the aerial attack in this new, lightning-fast version of the NFL, and shell passing game drills are always a camp-favorite among the fans. So, when second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson, who many consider the heir-apparent to Earl Bennett as the team's No. 3 option, illegally motioned and then proceeded to wander through a play confused in the middle of the period, it certainly caught people's attention.
Year Two in the Marc Trestman offense has been characterized by a smoother workflow and a heightened tempo bred by familiarity in the offense. The majority of roster holdovers from Trestman's first go-round look as comfortable as ever, and that familiarity has manifested itself in a certain fluidity to practice.
So when mistakes like Wilson's happen, they stand out about as obtrusively as a Skrillex haircut.
Wilson's talent is well-documented. He was a star at Washington State, and was widely considered a Top 75 talent (which should have made him a second or third-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft) coming out of college, despite abandoning his team after a dispute with new Cougars head coach Mike Leach.
He wrote a letter to the press detailing his grievances in hopes of somehow gaining the upper hand in the public relations battle, and inevitably he came off as a person you couldn't trust in the locker room.
But, as often is the case, talent supersedes all, and Wilson was drafted in the seventh round by the Chicago Bears. Early on in fall camp, it was obvious that Wilson's size and athleticism would make him a factor, and he ultimately made the roster, playing in 10 games and making a pair of catches.
Going into the offseason, the Bears had to get creative with the salary cap, so they released Earl Bennett on March 18 after they couldn't come to terms in an effort to reduce his salary cap figure in 2014. Now, despite the offseason addition of veteran wide receiver Josh Morgan, the big-play potential of Marquess Wilson has many Bears fans salivating at the thought of having three talented, large-figured targets at wide receiver for Jay Cutler to look to.
However, Wilson's development is still a work in progress, and because of that, Chicago's wide receiver situation is nowhere near as settled as we all seem to have concluded after the season.
Wilson's talent is blatant. Watch him work in one-on-ones against the veteran defensive backs and you can convince yourself he's a burgeoning star.
Then, thirty minutes later, as Trestman and Cutler look onward, laughing at the latest Wilson gaffe and ensuing bewilderment, you wonder if he's ready to make any serious contribution. Not long after the illegal motion that caught everyone's attention, Wilson smashed into his own ballcarrier on the kick return unit and then proceeded to wander around with his hands up like he couldn't find his car in a crowded parking lot.
Yes, these are two possibly meaningless examples of Wilson's youth, and, to be fair, I've seen far more flashes of great in the half-dozen times I've seen Wilson up close; however, they're glaring because we all expect Marquess Wilson to establish himself as a viable threat in 2014. The Chicago Bears' health offensively relies on it, to a certain extent, so when you're expecting to see a more polished version in 2014, a practice like that can raise eyebrows.
Wilson is battling Josh Morgan for a spot on the depth chart that he should outright win, and if he's going to be the player his talent dictates he can be, he's going to have to find another gear. Having a reliable weapon as a third receiver may seem like a luxury, given the fact that Chicago has a pair of Pro Bowl starters, but Marquess Wilson has a long ways to go if he wants to see the field this fall in meaningful situations.
He's got an even longer way to go if he wants to prove he was worth the shot Phil Emery and the Chicago Bears took on him.
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Filed under: Training Camp