Expectations for the Chicago Bears weren’t very high heading into the preseason, but a brutal training camp has dimmed the outlook on their season even further.
Just over two weeks before the regular season, the Bears offence has been decimated by injuries to their receiving corps, leaving quarterback Jay Cutler few options to even throw to.
In the off-season, the Bears traded top receiver Brandon Marshall to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick.
That placed breakout receiver Alshon Jeffery at the top of the receiving list; however, he’s out with a calf injury. Though he’s listed “day-to-day,” Jeffery has been out since August 12, when he sustained the injury, and there’s been no clear prediction for when he’ll return.
No. 7 draft pick Kevin White was slotted to be the No. 2 receiver, but he’s out even longer than Jeffery, potentially for several months.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson, White had a stress fracture in his shin over the summer, which the Bears opted to let heal naturally over surgery. After he was “pain-free,” he returned to the field, had a setback, and is now heading to surgery. He’s been placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, and will miss six weeks, at a minimum. Bears GM Ryan Pace said there’s a possibility that White misses the entire season, stating, “I want to make sure we do this the right way, not rush him back.”
With the Bears’ top two receivers out, they’d turn to their backups, but they’re also out. Third-year receiver Marquess Wilson is out with a hamstring issue, and on Wednesday, free agent addition Eddie Royal went out with a hip injury.
So who is available? Tight end Martellus Bennett is around. Bennett figures to become the Bears’ No. 1 passing target in the meantime, especially after a solid 2014 season in which he had 90 catches, over 900 receiving yards, and six touchdowns.
And the status of the Bears’ third-string receivers? Nate Atkins of Chicago Football sums it up nicely:
At one receiver spot will be Rashad Lawrence, undrafted out of Northwestern. In one year, he has been cut once and placed on a practice squad once. He has zero career catches.
At the other will be Joshua Bellamy, undrafted out of Louisville. In three years, he has been cut five times and placed on the practice squad four times. He has zero career catches.
Lawrence or Bellamy could be set for breakout seasons, but nonetheless, this is a pretty bare-bones situation for the Bears. With a lack of viable receiving threats, Bennett will probably get the most attention from defences, and the Bears will likely have to feed their running backs tons of carries.
Of course, the Bears might just be using caution with some of their receivers, making sure they don’t aggravate any injuries in practice or preseason before the regular season starts. Two-and-a-half weeks is still a decent amount of time to let players rest and heal their injuries.
But in what is supposed to be a redemption season for Jay Cutler, he’s now facing an inexperienced receiving corps that hasn’t seen much practice time in nearly three weeks.
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