Training Camp Battle: Wide Receiver Slot


As we continue our training camp battle series, we take a look at the slot position amongst the wide receivers and who should emerge.

The Chicago Bears overhauled several different positions in the offseason, but none more than wide receiver. Cameron Meredith and Kevin White are still standing from last year’s squad, but most of the other wide receiver snaps are going to go to new faces. GM Ryan Pace brought in Victor Cruz, Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton to compete for playing time and roster spots.

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The Bears expect Meredith and White to start on the outside, but the competition at slot should be very interesting. The Bears have as many as five players on the current roster that could battle for slot snaps.

Wheaton has played the slot with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but seems to excel more on the outside. He will battle White for snaps and would be the man expected to start if White struggles with health issues again in 2017.

If Wheaton spends more time on the outside, that will leave Cruz and Wright as the veterans to battle for slot snaps. The Bears also have second-year man Daniel Braverman who will be in the mix, as well as rookie UDFA Tanner Gentry.

Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains is a fan of Wright and utilized him well when both were with the Tennessee Titans. Wright most likely has the inside track to start at slot, but the Bears have mentioned that they see Cruz as a third down specialist slot player that can pick up critical first downs. If Cruz’s role is limited to third down passing plays, the Bears would be using a 53-man roster spot on a very limited player.

There’s certainly no guarantee that Cruz makes the roster if that becomes his main role. A rebuilding team with several holes (and depth issues) would be wise to not use a roster spot on a wide receiver with diminishing skills that they don’t see on the field more than about 10-12 plays a game.

If Wright and Cruz both make the active 53, that means Braverman and Gentry will have to hope they land practice squad spots. What makes this competition interesting is if Cruz shows his skills have diminished even more and the Bears decide to open up the competition to one of the younger slot guys.

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 11: Daniel Braverman
DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 11: Daniel Braverman /

Braverman came into camp last year with a lot of hype, but didn’t contribute on Sundays. Could a year of experience make Braverman the Tom Waddle meets Julian Edelman type player that many saw before the 2016 draft? The Bears won’t want to give up on Braverman, but he’s going to have to show more than he did in 2016 to make the 53-man roster, otherwise, he’ll be stashed on the practice squad yet again.

Gentry is another interesting candidate. While he’s a darkhorse for the 53-man roster and a better bet for the practice squad, but he’s coming into camp with a lot of Braverman-like hype. What will make this competition at slot interesting is that none of the main four competitors (Wright, Cruz, Braverman, Gentry) have a guaranteed roster spot, meaning any of the four could make the active squad or be sent packing before week one.

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The odds are that the Bears go the conservative route and keep both Cruz and Wright and try to stash both Braverman and Gentry on the practice squad but don’t be surprised if one of the younger guys pushes for a spot on the 53-man roster and Victor Cruz is shown the door before the Bears play a regular season game.