Chicago Bears: Who Will Be No. 1 WR in 2017?

Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith (81) works out prior to the game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith (81) works out prior to the game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

This upcoming season for the Chicago Bears, a lot of their key weapons on the offensive side of the ball will look much different from last year’s arsenal. Yes, the offensive line will pretty much look the same, and running back Jordan Howard should carry the load on the ground just like he did in 2016. As for the passing game, things could be interesting.

The biggest change is obviously the quarterback position. Not only is Mike Glennon stepping in the place left vacant by Jay Cutler, but there are also two new faces on the QB depth chart: Mark Sanchez and rookie Mitchell Trubisky. There are some new players at tight end as well. Dion Sims and rookie Adam Shaheen will look to contribute to the passing game, but veteran Zach Miller is slated to return after a foot injury as the team’s starting tight end. But what really has some fans concerned is the situation of the wide receiving corps.

Chicago’s most potent pass-catching weapon, Alshon Jeffery, is now suiting up for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Eddie Royal was recently released. General manager Ryan Pace did sign several receivers during free agency that could contribute this season. Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, and Kendall Wright are all looking for a fresh new start in the Windy City, and should have a fighting chance to earn a spot in the starting lineup during training camp this summer.

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Randle spent the first four years of his career with the New York Giants, and became a solid starter from 2014-15. But, the 26-year-old signed with the Eagles in 2016, only to be released. Randle didn’t play in 2016, and may have some rust to knock off. Wheaton appeared to be a reliable contributor for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but an unfortunate shoulder injury put the five-year veteran on injured reserve last season. It’s uncertain how he’ll bounce back. Wright, a 2012 first-round draft pick, seems to have the best chance out of these three to crack the starting lineup. While with the Tennessee Titans, Wright did have a 1,000-yard season in 2013, and did so while under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains (who currently holds the same position with the Bears).

Looking at Chicago’s receivers that are returning from last season, it’s safe to say that Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, and Daniel Braverman will secure places on the backend of the depth chart (assuming that they make the 53-man roster). This leaves Kevin White and Cameron Meredith. The Bears’ brass, and Bears fans alike, are waiting to see if White will live up to his first-round billing. The only way that can happen is if he stays healthy. Assuming that he does, he could be a prime candidate to be Chicago’s No. 1 receiver. The same can also be said of Meredith. In 2016, Meredith, a former college quarterback, surprised many by leading the Bears in receptions (66) and receiving yards (888).

From what I see, White, Meredith, and Wright are clearly the top three receivers currently on the roster. It remains to be seen which one will be Glennon’s primary target among the wideouts. However, it is safe to say that the Bears do have some big-play potential in the passing game that can help improve a passing attack that was ranked 14th in the NFL in 2016.