Some good news regarding Kevin White, the wide receiver who would be overlooked in OTAs if not for the constant votes of confidence from his head coach.
Matt Nagy’s consistent positive reinforcement of White has built an intriguing buzz around the 2015 first-round pick. And while White still needs to prove his worth on the field to emerge from a crowded wide receivers room, John Mullin of NBC Sports Chicago made note that White seems to have regained an element that made it easy to dream on his potential.
“White’s straight-ahead deep speed was flat-out startling, the first time this very graceful athlete looked like the one who ran 4.35 at the ’15 Combine,” Mullin wrote. “Not necessarily quickness. … But just raw speed.”
Mullin shared an example of White “visibly accelerating” past a cornerback and pulling away from deep safety help over the top. While it was nice to see White do that, it’s more important that coaches saw that big-play potential because no one was sure that was still part of his game after season-ending leg injuries seemed to strip him of that natural ability.
If White is healthy and has the ability to break away from defensive backs, the Bears’ offense could have an element it hasn’t had in quite some time. This would be wonderful news for Mitch Trubisky, who threw some pretty nifty deep balls last season despite not having great players on the other end to haul them in. There is a belief that more big plays are on deck for the Bears’ passing game this year. But to be fair, it’ll be impossible to be worse than last year’s league-worst deep passing game.
But will White be a part of it?
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes that White “can’t be a lock to make the 53-man roster coming out of preseason” in his most recent mailbag. Biggs makes note of White’s guaranteed salary (which is a hair more than $2.69 million) and that while there is offset language, it’s hard to imagine another team willingly picking up that healthy chunk of change. Still, Biggs writes that it’s not enough money to have White locked into a roster spot.
GM Ryan Pace re-worked the wide receivers room to the point where the only returning players from last year’s squad are White, Josh Bellamy, Tanner Gentry, and DeMarcus Ayers – who was on the team’s practice squad last year. The Bears have nine new wide receivers in camp, headlined by free agent additions Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, as well as draft picks Anthony Miller and Javon Wims. Among the returnees, White stands out the most because of his pedigree and potential – which might help him slide his way onto the Week 1 roster if all things are equal.
Injuries have rendered White unavailable for more than 90 percent of the team’s offensive snaps since he was drafted in 2015. But if White has truly regained his speed, is able to get a firm grasp of Nagy’s playbook, and can earn Trubisky’s trust, then there is a whole bunch of previously untapped upside that could come out at just the right time.
Stay tuned. Comeback season is approaching.