Unfortunate is the only word that can sum up Kevin White’s NFL career.
The 2015 No. 7 overall selection will head to injured reserve for his third time in three seasons. The Bears’ defunct No. 1 wide receiver fractured his left shoulder blade after making two catches for six yards in Sunday’s 23-17 loss to Atlanta.
White dealt with a shin injury that wiped out his rookie season and then a fractured fibula in his left leg last year.
That means White has played in only five games across three seasons, totaling 21 receptions for 193 yards (9.8 YPR) and one rush for nine yards. He’ll count $5.27 million against the cap in 2018 with an option in 2019 that the Bears will likely turn down quicker than they did Kyle Fuller’s this off-season.
White showed flashes of separation in his route running in 2016 but on Sunday, he looked slow and unable to do much with the ball after the catch. He dropped two of his four targets from quarterback Mike Glennon.
With Cameron Meredith out for the year, White joins him on injured reserve and right now, the Bears can’t get Markus Wheaton healthy soon enough.
Wheaton is still a week or two away from being fully healed from his broken finger.
That means Kendall Wright, Deonte Thompson and Josh Bellamy will be the top three receivers by default. On Tuesday, Tanner Gentry was signed to the active roster and the Bears are expected to bring in undersized speedster Mario Alford, per Sun-Times writer Adam Jahns.
The only other wideout on the roster is Tre McBride who the Bears added following final cuts.
It makes sense that Gentry will earn a chance, he knows the playbook and showed glimpses of playmaking ability as an outside receiver with the second and third teams.
As much as Bears’ general manager Ryan Pace loves White, his inaugural first round pick, the Bears are better off without White.
White is a nice blocking receiver, but injuries have quickly derailed him worse than they ever did to Derrick Rose with the Bulls. Wright is a reliable third down target, Thompson is maturing as a patient receiver and Bellamy seems to finally be coming into his own as an offensive threat.
Gentry and McBride will earn playing time in the near future with Gentry likely getting the first shot with his familiarity in the offensive scheme.
Alford is really just another chess piece with running back/return man Benny Cunningham dealing with a high-ankle sprain, per head coach John Fox.
Keep in mind that only 14 of 40 (35 percent) of Glennon’s pass attempts were thrown towards wide receivers with Bellamy, Wright and White leading the way with four apiece.
Rookie hybrid back Tarik Cohen is going to be an even bigger part of this offense as he lined up all over the field. He was a natural running back, a wildcat quarterback and a wide receiver. Look for offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to be very creative with his speedy scatback.
In terms of field stretchers, Zach Miller and Dion Sims are just that. They got going at times combining for six catches for 70 yards. Daniel Brown suited up but was not targeted. Second round rookie Adam Shaheen will be leaned on at some point this season especially in the red zone.
Another name to remember for the Bears passing game is Taquan Mizzell. The 5’10”, 192-pound rookie was claimed after final cuts from Baltimore. He will be integrated at some point after being inactive in Week 1.
It is unclear who will take the reigns as the top guy in the wide receiver room, but I truly believe the Bears have more versatility and speed without White on the field. The one aspect they lose with him out is blocking.
Wright, Thompson and Bellamy are not big names, Gentry is unknown outside of Chicago and McBride is still raw.
However, Cohen and the tight end group added with those receivers will make for a serviceable pass catching group. Don’t count out the Bears’ offense just yet.
Note: The Bears also promoted linebacker Jonathan Anderson, per Chicago Tribune writer Brad Biggs. Jerrell Freeman is dealing with a chest injury and is in concussion protocol.
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