The Chicago Bears wide receiver position has been the subject of much scrutiny this season due to the lack of talent and production from the position.
The team has less than five catches from their projected top four wide receivers heading into training camp. Victor Cruz was released before the start of the season and both Cameron Meredith and Kevin White have been on injured reserve since week one of the season. With five games remaining this season, a few minor moves may be leading to the return of one of the players on IR.
In the season opener, White was injured in the second half vs. the Atlanta Falcons when a defender landed on his shoulder forcing him out with a fractured shoulder blade.
The injury was just another of unfortunate injuries for White as he only participated in four games over a three-year career. He missed the entirety of his rookie season with a stress fracture in the shin that required a steel rod to be inserted to heal. Last season, White’s production was growing with every game before he was sidelined for the remainder of the season with a broken ankle in the week four game against the Lions.
White again was placed on IR following the injury against the Falcons, but just this week traveled with and was seen on the field before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles this past Sunday. It is very rare when a player who is on injured reserve travels with the team to a road game and to even be on the field during warm-ups.
In the last two days, the Bears have made moves to their roster involving wide receivers.
On Monday, the team waived wide receiver Mario Alford from the practice squad and signed cornerback Alex Carter. On Tuesday, the team waived wide receiver Tre McBride from the active roster.
The McBride move is quite puzzling as he has flashed during parts of this season. He recorded the most receiving yards by a wide receiver on the team this year when he caught three passes for 92 yards against the Saints. All three catches among the top five longest made by a Bears receiver this season so far.
The two moves also currently leave the Bears extremely thin at wide receiver at the moment as they current have four wide receivers on the active roster with Dontrelle Inman, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, and Josh Bellamy.
Bellamy was inactive against the Eagles and may be inactive against the San Francisco 49ers this week depending on his status with the concussion protocol. If he is unable to play and if a corresponding move is made, the Bears may have only three active wide receivers for the game which is a rarity for a NFL team to do.
When White fractured his shoulder blade he expected to miss the entirety of the season even though the typical recovery time for the injury is between six to eight weeks. A few weeks back, John fox stated that it was option the team was opened to having White return this season as many understood the recovery time would leave the door open to a possible return.
Unlike his first two injuries, this injury appeared to have caused no ligament damage which would make the team more confident about an in season return.
With the receiver position being seen as the most important to address this upcoming offseason, it would make sense for the Bears to want White back on the field this season.
The team has experimented with many receivers this season as both McBride and Tanner Gentry were starters against the Baltimore Ravens earlier this year only now to be unemployed.
Inman has been productive since being traded by the Los Angeles Chargers and Wheaton has failed to make any impact after missing the entire pre-season and part of the regular season due to injuries. If White brought back off of IR, he would have 21 days to practice with the team before the team would have to add him to the active roster or put him back on IR.
A return by White could be seen as a positive for not only him but a few others as well. General manager Ryan Pace would get two of his three first round draft picks on the field and another receiver could possibly help the growth of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
If the two find success in the last four games, it makes Pace’s job safer and easier during the offseason. The recent moves of waving players and of White traveling with the team could be mere coincidence, or it could be a quiet preparation to get one more look at one of the Bears most polarizing draft picks of all time.