Deonte Thompson

Get your popcorn ready: The Mitch Trubisky-Tanner Gentry connection is back

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USA TODAY

Get your popcorn ready: The Mitch Trubisky-Tanner Gentry connection is back

It doesn't take a football expert to see that Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky is limited when it comes to weapons in the passing game.

The Bears did something to patch up part of that problem on Wednesday.

In a move that likely should have been made before Trubisky's first career NFL start, the Bears promoted wide receiver Tanner Gentry to the 53-man roster.

Gentry, an undrafted free agent out of Wyoming, had a strong preseason and developed some chemistry with the Bears rookie quarterback. In four preseason contests, Gentry caught four receptions for 77 yards which included a 45-yard touchdown pass from Trubisky in a victory over the Titans.

Gentry, who was signed to the practice squad following the preseason, was on the Bears active roster in a Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gentry hauled in two passes for 27 yards and was placed on waivers and signed back to the practice squad shortly after.

To make rook for Gentry on the active roster, the Bears released wide receiver Deonte Thompson.

Thompson, who played the most snaps out of any wide receiver on the Bears through the first four games of the season, had 11 receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown in 2017.

Thompson played in 28 games across three seasons with the Bears and registered 35 receptions for 455 yards and three scores. Thompson also served as the Bears primary kickoff returner during that span.

The Bears also added linebacker Carl Bradford and wide receiver Darreus Rogers to their practice squad.

How the Bears' receivers helped beat Pittsburgh while only catching one pass

How the Bears' receivers helped beat Pittsburgh while only catching one pass

Mike Glennon didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until he found Deonte Thompson for a nine-yard gain with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Sunday. That was the only of Glennon's 15 completions that went to a wide receiver in a 23-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

But the Bears’ receivers weren’t necessarily invisible on Sunday, frequently showing up on tape delivering solid blocks that helped spring second-level gains by running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Most notably, Deonte Thompson was key in making a path for Howard to score his game-ending touchdown in overtime. 

“We got a rule in our room, make sure your guy doesn't make the tackle,” Thompson said. “… We take pride in it. Our coaches make sure we take pride in blocking. We just go what we gotta do to win. Whatever the job description is, we do.”

This isn’t to say that everything is fine with the Bears’ receivers because they can block. Their primary jobs are to get open and catch the football, and this unit hasn’t done enough of that through three games. In total, Bears receivers are averaging about 14 targets, nine receptions per game and 98 yards per game. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, 26 times has an individual wide receiver had at least 14 targets, nine receptions and 98 yards in a game (including Cameron Meredith last October). 

And being a productive receiver doesn’t have to mean that player isn’t a good blocker. SB Nation listed familiar names as its best blocking receivers: Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, Los Angeles’ Robert Woods, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Miami’s Jarvis Landry and New York’s Brandon Marshall. 

But for the Bears, if Sunday’s offensive plan — for a game in which the team was never losing — is what future wins could look like, this receiver unit will be asked to do quite a bit of blocking. 

“We haven’t won as much as we want to around here, and when you see that (blocking effort), you see these guys are fully invested and they care, and they care about the guy next to him,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said, “and not about their own individual stats because it would’ve been real easy to sit on the sideline and pout and say hey, I’m not getting the ball — like, one receiver caught a ball in the whole game out of 22 passes, 15 completions, one guy catches a ball. But you know what, they’re a huge part of those wins.”

Howard had seven carries of five or more yards that went toward the sideline, while Cohen had two explosive gains into the second level and beyond. Runs like those are where blocking from guys like Thompson, Bellamy, Kendall Wright and Marcus Wheaton are important. 

“Those are the blocks that spring us to the next level,” Cohen said. “Without the receiver blocks, there would be a lot of 10-yard gains, 9-yard gains, but the bigger gains are the receivers blocking down field.”

The Bears still need more out of their receivers, but their blocking success on Sunday was a contributing factor to beating one of the better teams in the AFC. And it didn’t go unnoticed inside Halas Hall, especially the block Thompson threw to end the game. 

“They know who we have in the backfield, they know who we’ve got up front,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said. “And they know that if we want to have success at an elite level running the ball they need to do their part too and that’s just what he was doing. He was doing his job.”

For Bears' receivers and Mike Glennon, dropping the ball misses the point

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USA TODAY

For Bears' receivers and Mike Glennon, dropping the ball misses the point

The Bears classified six of Mike Glennon’s incompletions against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as drops, something coach John Fox used to bolster his argument that the entire offense needs to be better, not just the quarterback. Had those six passes been caught, Glennon would’ve finished with 37 completions on 45 attempts for probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 330-350 yards with at best a touchdown or two more than the one he threw.  

But that misses the point: Glennon still threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Whether he completed 69 or 82 percent of his passes wouldn’t have really changed anything. And it leaves out when those incompletions happened, too.

Only one pass that could possibly be classified as a drop happened in the first half — that when Glennon threw behind running back Jordan Howard, who couldn’t contort his body and hands to make a catch in the second quarter. But that was an inaccurate throw from Glennon. Could it have been caught? Possibly, but the ball placement could’ve been better. 

Other than that, the rest of the drops came in the second half — when the game was well out of reach. Wright, Bellamy and Deonte Thompson didn’t drop anything in the first half, and each made some solid catches in traffic. 

That doesn’t absolve anyone here, though, and that most of those drops came late in the game reflects poorly on the team’s effort level, even if that wasn’t necessarily a problem. 

“You could make a number of excuses,” tight end Zach Miller said. “You get late in the game, it’s playing down in a different environment, heat — it doesn’t really matter. You’ve just got to catch the ball.”

Four of those six drops were egregious, with accurate passes hitting receivers Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy and Tanner Gentry in the hands only to have the ball wind up on the ground. All of those came in the fourth quarter. 

Fox did bring up the two passes the Bears dropped from inside the five-yard line in Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, which are more relevant for evaluating Glennon. Had Bellamy or Howard caught passes that hit them in the hands — Bellamy in the end zone, Howard at the one-yard line — the Bears likely would’ve been 1-0 heading to Tampa. But had any of those six balls been caught on Sunday, it only would've served to pad Glennon's already-flawed stat line.