Kevin White's Injury: The Problem With The Chicago Bears' Wide Receivers
General Manager Ryan Pace announced that White will undergo surgery to repair a shin injury and will start the regular season on the physically unable to perform list, which means he will miss at least the first six games. Pace also added, "Honestly, is there a chance that he misses the season? That's a possibility."
How significant is this loss for the Bears, regardless of how long White is actually out? Apart from an extraordinary rookie wide receiving class last season, wide outs don't typically produce superstar numbers their first year in the NFL. Many have speculated as to whether last season was the start of a trend, but we'll have to wait and see to find out.
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White's injury does leave the Bears in a similar situation they struggled with last season; they're slow. Chicago's receiving corps last season lacked the speed to take the top off a defense. While their skill was obvious, with two big, talented wide receives in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, they needed a burner to stretch defenses and create space underneath.
White has that elite speed the Bears were missing last season, posting a 4.35 40 at the NFL's scouting combine. What White leaves in the aftermath of his injury is a skill position team that is still one of the more talented groups in the league, but is severely lacking in the speed department.
You might be asking, 'Well what about free agent addition Eddie Royal? Didn't he run a 4.39 40 at the scouting combine?' Yes he did . . . seven years ago. Judging from Royal's tape last season, it's safe to say he has lost a step or two in this department. Royal still has good speed, but not nearly enough to keep safeties honest.
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Who will fill in for White during his time off from injury? The clear candidate is third-year wide out Marquess Wilson, another tall (6'4") receiving weapon for the Bears, albeit with far less talent and promise than White. Bears fans will be familiar with White from the amount of hype he was generating during training camp last season before he fractured his clavicle, causing him to miss the first nine games of the regular season.
What can we expect from Wilson this season? Wilson is, by all accounts, still a very raw receiver. At the age of 20, he was drafted in the 7th-Round by the Bears (Wilson is actually younger than White). According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson only has played 462 snaps in his NFL career, which equates to about half a season worth of snaps for a starter at wide-receiver.
Wilson did not look impressive in his 462 NFL snaps. He has a small frame for a receiver his size and will struggle against physicality. He has good speed, but doesn't have much explosiveness to break plays open. His route-running is very raw at this point too, but the most troubling part of Wilson's play this far into his career is his hands. He only had 17 receptions last season, but managed to accumulate three drops.
Again, Wilson is still a very raw receiver and doesn't even have a full season worth of snaps under his belt at this point. This season will speak volumes to the type of player he can be in the future. But it's hard to expect much from him, given what he's shown thus far.
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Versatility is important for a receiving group and we could have reasonably expected White to at least be a deep threat for the Bears this season, if not more. There's still hope that White could come back sometime this season, but it's hard to expect much from a rookie wide receiver coming back from injury.
With the loss of White, the Bears are missing valuable speed at the wide receiver position. White's injury has left them in the dark.