How do ACL tears affect wide receivers? The numbers are promising for Allen Robinson, Cameron Meredith

USA Today

How do ACL tears affect wide receivers? The numbers are promising for Allen Robinson, Cameron Meredith

For all the excitement generated by the news that hit in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the Bears' top two receivers in 2018 are still working their way back from torn ACLs suffered last year. 

Cameron Meredith tore his ACL in a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans on Aug. 27, 2017. Two weeks later, on the third play of the season, Allen Robinson tore his ACL against the Houston Texans. Both players missed the remainder of the 2017 season following their injuries. 

Robinson says he'll be fully cleared for training camp, and the Bears hope the same will be the case for Meredith. Getting both players as many practice reps with Mitch Trubisky is key, given Robinson was with a different team a year ago and Meredith's only chance to fully practice with Trubisky came leading up to that third preseason game against the Titans. 

"We’re going to try and get together as much as we can in the offseason," Meredith said in January. "Try and make up for the lost time. I’m excited to just to get in rhythm with him, come practice time."

All of that will be part of the Bears' efforts to improve the team around Trubisky. Having his two best receivers coming off ACL surgery seems risky, but recent history shows it may not be as risky as it may sound. 

This comes with the caveat that every injury is different and every recovery is different. But since 2013, there have been 34 wide receivers who have suffered a torn ACL. We're crossing out 13 of those players, most of whom played only a handful of games in the NFL and aren't comparable to Meredith or Robinson. So that leaves us with this list of 20 players who we can use to can compare pre-ACL tear performace and post-ACL tear performance. 

To keep the stats even, we're using Pro Football Reference's 16-game average, even though some of these players didn't play in every single game after returning. But it's an even benchmark for comparing production in this case. On to the table: 

Of these 20 receivers, six never made it back from their torn ACLs. Domenik Hixon and Danario Alexander each had suffered multiple torn ACLs/knee injuries prior to their career-enders, while Sidney Rice decided to retire due to multiple concussions. Stephen Hill is the outlier here age-wise, but the former second-round pick wasn't particulary effective prior to his injury. The average age of when these six players tore their ACLs is 27.2 years old.

Seven players (Vincent Jackson, Kelvin Benjamin, Louis Murphy, Jordan Norwood, Arrelious Benn, Reggie Wayne and Leonard Hankerson) returned from their torn ACLs and saw their production decline. Jackson and Wayne were in the mid-30's when they tore their ACLs, while Murphy, Norwood, Benn and Hankerson were varying levels of productive before suffering their respective injuries, and they didn't play much after getting hurt. Benjamin's effectiveness declined, but not sharply until after he returned with 63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns his first year back off the ACL tear. The average age of when these seven players tore their ACLs is 28.4. Among these 13 players who were either out of football or saw their production decline, the average age of when they suffered their injury is 27.8. 

So that leaves seven players who saw their production improve after returning from tearing an ACL: Keenan Allen, Jaron Brown, Jordy Nelson, Paul Richardson, Jeremy Maclin, Charles Johnson and Travis Benjamin. We'll leave Johnson, who tore his ACL before his NFL debut, out of this argument for the moment. So narrowing it down to Allen, Brown, Nelson, Richardson, Maclin and Benjamin, we come up with this: Those six players saw an average increase of 26.8 targets, 12.3 receptions, 196.8 yards and 1.8 touchdowns in their 16-game averages. 

And here's maybe the most important number: Those six players suffered an ACL tear when they were, on average, 25.2 years old. Meredith turns 26 in September; Robinson turns 25 in August. 

Does this guarantee that Robinson will get back to his pre-ACL tear level of production (143 targets, 75 receptions, 1,060 yards, 8 TDs)? Or what about Meredith, who caught 66 of 97 targets for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 2016? Not exactly. But if you're looking for some reason to be optimistic the Bears' bet on Robinson will pay off alongside Meredith this fall, recent history could be it. 



Kyle Fuller believes he's a Top 5 cornerback in the NFL

USA Today

Kyle Fuller believes he's a Top 5 cornerback in the NFL

Kyle Fuller caused a bit of a panic late Friday afternoon when a report dropped that he signed an offer sheet with the Green Bay Packers. For a few hours, the prospect — even if it was always unlikely — of the Bears losing their best cornerback to their arch rivals to the north loomed over Chicago. 

For Fuller, though, he said he barely had time to think about the possibility of cashing in on his breakout 2017 season with the Packers. The Bears quickly matched the offer sheet, officially announcing the four-year deal Tuesday that makes Fuller one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL. 

“It was crazy not really knowing what to expect,” Fuller said. “I would have never expected it. But when (the Packers’ offer sheet) came, it was definitely something to consider, just on the business side of it. At the end of the day, how it all played out, I’m definitely happy.”

Fuller sounded like someone who took a more passive role to his quasi-restricted free agency that was set about when the Bears placed the transition tag on him, allowing them to match any offer sheet that he were to sign. Fuller said he didn’t know all the details of what was going on with offer sheets coming in and negotiations with the Bears.

“I kinda was just getting the information from (my agents) and going with the flow of everything and knowing that at the end of the day it would end up working out,” Fuller said. 

The $14 million average annual value of Fuller’s contract ranks fifth among cornerbacks, behind only Washington’s Josh Norman ($15 million), New York’s Trumaine Johnson ($14.5 million) Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes ($14.02 million) and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson ($14.01 million), according to Spotrac. 

Fuller said he considers himself a top-five cornerback in the league, and he played like someone who could wind up in that discussion in 2017. The 2014 first-round pick was one of four players to break up 20 or more passes last year, and he picked off two passes in December while providing excellent support against the run. 

“We could not be happier to have Kyle under contract for four more years,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “We feel he is an ascending player on our top 10 defense and we look forward to him having many more productive seasons here in Chicago.”

That's right, Chicago. John Fox is coming to a studio near you


That's right, Chicago. John Fox is coming to a studio near you

So apparently John Fox is getting bored.

The former Bears head coach who led the team to three consecutive last-place seasons from 2015-17 just signed with ESPN as a NFL studio analyst.

He’ll be getting paid to dish out insider information on players and what’s happening on the field — details that frustrated Bears fans could not get out of the often elusive Fox

This is great news if you had a void in your heart that only John Fox quotes could fill — especially in case his “We don’t know exactly what we’re doing” and "Sometimes it's hard to measure what's behind the left nipple"  hot takes weren’t cutting it anymore

But more importantly, Fox’s new position brings up a new burning question: What ex-Bear will be a better analyst?

What will the Fox say? Will he be able to muster more than 10 words out of Jay? The NFL season needs to get here sooner.