Bears

Three questions for Bears WRs: Can Kevin White save his career?

Three questions for Bears WRs: Can Kevin White save his career?

Pre-camp depth chart
X (Outside)
1. Allen Robinson
2. Kevin White
3. Javon Wims
4. Marlon Brown
5. Tanner Gentry

Z (Slot/Outside)
1. Anthony Miller
2. Josh Bellamy
3. Bennie Fowler
4. DeMarcus Ayers
5. Garrett Johnson
6. Matt Fleming

Zebra (Slot/Outside)
1. Taylor Gabriel
2. Tarik Cohen

1. What can the Bears get out of Kevin White?

This isn’t the biggest question facing the Bears’ wide receiving corps — that would be the second one on this list — but this is the most fascinating one heading into training camp. What gradually stacked practices during OTAs and minicamps in April, May and June, looking solid (if not impressive) while running around in shorts and a helmet. 

At the least, he looked better this spring than he did at any time last year, when he was coming off his second consecutive season-ending lower body injury, to put it in hockey parlance. White missed all but three quarters of the 2017 season due to an upper-body injury (a fractured scapula), which while serious didn’t require him to re-learn how to run during the rehab process from it. As a result, White played fast during spring practices, and on top of that took the kind of mental approach Matt Nagy wanted to see. 

“He certainly grew in a lot different areas,” Nagy said in June. “And the one thing that I’ve noticed about Kevin, that I thought was neat, is that if there was a dropped ball, it was the next-play mentality for him. I kept a keen eye out for that to see how he was going to react to a play like that, and he’s done well. He’s been running routes well, he’s been catching a lot of footballs, he’s been focusing on what he needs to focus on and that’s a big advantage for this offense.”

White not only has to remain productive when the pads come on in Bourbonnais, but he has to prove that he can stay healthy throughout preseason play and then into the regular season. There’s a lot riding on this season for White personally, with the 2015 seventh overall pick becoming a free agent next March after the Bears declined his fifth-year option. If he puts together a full, productive season, he’ll earn a second contract; if not, his chances of sticking in the league don’t seem good. The best thing he can do during training camp is continue the slow build he began at Halas Hall from April to June. 

2. Will Allen Robinson live up to the hype?

Ryan Pace guaranteed just under $40 million to Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, and then traded back into the second round to draft Anthony Miller. It was hardly a surprise that Pace aggressively tried to improve what was a pitifully bad wide receiver group from 2017, but the question still remains: How good can this group be? And specifically, can Robinson be that true No. 1 receiver this team has lacked since letting Alshon Jeffery walk to Philadelphia?

Robinson competitiveness, instincts, size and athleticism made him one of the best receivers in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards with 14 touchdowns in 2015, then followed that with a relatively disappointing 73-catch, 883-yard, six-touchdown 2016 (only 10 times in Bears history has a pass-catcher hit those marks; the most recent guys to do it were Jeffery and Martellus Bennett in 2014).

“You can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level,” wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said. “Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.” 
 
That chip on his shoulder, likely, comes from Robinson tearing his ACL in Week 1 of the 2017 season. He only partially returned to practice during veteran minicamp in June, though the expectation has been for him to be fully cleared for practice by the start of training camp. If he’s cleared for full participation, he can start developing timing and chemistry with Mitch Trubisky that he wasn’t quite able to do during the offseason program. 

Torn ACLs aren’t as big a risk for wide receivers as they used to be, but any time a team guaranteed $25 million to an injured player, there’s risk involved. 

3. How will the versatility of this group show up?

One of the more exciting things we’ll get to watch in Bourbonnais will be the different ways Nagy uses a group of receivers the Bears feel is tailored well to their new spiced-up west coast offense. Gabriel is the primary “Zebra,” the position made famous by Tyreek Hill in Kansas City, and while he has prototypical slot size (5-foot-8, 165 pounds) expect the diminutive former Atlanta Falcon to line up all over the field. The same goes for Miller, who played both in the slot and outside in college. Expect to see a lot of Tarik Cohen split out wide in this group, too, as well as Trey Burton providing some versatility from the tight end position. 

The overall point here is this, though: The Bears’ offense, ideally, will be able to dictate mismatches in a way they weren’t close to being able to do in 2017. That can only benefit Trubisky, but these receivers still need to execute their routes and assignments to make sure the mismatches created for them actually can be taken advantage of. 

So on the practice fields of Olivet Nazarene University, you’ll see plenty of players moving around to different positions within the offense. If they quickly mesh with Trubisky, this offense could very well be effective from Week 1.
 

How much better did the Bears' NFC North opponents get in the first round of the NFL Draft?

4-26rashangary.jpg
USA Today

How much better did the Bears' NFC North opponents get in the first round of the NFL Draft?

The Bears collectively kicked their feet up Thursday night, watching the NFL Draft unfold with a few Khalil Mack highlight clips thrown in there to remind them why they didn’t have anything to do. 

