Cam Meredith’s season-ending injury is a major blow to one of the Bears’ most vulnerable positions. An MRI exam Monday confirmed a left ACL tear. Meredith was being tested for further damage, sources said.
“There’s an opportunity for someone in that room to really go grab that new spot,” quarterback Mike Glennon said.
The Bears had better hope so. Here are six ways they can try to replace their presumptive No. 1 wide receiver’s production:
More Wright, White
Kevin White swears there’s no more pressure on him now that Meredith is out — “Me and Cam play different positions,” he said — but the third-year receiver will now be covered by the best opposing cornerbacks. Beating them is a big ask for someone who has played in only four games in two years.
White looked sharper Sunday, catching a poorly placed Glennon pass for 19 yards and finally getting room to run on a screen.
Slot receiver Kendall Wright was even better, catching all three of his passes to convert third downs. Glennon joked that Wright must have been thrilled to do it near the sideline of the Titans, his former team.
The Bears love Wright’s ability to read a defense and get open, but it won’t always be as easy as it was against rookie Adoree’ Jackson.
Wright clearly has beaten out cut candidate Victor Cruz.
“I think he’s got a certain niche of things that he’s really good at,” Glennon said.
The wild card
Remember Markus Wheaton? The Bears gave the former Steelers receiver $6 million guaranteed on a two-year, $11 million deal to be their best — and only? — deep threat. He had an appendectomy four days into camp, though. In his first full practice after returning, he broke the pinkie on his left hand. He had surgery Aug. 16.
The Bears hope he can return for Week 1. It would give them a boost.
Promote from within
Deonte Thompson, who took Meredith’s place against Tennessee, leads the Bears with 78 preseason receiving yards. One yard behind is undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry, who caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Trubisky against the Titans.
Thompson, who had a case of the dropsies last year, is the favorite to win the kick returner job again. He brought back a field-goal attempt 109 yards for a TD against Arizona.
Gentry also has had an outstanding camp. Earlier this month, Fox compared him to running back Jordan Howard and the Broncos’ Chris Harris, fellow unknowns who wowed him during the preseason over the years.
General manager Ryan Pace allowed Alshon Jeffery to leave via free agency and cut Eddie Royal this offseason, but he replaced them on the cheap. Wright and Cruz each signed low-risk one-year deals for $2 million apiece.
Perhaps he’ll be more aggressive — via trade or if notable receivers are cut by Saturday’s deadline.
Even before Meredith’s injury, the Bears were considering keeping four tight ends: free-agent signee Dion Sims, second-round pick Adam Shaheen, vet Zach Miller and, perhaps, pass-catcher Daniel Brown.
The injury could be offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ excuse to get more creative with multiple tight end sets.
Run, run, run
Teams already were going to key on Howard before Meredith got hurt. The Bears might lean on him even more now.
Another option: Pair Howard and Tarik Cohen and see if the rookie can catch passes the way the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill did last year.
“It’s definitely going to be a big challenge because [Meredith] was in for a big year,” Howard said. “Somebody’s going to have to step up.”
NOTE: The Bears waived long snapper Patrick Scales with an injury designation one day after he suffered a torn ACL, and they signed Jeff Overbaugh to take his place. Overbaugh was in the Rams’ camp last preseason.
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