Looking across the NFL, the most explosive offenses all have a player that can score from truly anywhere on the field. The Chiefs have Tyreek Hill. For the Packers it’s Davante Adams. In Baltimore, both Lamar Jackson and Hollywood Brown can pop at any moment. The Saints have that same x-factor on the ground in Alvin Kamara. But the Bears haven’t had a true game-breaker on offense since Taylor Gabriel, and even then nagging injuries had him shuffling in and out of the lineup in 2019.
This season however, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have a new speedster to take the top off a defense: Marquise Goodwin.
After a bustout season in 2017 when he racked up 962 yards on just 56 catches, Goodwin struggled with nagging injuries of his own in both 2018 and 2019. He was limited to just 20 games over those two years. Then, Goodwin opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So when the Bears announced they signed Goodwin back in April, there wasn’t much fanfare. But after watching Goodwin across OTAs and minicamp, it looks like he could go from unheralded free agent to secret weapon.
“Overall I see a young man who is a 4.27,” said Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey. “If he's slow on one day he's going to be in the 4.3s. He still has the speed. I think when you go back and look at him two years ago, this young man was set to get ready to take off and become one of the most elite receivers in this league with his skill set. You know being able to catch the football very naturally, an unbelievable, patient route runner, a very very smart football player. And I think the biggest thing that we're seeing right now in our meetings is how big of a leader he is. You know he takes that vocal role of being a leader. And so it's been exciting. It's a great addition to our room.”
All of those attributes play into the “touchdown-to-touchdown” mentality Nagy has mentioned this offseason— a tweak in his typical “touchdown-to-checkdown” mentality. That’s to say, instead of looking to score first, then make a safer, positive play second, the Bears can now start thinking about scoring at all times.
Part of what makes Goodwin such a unique receiver is his Olympic pedigree. He represented the United States in the 2012 Olympics as a long jumper, where he finished in 10th place.
“Everybody knows he has trained for the Olympics and anytime you have an Olympic mentality you are different,” Nagy said. “That’s a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour regime that you are keeping your body in shape. We were joking the other day that you see on the software services that we have on all these players, the data, you see their speed, and it has their speed locked in from when they were in college. Some of these guys 10 years later are 4.31, 4.37 (in the system) but really right now they are running a 4.58. I was joking with him and he said, ‘Coach, I’m faster now than I was when I came out.’ That for him, that’s never going to change.”
Right now, Allen Robinson is not only the best Bears wideout, he’s also the best player on the offense. During mandatory minicamp, Robinson heaped praise on both Goodwin and Damiere Byrd, the team’s other new free agent wide receiver signee.
“Those are guys that obviously bring a lot of juice to the room when it comes to sheer playmaking ability,” Robinson said. “I know that you’ve seen those guys on other teams make big plays, stretch the field. At the same time, those guys are competitors. They come out to work each and every day and that’s what you want to bring to your room. Not only do they have their personal skillset, but at the same time they have very good mentalities coming into our room, which I think will help us all year.”
It’s summer, players are running around in shorts and the defense can’t hit anyone, so speed demons like Goodwin will obviously pop more at this point of the offseason. It’s important to consider that with Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Goodwin, Byrd, Anthony Miller, Riley Ridley, Javon Wims and rookie Dazz Newsome all in the fold, the wide receiver room is arguably the most crowded position group on the entire team. But if things continue the way they have early in 2021, Goodwin could carve out a serious role for himself in the Bears offense.