Despite only 25 combined games played over the last three seasons, the Bears have to feel good about what wide receivers Victor Cruz and Kevin White can bring to the table when healthy.
Cruz enters his eighth NFL season after playing his first seven years in New York with the Giants. An undrafted rookie out of Massachusets, the 30-year-old had three really impressive seasons from 2011-2013, averaging 1,208 receiving yards (two 1,000 yard seasons) while combining for 23 touchdowns.
However, the former top Giants wideout hit the injury bug and lost his stardom with Odell Beckham taking over the reigns. Cruz has 21 games, 18 starts, 62 catches, 923 yards and two touchdowns to his name since 2014.
He showed he can stretch the field with a 48-yard catch in a home game against the Bears last season. But injuries have taken a toll on his pure speed.
The other injury prone wideout is White, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was Bears general manager Ryan Pace’s first ever top pick. As of now, he’s made it through four games in two seasons, catching 19 passes for 187 yards early last season.
Two of the three starting wideouts from a season ago are no longer on the roster in Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal. Add in the fact that Marquess Wilson wasn’t brought back and this unit is going to look awfully different.
Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright were signed after having flashes of solid play with their former teams. The Bears gave Cruz a one-year, $2 million deal (all guaranteed) last week while Wright earned the same deal in free agency but with only $1 million guaranteed. Wheaton is playing on a two-year, $11 million deal ($6 million guaranteed).
Luckily for the sake of continuity, emerging wideout Cameron Meredith returns after leading the team in receptions (66), receiving yards (888) and touchdowns (4).
Core special teamer and rotational pieces Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson are back to compete. After that, last season’s seventh round pick Daniel Braverman is vying for the slot receiver spot while journeyman Rueben Randle, second year man Titus Davis and undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry are trying to showcase their values.
If you think about it, it might be impossible to have a true No. 1 wideout with Jeffery now in Philadelphia. However, Meredith proved that he can carry the load. Add in a healthy White and Cruz that would be a very solid trio of wide receivers to work with.
Wheaton and Wright would only add to that notion.
Health has been a concern for the Bears the past few seasons especially with White, a guy everyone feels could get injured on any given snap. Cruz is worth the flier because he proved last season he can still play. He isn’t the player he once was, but that’s okay, this is a rotational wide receiver room.
The Bears are going to use more wide receivers than in the past in Dowell Loggains’ second year as the offensive coordinator. That is either going to be a good thing that works as a true mismatch or it will work against the Bears’ favor.
Regardless, White and Cruz are the most crucial to the offensive success because of the duo’s potential. Meredith is going to get better but Wheaton and Wright are question marks at this point.
It’s not like running back Jordan Howard is going to become the next Matt Forte and take over as the No. 1 wide receiver like Forte most famously did during the Devin Hester wide receiver experiment days. So don’t count on that.
When you are fresh off a 3-13 campaign, it would be wise to answer some of those questions but it seems the Bears have just as many question marks this season. Perhaps there isn’t more of them coming from a certain position than at wide receiver.
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