Bears

Tanner Gentry still has much to learn — and earn — with Bears

Tanner Gentry still has much to learn — and earn — with Bears

It only took one week for Tanner Gentry to go from a training camp standout stashed on the practice squad to a member of the Bears’ 53-man roster.

But while Gentry turned heads in Bourbonnais and was on the receiving end of an impressive 45-yard touchdown from Mitchell Trubisky against the Tennessee Titans, he didn’t work much with Mike Glennon. And the Bears continue to talk up Tre McBride, the waiver claim from the Baltimore Ravens who was inactive in Week 1 but could factor into the team’s receiver equation as he learns the team’s offense.  

The point here: Gentry, after earning his way on to the 53-man roster, still has to earn his way into being active on Sunday. Quickly growing his rapport with Glennon is, more narrowly, Gentry’s next step.

“He had a good preseason,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “We just gotta kinda figure out how the numbers are gonna be this week and who's up, who's down. We are excited about what Tanner brings and hopefully we can create a role for him if he's active and playing this week.”

The Bears hope to get Markus Wheaton back soon (he was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday’s injury report, which isn’t a change from last week), and when the speedy former Pittsburgh Steeler does return, he’ll likely join Deonte Thompson, Josh Bellamy and Kendall Wright on the active gameday roster. The Bears could consider making five receivers active on gameday, though they only had four against Atlanta (Thompson, Bellamy, Wright and Kevin White).

The Bears like Gentry’s skillset, particularly his ability to track the ball in the air and his football instincts. "Sometimes there are guys that have a knack for the football, (and) we kinda feel like Tanner could be that kinda guy,” Loggains said. But he still has an uphill climb to make an impact on Sundays, needing to prove to coaches that his pass-catching skills and special teams ability warrant an active spot.

The thing with Gentry, though: He’s constantly fought those uphill battles ever since he was a lightly-recruited athlete in high school (Gentry, according to Rivals.com, only received scholarship offers from Wyoming and Air Force). So this next challenge is more of the same for him.

“I’ll continue to play with that (chip on my shoulder) and always have something to prove out there on the field,” Gentry said. “… It’s a great opportunity. It really sucks to see two great players like that go down and so early in the season as well. I’m just going to prepare and just work hard in practice and continue to better my game and listen to the coaches and do what I’m told.”

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

10-22johnfox.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: