The good news is No. 1 wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is closer to return from his calf strain, but the bad news is No. 7 overall pick Kevin White could miss his entire rookie season.
It was revealed on Saturday by the Bears that White will have to undergo surgery on a stress fracture in his left shin. He returned to the practice field on Aug. 10 after nearly seven weeks off by doing some light running. However, he suffered a setback and now he’ll be placed on the PUP/reserve list meaning he will miss at the very least the first six weeks of the season.
Bears’ general manager said that it’s a possibility that White could miss the entire 2015 season.
“I want to make sure we do this the right way and not rush him back,” Pace told the media Saturday. “Sometimes I feel like you have to protect (players) from themselves.”
On Sunday, the Bears didn’t have Jeffery in their final training camp practice, but Sun-Times reporter Adam Jahns reported that Jeffery left the dining hall at Olivet Nazarene without a the protective boot or crutches and no distinguishable limp.
Head coach John Fox is still calling Jeffery “day-to-day” and you can bet the Bears will be playing it extra safe with their top receiver now that White is out for the foreseeable future. Jeffery might not play in the preseason at all. If he does it would likely be in the third game at Cincinnati on Aug. 29, but that remains to be seen.
With Jeffery and White out of practice, the Bears’ top three receivers were Eddie Royal, Marquess Wilson and Josh Bellamy on Sunday.
Return man Marc Mariani got some reps with the first-team in the preseason opener last Thursday, while second-year Northwestern product Rashad Lawerence, rookie Cameron Meredith and former AFL player A.J. Cruz shined at times against Miami.
When asked who will fill the void left by White’s injury to start the season, Pace had this to say about the current situation.
“Obviously, right away, you look at your own roster,” Pace told CSN Chicago. “There’s guys that are going to have to step up and emerge and all those things are going to have to happen. We’re confident with that.”
Pace is likely referring to the unproven players mentioned above Meredith and Bellamy.
Royal will have his hands full as Jay Cutler’s favorite target to start the season even when Jeffery returns. Meanwhile, Wilson has a huge chance to put up big numbers entering his third season as the No. 3 receiver.
Royal and Wilson aren’t the most intimidating starting receivers, but they should be able to get the job done in Adam Gase’s offensive scheme. After that it’s up in the air for the Bears right now.
Bellamy was a nice special teams player a year ago and now he will get a plethora of chances to be a key contributor. He caught only three of seven targets for 15 yards in Thursday’s preseason opening win. He didn’t look disciplined, but more time with Cutler and the first-team and he will be better off.
Meredith appears to be a prime candidate for one of the final receiver spots on the Bears’ roster. He made solid grabs all night as he led the team with four catches for 47 yards. He was targeted six times. Even though he didn’t become a receiver until his junior season at Illinois State, Meredith could make the team with more impressive performances like that.
Beyond Meredith and Bellamy, the Bears saw Lawrence and Cruz for an extensive period of time against Miami. Lawrence had three catches for 25 yards on seven targets while Cruz had one catch for 15 yards. The speedy Cruz also combined for 38 yards on a punt and kick return. You can see Cruz’s 15-yard reception on third down below.
— Jake Perper (@BearsBacker) August 16, 2015
John Chiles, Levi Norwood and Ify Umodu are also on the roster, but none of them recorded a catch against the Dolphins. On Saturday, the Bears signed 6-foot-6 Maine product Jeremy Kelley.
Does it stink that White is out for a while and that he has to have a rod in his leg to repair the injury? Yes.
But the smart and talented receiver will be back whether it will be this season or the next. The most important thing right now is getting Jeffery back to 100 percent and having Royal and Wilson very comfortable with this offense. They will be the backbone of the receiving core at times.
Don’t be shocked to see Bellamy and Meredith both earn roster spots. The two bring different skills to the table while Meredith has huge upside and is a smooth route runner for as raw as he is as a receiver.
Cruz is one of my favorite receivers of the group, but he might not make the team due to a numbers game. He would have to soar past Mariani on special teams to earn that shot. Cruz would be a nice slot receiver.
Lawrence is probably well behind Bellamy, Meredith and Cruz in terms of a realistic chance to make the team. Even though he hasn’t caught a pass in the regular season since 2011, don’t forget about Mariani’s chances to play on offense as well.
The Bears could sign a wide receiver with cuts looming or they could stick it out. It all depends on the health of Jeffery because if he is out longer than expected then they will most certainly make a move at the position.
Thoughts on Kevin White’s injury and how the Bears’ offense will patch things up with him out? Make sure to comment below.
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