Chicago looked sharp Sunday as they went on to beat Tennessee 19-7 to complete week three of the preseason, but unfortunately the victory did not come without an expense. Cameron Meredith, who was just coming off a breakout year last season, most likely suffered a torn ACL during the second quarter of yesterday’s game. Meredith, a 6’3″ 207 lb. wideout, was very successful under an offense run by Jay Cutler, making 66 receptions for 888 yards and 4 touchdowns. This 24-year-old has a very bright future with this Chicago Bears franchise, but with a severe injury like this, one can’t help but wonder how effective he will be when–or if–he returns.
Cameron Meredith, though his stint in the game was brief, performed very well, catching 2 passes for 44 yards and moving the chains on both receptions. No doubt this will be a blow to an already revamped Chicago offense, but the question is how much of an impact will this injury really have to a new wide receiver squad.
Don’t forget, the Bears have three completely new quarterbacks: Mike Glennon, a 6’6″ pocket presence from Tampa Bay who tends to target his big tight ends; Mark Sanchez, an 8 year veteran looking not only to right his wrongs from the past but also fit the void of a leader, which this team needs so badly; and Mitchell Trubisky, the #2 overall pick from this year’s NFL draft, known for his effective rollout tendencies and at the same time tremendous composure in the pocket. As you can see, this is a complete change from the Cutler-Hoyer-Barkley combo they had last year, and naturally, these quarterbacks now have to adjust to the Bears’ ever-evolving offensive playbook.
My point is this is a new and improved quarterback squad, who have each been in a unique and interesting predicament in the past. This injury is not particularly new to them; rather, they will simply learn to move on and find a different weapon throughout the season. So, now that Cameron Meredith is gone, who are the Bears’ main weapons?
1. Kevin White
Now I understand that Kevin has had a string of injuries in the past that has prevented him from playing in his first two years as a professional, but the stage has pretty much been set for him. White has the talent to be a big time receiver, has the right players alongside him, and has learned quite a bit about the game’s pace from the sideline. But now is the moment we see his true colors and what he can truly do on the field. And if it’s anything like his heyday back at West Virginia, we are in for a treat.
2. Markus Wheaton
Markus has not played a whole lot during training camp nor the preseason after fracturing his left pinkie and, in addition, recuperating from an appendectomy. But like Brandon Marshall, Santonio Holmes, and most recently Victor Cruz, Markus has played alongside an elite quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger; he’s had playoff experience, he knows how to win, and most importantly, he knows how to keep himself composed. Yes this is a new environment, but I don’t see this to be as big of an adjustment as expected.
3. Victor Cruz
Cruz, a former New York Giant, was acquired from the Bears shortly after the Draft. Though he himself has battled injuries in the past as well, he provides the leadership role to this young receiving squad. Yes, he’s not as quick as he was, say, five years ago, but he knows exactly where to be at the right time and is not afraid to perform in the clutch. Cruz is expected to play from the slot this year, something he is not quite used to, but in the long run will be beneficial to everybody.
4. Kendall Wright
This is the receiver I am most excited to see play this season. We saw Sunday him catch key third down passes from Mike Glennon, and it seems like these two have started to click together. Take note that the Titans team they face the other day just missed the playoffs by a game last season, and they have only gotten better since. A performance like that of Kendall Wright is very promising to see, and hopefully he can be the guy to look to on third downs, just as Golden Tate is for the Detroit Lions.
5. Tanner Gentry
Gentry is by far the biggest surprise out of the gate for the 2017 season. An undrafted 6’2″ receiver from the University of Wyoming, there have been many doubts in regards to whether or not he would make it past the cuts. Well Tanner has buried all those doubts. He has exceeded all expectations in practice and put nothing but 100% effort into his craft. It all reached a peak Sunday when he beat his man, streaked 45 yards downfield, and caught a perfectly thrown ball from Mitchell Trubisky over his shoulder. He may not see a whole lot of playing time this season, but come next season, provided he keeps improving, he will be yet another dangerous weapon.