Part 7 of an 11-part series previewing the NFL Draft and analyzing the Bears’ needs.
A year after the Bears revamped their wide-receiver corps, they’re in the polar-opposite situation heading into the 2019 season. Stability has supplanted change.
Game-breakers such as Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. — both of whom were traded in the offseason — were not on their radar, so the Bears need continuity more than anything else to take advantage of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller working with quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
Coach Matt Nagy’s first season was a foundation-building year for the offense as a whole, but particularly for the quarterback-receiver combos. After a promising 2018 season, Trubisky & Co. theoretically can take advantage of going through the offseason program and into training camp without the introductory phase they went through all of last season after Robinson and Gabriel were signed in free agency and Miller was drafted.
Miller’s health is one potential hitch heading into the offseason program, which begins Monday. Miller separated his left shoulder in Week 3 against the Cardinals and, though he only missed one game, was hampered by the injury the rest of the season. He had surgery to repair the shoulder and could be limited in OTAs and minicamp.
“We’ll be smart with him,” general manager Ryan Pace said at the scouting combine in February.
The 5-11, 190-pound Miller was selected with the 51st overall pick last season after the Bears traded their 2019 second-round pick (which ended up being 56th overall) and a 2018 fourth-round pick to the Patriots to move back into the second round.
Miller had 33 receptions for 423 yards (12.8 average) and seven touchdowns as a rookie. Robinson had 55 receptions for a team-high 754 yards — plus 10 receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown in the playoff game against the Eagles. Gabriel had 67 receptions for 688 yards (10.3 average) and two touchdowns.
Nagy’s offense spreads the wealth, but each receiver expects to put up bigger numbers in the second year of this offense.
“We all know each other,” Robinson said. “We all know the system. We all know the plays. We all know the checks. And I think that’s what makes it so much more exciting now. On April 3 last year, we were just trying to figure out the formations and where to get lined up and who was going to be where — just real vanilla stuff.
‘‘Now being able to see where we left off in a pretty intensive game plan — seeing how guys handle that, to have a core of our group back, to be able to kind of break that down and move on from there — is definitely big for us. It’s very big.”
Grading the Bears’ need: Low. The Bears are set with their front-line receivers — Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller — and added a wild card in former Vikings and Patriots receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson, who ostensibly is an upgrade over Josh Bellamy (who signed with the Jets in free agency). Javon Wims, who played 30 snaps on offense as a rookie, is a player to watch.
On the roster: Robinson, Gabriel, Miller, Patterson, Wims, Tanner Gentry, Cyril Grayson, Marvin Hall, Jordan Williams-Lambert.
The five best draft prospects: Mississippi’s D.K. Metcalf (the son of former Bears guard Terrence Metcalf), Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, Mississippi’s A.J. Brown, Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin and Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry.
Keep an eye on: Marshall receiver Tyre Brady’s draft stock dipped through the draft process despite a 1,000-yard season with a new quarterback in 2018, but he has size (6-3, 211) and intangibles that could make him a find for a team with a quality QB and a well-conceived offense. Without great speed, Brady has a knack for beating press coverage, getting open and making tough catches in traffic.
Close to home: Former Providence all-state receiver Miles Boykin is an intriguing prospect after a productive season at Notre Dame (59 receptions, 872 yards, eight touchdowns) and an impressive performance at the combine. The 6-4, 228-pound Boykin ran a 4.42 40 with a 43.5-inch vertical and 11-8 broad jump. A mid-round pick coming into the combine, Boykin “has a chance to go near the top of Round 2,” according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.
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