Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers: 5 Things To Watch For

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Nov 9, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) rushes with the football after catching a pass during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Will The Wide Receiver Corps Be Ready To Go?

Fears about Alshon Jeffery’s calf seem to be easing, as the talented fourth-year receiver returned to the practice field Wednesday and Thursday and seems likely to play Sunday, as of this writing.

Expected to be the Bears’ top wide receiver, Jeffery missed the entire preseason with a strained calf that took longer to heal than expected. It would have been great to have Jeffery on the field with Cutler and the rest of the crew as they learn a new offense, but Jeffery being ready to go is more important.

Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson, who battled hip and hamstring problems in the preseason, respectively, both seem likely to play, and had limited participation in practice, the same as Jeffery. That leaves only White, the uber-talented rookie projected to be the Bears’ deep threat this season, as the odd man out. White will miss at least the first six games, and possibly the season, with a shin injury.

Nov 9, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 55-14. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

While the Bears have other wide receivers on the roster – Josh Bellamy, Cameron Meredith and return man Marc Mariani – Jeffery, Royal and Wilson are the only real threats at the position.

Receiver was expected to be a strength for the Bears this season, even after they traded Brandon Marshall. They had Jeffery and Wilson – who for the second consecutive season is expected to “breakout,” though I’m skeptical – added Royal and drafted White. They seemed to go four-men deep with receiving threats, giving them a collection that rivaled any in the league.

Instead, they come into the game hobbled. Jeffery, Royal and Wilson all seem likely to play, but for how long? And how effective can they be if they’re all battling leg or hip problems? And is Jeffery even in-game shape after battling the calf injury? With their available top three receivers all enduring or recovering from injuries, is it really likely that the Bears will manage to get through the whole game without at least one of them re-aggravating the injury? All of these are things we won’t know until after kickoff.

With the top four either out or still recovering from injuries, that enviable depth is gone. Bellamy, Meredith and Mariani will probably have to contribute on offense. Bellamy and Mariani are career special teamers, while Meredith, an undrafted rookie, is something of an unknown who showed occasional ability during the preseason.

I’m confident that Jeffery, Royal and Wilson will suit up Sunday. But the injuries have brought up concerns about how much they’ll be able to contribute. In a game where they may need to score 30-plus to compete, the Bears will need everything they’ve got.

Next: Secondary Woes