The Chicago Bears will enter Week 2 of the NFL season without the two receivers who started the year atop the depth chart, and that’s led to a scramble to fill holes at an already thin position.
Indeed, Kevin White will join Cameron Meredith on injured reserved after suffering a broken shoulder in Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It’s the latest setback in an injury riddled career for White, who was selected seventh overall in the 2015 NFL Draft as GM Ryan Pace’s first draft choice. Surgery is still an option for White, but if he is out for the rest of the season it will mean he will have missed 43 of 48 games since being drafted.
The Bears could get some help from their own ranks whenever Markus Wheaton’s finger injury heals. Wheaton didn’t practice last Wednesday, but was a limited participant the next two days, and was listed as questionable before being placed on the inactive list on gameday. Adam Hoge of WGN Radio tweets Wheaton was practicing with – what head coach John Fox called – a “fairly major club on his hand” last week. He might not be as close to ready as his “questionable” status suggests. His status will be monitored as this receiver situation shakes out.
Over at CBS Chicago, Chris Emma writes that the Bears will evaluate their options in free agency in an attempt to fill the void(s) among the receiving corps. The team set forth on the 2017 season with six receivers on the 53-man roster, but only four (White, Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson) were among the active 46 who played on Sunday. And yet, the Bears threw the ball 40 times with rookie running back Tarik Cohen leading the team in targets (12), receptions (8), and yards (47).
Cohen is as exciting as they come and will likely see an increased role in the offense because of his pass-catching ability, but the Bears might be in trouble if a running back is their leading receiver in 2017.
So who’s left?
Well, it doesn’t sound like Victor Cruz will be among the receivers who will be approached in the wake of another White injury. Cruz didn’t do much after catching Mitch Trubisky’s first touchdown of the preseason, which is one of the reasons why he didn’t make the first cut of receivers. Emma lists 2015 second-round pick Dorial Green-Beckham and 34-year-old three-time Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson as intriguing options on the outside.
If the Bears decide to promote from within, Tre McBride, who was claimed off waivers the Sunday after cut-down day, is on the 53-man roster – but was inactive. Training camp standout Tanner Gentry still resides on the practice squad if the team decides to give a young player a shot with the big club. Otherwise the options are thin.