Although they’re thin at receiver, the Bears didn’t have to look too far to find a healthy body to put on the active roster after Kevin White’s injury.
Undrafted free agent rookie receiver Tanner Gentry was added from the practice squad on Tuesday to take White’s place on the active roster, and then the team signed fellow receiver Mario Alford to replace Gentry on the practice squad. It’s a receiver merry-go-round and it’s in full spin at Halas Hall.
Chris Emma of CBS Chicago/WSCR 670-AM tweets both head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains “spoke highly” of the rookie receiver, adding that both are intrigued to see if he can play his way into being a key contributor in the offense. Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not Gentry will find himself on the team’s active 46-man roster on Sunday. After all, the Bears suited up just four receivers and threw only one pass that sailed more than 20 yards in the air in their Week 1 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Then again, a rookie running back led the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards, so there should be some room for a receiver like Gentry to step in and operate within the confines of the Bears’ aerial attack.
If Gentry does manage to find himself on that active 46-man list this weekend, he’ll have some things to overcome once he hits the playing field. As Adam Hoge of WGN Radio notes in his 10 Bears Things column, Gentry, who spent much of the year with the second and third team, hasn’t worked much with quarterback Mike Glennon during training camp or in the regular season. That means he’ll need to build some chemistry during the practice week with Glennon and the first-team offense.
The NFL calendar year has been a wild ride for Gentry, and we’re only in September. The Wyoming product started the year as an undrafted free agent on the outside-looking-in at a position battle loaded with experienced veterans looking to make a name for themselves again. Things started to shift during training camp where he starred after building a bond with first-round pick Mitch Trubisky. Gentry’s growth continued in the preseason, where he looked to be on the verge of making the team, as he added special teams experience as a gunner on punt coverage to his responsibilities.
Ultimately, Gentry did not make the season-opening 53-man roster, instead finding himself on the practice squad. But now, the Bears are happy (and lucky?) to have him. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets one reason Gentry received a promotion is because head coach John Fox says the Bears “like to reward our own” – a testament to Gentry’s hard work paying off. Fox also noted Gentry’s familiarity with the offense being key to this decision. Bringing in a new receiver from the outside at this point of the season has a unique set of challenges, specifically getting that player in game shape, up to speed with the playbook, terminology, and positioning.
Gentry should have no problems picking up a playbook he has been studying all spring. Here’s hoping he makes the most of the opportunities starting Sunday in Tampa, because the Bears offense could use some more variety – especially if it plans on allowing Glennon to sling it another 40 times.