Entering the 2017 season, the Chicago Bears had a problem at the wide receiver position. This year, though, they have more than enough talent to surround Mitchell Trubisky with in the passing game. In fact, they may even have too much of it.
Barring any unforeseen injuries, the trio of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller is firmly cemented in Chicago’s starting lineup. None of the three have played a down of regular season football with the team, but the group is one of the league’s more talented wide receiver trios in the league. The wide receivers that sit behind those three on the depth chart are also talented, but some of them come with their own question marks.
The most notable backup wide receiver on the depth chart is Kevin White, who, entering a contract year, still has much to prove in the NFL. Having only played in five regular season games in the first three seasons of his career, the seventh pick in the 2015 NFL Draft has simply been unable to consistently stay healthy. The Bears opted to decline his fifth-year option, a move which was essentially a no-brainer, given the fact that White would be owed just shy of $14 million in 2019 had they chosen to pick up his option.
Nonetheless, White still has a little bit of untapped potential. Sure, he will more than likely never become the player that the Bears wanted him to be when they scouted him coming out of West Virginia, but there is still some time for him to develop into a decent rotational piece.
Among those joining White is rookie Javon Wims, who himself is a big-bodied receiver. The Bears’ seventh-round pick from this year has been a force to be reckoned with in the preseason thus far. As of August 26, he leads the NFL in receiving yards with 227, and he is tied for the lead in receptions with 15. Although his having played one more game than most wide receivers does play a big role in his lead in said categories, his average of 56.8 receiving yards per game still ranks sixth in the league.
Seen by many as a steal when the Bears selected him with the No. 224 overall pick back in April, Wims has the potential to become a reliable contributor for the team for years to come.
Needless to say, the Bears have two talented wide receivers on their bench at the moment, and either one of them, if not both, could realistically see a considerable amount of snaps on offense this season. Where the problem may appear to lie, though, is in their lack of respective versatility.
White has not seen a single snap of special teams play in his NFL career, albeit a small sample size. Wims is also very raw from a special teams standpoint, as his experience in the phase – from college and in the preseason thus far – is lacking. For backups at most positions, it is ideal that one carries some degree of special teams value, otherwise the practicality for having said player on the roster diminishes. That said, some teams would be in a position which would see them having to cut ties with one of White or Wims due to their nescience of playing special teams.
The Bears, however, can afford to keep both players.
Chicago still carries most of their key special teams players from the 2017 on their current roster. The likes of Sherrick McManis, Benny Cunningham, Sam Acho, Josh Bellamy, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Roy Robertson-Harris and Deon Bush all saw significant snaps in the third phase last season, and all project as safe bets to make the 53-man roster. Joel Iyiegbuniwe is assumed to be a valuable asset on special teams, while Nick Kwiatkoski was a regular contributor when not starting on defense.
Throw in the likes of John Timu, Jonathan Anderson, Daniel Brown and Ben Braunecker – players who are not locks to make the team but did see ample playing time on special teams – and it becomes even more apparent the Bears have a lot of talent on the roster already. In fact, out of the ten players who had the most snaps on special teams last season, only one of them, Christian Jones, is not on the team anymore.
With all of this talent in the third phase, the Bears can afford to keep both White and Wims on their final roster. Better yet, they can keep both White and Wims as rotational pieces for their offense, causing mismatches with their size and speed. That way, Chicago would get the most out of both receivers and would play to their strengths as well as possible. That is the ideal situation for any offense.
Jacob Infante is a Chicago Bears and NFL Draft writer at SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron. He also covers the NFL Draft for USA Today SMG’s Draft Wire. He can be reached through Twitter @jacobinfante24 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.