With his NFL debut out of the way, Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky showed potential but it was clear that he is lacking a supporting cast.
The team lost their top two starting wide receivers to injuries early this season and the rest of the group has been a large weakness for the offense so far this season. As the Bears plan to have Trubisky start for the remainder of the season, it will be hard to judge without adequate receivers to throw to.
General manager Ryan Pace deserves responsibility for the lack of production from the receiver group.
When the team started training camp, the projected wide receiver group was to feature Kevin White, Kendall Wright, Cameron Meredith, Victor Cruz, and Markus Wheaton. Going into the Week 6 matchup against Baltimore, the Bears started the game with Tre McBride and Tanner Gentry as their 1-2 receivers.
Kendall Wright has been the team’s most reliable receiver as he currently has 18 catches for 200 yards and one touchdown through the first six games.
Markus Wheaton, who was Pace’s big free agent signing this offseason has only one catch in the first three games he has played in.
The other two wide receivers who have veteran experience with the offensive game plan is Joshua Bellamy and Deonte Thompson. In a surprising move last Wednesday though, the Bears chose to release Thompson to open a roster spot for the undrafted rookie Gentry.
Thompson’s release comes as a surprise because he was the only the only receiver on the team to have more than four catches in a game as he caught five against Green Bay 2 weeks ago and was the team’s primary kick returner. Bellamy has been the least productive of the wide receivers to be active for each game as he has only caught 10 catches for 114 yards and no touchdowns.
Bellamy has also struggled with drops as in the season opener he dropped a potential game-winning touchdown very late in the game.
Through six games this season the Bears have just two passing touchdowns to wide receivers and their longest pass play to a wide receiver is just 22 yards.
They are the only team in the NFL yet to have a pass play longer than 30 yards on offense. The Bears special team had the longest pass of the season this past Monday which was the Pat O’Donnell 38-yard touchdown pass to running back Benny Cunningham.
Pace targeted these players via free agency and a few years ago found success when he signed Thompson, Meredith, and Bellamy in 2015 and they made plays for the offense in both ’15 and ’16.
If it was not these signing, the wide receiver position would have been very thin with the injuries to Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Kevin White the last two years. The depth has not been addressed through the draft either as the Bears have drafted only one wide receiver in the last two years which was Daniel Braverman who was cut before the beginning of the season this year.
The issue at the position is already being addressed in-house as the team activated McBride of the practice squad last week for the Vikings game and did the same this week with Gentry. McBride flashed with a catch for 18 yards and was targeted a few other times by Trubisky.
Gentry previously played against Tampa Bay catching two passes for 27 yards before being released and resigned to the practice squad. Gentry was also Trubisky’s go-to wide receiver in the pre-season as well.
If Pace wants his most important draft pick to succeed, his number one priority in the offseason will be to improve the wide receiver position through the draft and free agency. Some players that could possible be available are Davante Adams, Sammy Watkins, and Jarvis Landry who averaged 102 catches in 2015 and 2016. It would also be a safe bet that the Bears could use multiple picks in the 2018 NFL draft to add depth to the depleted wide receiver corp.
The Bears still have 11 games left this season to have Trubisky grow as a quarterback, but also to see if any of the team’s wide receivers warrant being brought back for the 2018 season.
Injuries have hampered Pace’s plans at the wide receiver position from the start of his general manager tenure back in 2015. The Bears had their top four wide receiver finish on injured reserve at season’s end. It was up to pace to improve on that depth to avoid issues like 2015 and so far the problem has not been corrected. The team now has its franchise quarterback of the future, but without a supporting cast around him, it will be difficult to judge just how good he could be.