1ST-AND-10: Whether or not the Bears’ 2017 receiving corps is the worst in the NFL, it’s very likely the most nondescript.
With Alshon Jeffery gone and Cam Meredith on injured reserve, Kendall Wright is the leader of this pack. He had 29 receptions for 416 yards and three touchdowns for the Titans last season. In fact, the six wide receivers on the Bears’ roster — Wright, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Markus Wheaton and Tre McBride — combined for 93 receptions, 1,185 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. The Packers’ Jordy Nelson had better numbers than that by himself — 97 receptions, 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Of course, Nelson had the great Aaron Rodgers throwing to him. These Bears will have Mike Glennon and perhaps rookie Mitch Trubisky throwing to them.
But while this receiving corps might be an easier target for critics than for Glennon or Trubisky, the situation also might not be as ominous as it appears. The Bears have other targets in their offense with intriguing potential: tight ends Zach Miller and Adam Shaheen and running back Tarik Cohen. It’s up to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to come up with inventive game plans to use everybody in the offense to make it passable.
Therein lies the rub, of course. Outside of Pro Bowl guards Josh Sitton and Kyle Long, the Bears have virtually zero “skins on the wall,” as coach John Fox likes to say, on offense — from Loggains to the receivers to the starting quarterback. Then again, that’s what this Bears season is all about. From top to bottom, they’ll have to be better than we think.
2. For what it’s worth, the Patriots had the third-best scoring offense in the NFL last season and won the Super Bowl with a wide receiver corps of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Floyd contributing 55.5 percent of the yardage and 50 percent (16 of 32) of the touchdown catches. Of course, they had the great Tom Brady. The Bears have Glennon and Trubisky. It seems to always come down to the quarterback in the NFL. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has only been a genius with Brady.
3. Believe it or not, this is not the most nondescript receiving corps in Bears history. In 2004, Lovie Smith’s first season as coach, receivers David Terrell, Bobby Wade, Justin Gage, rookie Bernard Berrian and Daryl Jones came in with a combined 72 receptions for 836 yards and three touchdowns the previous season.
4. Meredith’s season-ending injury and the Bears’ dearth of proven wide receivers is casting a larger light on the curious divorce between the Bears and Jeffery. It would have been one thing if a team had stepped up to give Jeffery a long-term deal. But he signed a one-year, $14 million contract with the Eagles, with $8.75 million guaranteed. The Bears made an offer, but it seemed neither side was that interested in making things work out.
5. The Bears’ management of their quarterback situation will get more interesting this week when they name a No. 2 QB. Veteran Mark Sanchez might be the better option to replace Glennon in the middle of a game, but Trubisky likely is the better option in the middle of a season when he can have a week to prepare.
It remains to be seen just how well the Bears manage this. They started off great. Giving Trubisky the two-minute drill in the first half against the Broncos in the preseason opener helped ignite Mitch Mania. But they ended awkwardly. Exposing Trubisky to unnecessary hits in the final minute against the Browns last week after having him hand off for the first three series seemed illogical and inconsistent. This is a learning process for everybody involved here. You just hope nobody gets hurt, especially Trubisky.
6. Team captains usually are players who have been around awhile, but three of the four offensive/defensive captains this season were honored before they even played a regular-season game for the team: Glennon, linebacker Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps. And the fourth, Sitton, just arrived last September.
That’s how much the roster has turned over under general manager Ryan Pace. In 2013, the Bears’ five captains had a combined 40 seasons with the team (Jay Cutler, Roberto Garza, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Pat Mannelly). This year, they have seven years. That includes special-teams captain Sherrick McManis (five), who has been with the Bears since 2012.
7. Though Shaheen and Cohen figure to play Sunday in the season opener against the Falcons, safety Eddie Jackson likely will be the only rookie to start. The fourth-round pick from Alabama still has a lot to learn, but he already has shown he learns well.
“He’s just smart, man,” said Demps, a nine-year veteran. “He hasn’t had many [mental errors], and Vic Fangio’s defense is very, very difficult. For a rookie to come in and pick that up, it just shows a lot about his IQ as a football player.”
Demps has an idea where that came from.
“I think him being around [Alabama coach Nick] Saban — I think Saban has a little thing with DBs for some reason,” he said. “So we trust him. Coaches trust him, and he’s earned the right to start. We’re going to roll with him. We’re going to rock with him.”
8. By the numbers: The Bears have just three players (and none on defense) who have been to the Pro Bowl: Sitton (five times), Long (three) and running back Jordan Howard (one). But they have 19 players with playoff experience, including 13 who have played four or more playoff games.
Five Bears have played in the Super Bowl: Sitton (Packers), linebackers Danny Trevathan (Broncos) and Pernell McPhee (Ravens), cornerback Prince Amukamara (Giants) and offensive linemen Tom Compton (Falcons).
9. The Bears, who had 19 players on injured reserve last season, already have nine on IR this year. But that’s a little misleading. Only four players are believed to be out for the season: Meredith, guard/center Eric Kush, rookie guard Jordan Morgan and long snapper Patrick Scales.
Safety Deiondre’ Hall, because he was on the initial 53-man roster, is eligible to return after missing eight weeks. NFL teams can activate two players from IR this season instead of one and no longer have to designate the player to return when he goes on IR.
10. Bear-ometer: 6-9-1 — vs. Falcons (L); at Buccaneers (W); vs. Steelers (L); at Packers (L); vs. Vikings (W); at Ravens (L); vs. Panthers (L); at Saints (L); vs. Packers (W); vs. Lions (W); at Eagles (L); vs. 49ers (W); at Bengals (L); at Lions (T); vs. Browns (W); at Vikings (L)
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