The NFL is a passing league with rules that lean toward quarterback protection, and in turn, quarterback production, as well as defensive punishments that make it increasingly difficult to guard pass catchers.
Well, except maybe for Bears pass catchers, whose predictable route combinations and rudimentary offensive principles limited what Mitch Trubisky could do when he put the pigskin in the air. Sure, some of the problem is coaching/play-calling, but at the end of the day, the Bears were limited by the capabilities of their receivers. That’ll have to change in 2018, because, hell, the Bears *best* receiver was among the bottom third at his position.
Indeed, in a recent ranking of the NFL’s 36 best slot receivers by Bleacher Report’s crew of scouts, the Bears’ Kendall Wright checked in at No. 24 – which isn’t great, but was the best the Bears got.
To be fair, Wright did lead the team in targets (91), catches (59), and receiving yards (614). But while those are serviceable numbers for a complementary piece, they’re far from what a leading receiver is expected to produce.
Here’s some of what BR’s scout team had to say about Wright’s performance:
“Wright isn’t the most talented receiver in the world, but he is consistent and was the most reliable option in the Bears’ passing attack. He is a solid route-runner who has improved when it comes to catching the ball in tight quarters.”
Even though he was on the field for just 58 percent of the team’s total offensive plays last season, Wright’s contributions to Trubisky’s development shouldn’t go unnoticed. In addition to earning a team-best 76.3 grade from Pro Football Focus, Wright was a reliable third down target for Trubisky in his rookie season. Wright caught 21 passes on third down, 15 of which moved the chains and gave the Bears a first down. His biggest moment was a major third down conversion hauling in a Trubisky pass that led to a game-winning field goal from Connor Barth. No, seriously. That happened.
Wright wasn’t necessarily part of the problems the Bears had at receiver, but it’s not as though he’ the long-term solution either. Plus, after signing a one-year deal just last offseason, he’s already eligible for free agency. He built a nice rapport with Trubisky late in the season, but will play in his age 29 season in 2018.
Wright probably isn’t a priority for teams on the open market, but he could find a niche with a team like the Bears, as someone who can fill out the bottom of a receivers depth chart.
In the end, I think Wright was good, but the Bears could do better.