The Bears’ competition in the NFC North, though, made four picks Thursday night, infusing significant talent into the division. A look at who Bears players on offense and defense will have to deal with twice a year starting in 2019:

Detroit Lions: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa (No. 8 overall pick)

Where he’s ranked: 6th (Dane Brugler/The Athletic), 12th (Danny Kelly/The Ringer), 13th (Josh Norris/Rotoworld), 21st (Pro Football Focus)

Why it makes sense: Hockenson is one of the best tight end prospects to be drafted in recent history. He’s a true combo in-line tight end, someone who can create mismatches against any defense with his ability to both block and catch. He’s regarded as a high-character player, too, someone who the Lions may believe can help change a deteriorating culture inside their locker room

Why it doesn’t: Hockenson is only the third tight end in the last 20 years to be dated with a top-10 pick, and the last one was…Eric Ebron, who flopped with the Lions after being the 10th overall pick in 2014. The big question for how this pick is viewed may not be how good Hockenson is, but how the guy drafted one pick after him — defensive tackle Ed Oliver — winds up being. 

Green Bay Packers: EDGE Rashan Gary, Michigan (No. 12), S Darnell Savage, Maryland (No. 21)

Where Gary ranks: No. 13 (Brugler), No. 13 (Kelly), No. 15 (Norris), No. 48 (PFF)

Where Savage ranks: No. 28 (PFF), No. 33 (Norris), No. 39 (Kelly), No. 58 (Brugler)

Why it makes sense: Gary and Savage inject loads of talent into a Green Bay defense that underwent a massive overhaul during free agency. Gary will join a pass rush featuring Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Kyler Fackrell, giving defensive coordinator Mike Pettine excellent depth to pressure opposing quarterbacks. The super-athletic Gary has tremendous upside, even if his college production never matched former ranking as the nation’s No. 1 recruit. If the Packers can harness that raw talent, he could be a menace in the division for years to come. 

Savage, meanwhile, looks like a solid partner to pair with Adrian Amos in the back end of the Packers’ defense. He picked off four passes in 2018 and possesses the kind of traits — physicality, speed, ball skills — that teams desire in safeties. Perhaps the Packers see him as a version of Eddie Jackson, who paired well with Amos in 2017 and 2018 with the Bears. 

Why it doesn’t: A couple of instant reactions to the Gary pick didn’t paint it in a positive light:

Gary finished his three-year college career with only 9 1/2 sacks, two fewer than Bears 2018 sixth-round pick Kylie Fitts had in his three years at Utah. He also had a labrum injury pop up that could be of some concern. Further back: Gary, perhaps, could remind you of Alonzo Spellman — the Bears’ 22nd overall pick in 1992 who had nine sacks in three years at Ohio State and took a few years to get off the ground in Chicago (he had 32 sacks in six seasons with the Bears). 

There’s less to not like with Savage — he was a late riser and is a little undersized, but pairing him with Amos seems to make all the sense in the world on paper. 

Minnesota Vikings: C Garrett Bradbury, N.C. State (No. 18)

Where he ranks: No. 17 (Brugler), No. 18 (Norris), No. 23 (Kelly), No. 41 (PFF)

Why it makes sense: The Vikings desperately need offensive line help, and likely felt fortunate that there wasn’t a run on offensive linemen prior to their pick. Bradbury can immediately step in and improve the interior of Minnesota’s offensive line, keeping pressure out of Kirk Cousins’ face and opening holes for Dalvin Cook. His bi-annual battles against Eddie Goldman should be fun to watch. 

Why it doesn’t: A few analysts noted Bradbury being undersized and not having ideal length, though his athleticism and technique should overcome whatever those deficiencies may be. This feels like a smart pick by the Vikings. 

Briefly

— The Oakland Raiders were the only team to pick a running back in the first round, and used the pick the Bears sent them — No. 24 overall — to grab Alabama’s Josh Jacobs. 

— If you’re looking for a position that could see some talented players fall to the Bears’ No. 87 pick: Wide receiver and cornerback. Only Hollywood Brown (No. 23, Baltimore Ravens) and N'Keal Harry (No. 32, New England Patriots) went among receivers; the first cornerback didn't go off the board until the New York Giants traded back into the first round and picked Georgia's Deandre Baker 30th overall. If the Bears have a few players with high grades at either of those positions, there's a chance of those guys slipping deep into the third round and giving Ryan Pace an opportunity to take a clear-cut best player available.

Kyle Long "disappointed" that the Long family couldn't join the Bosa family as first round selections

9-7kylelong.jpg
USA TODAY

Kyle Long "disappointed" that the Long family couldn't join the Bosa family as first round selections

When the Arizona Cardinals selected Ohio State DE Nick Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick, he helped his family make some incredible history.

Bosa became the 4th member of his family drafted in the 1st Round in Common Draft Era, with his brother Joey being the most recent draftee in 2016. The Bosa family will now be discussed in the same vein as the Manning and Gronkowski families, who each have had three or more members of their family play in the NFL.

The Bears have a connection to the great football families in the nation, as three-time Pro Bowler Kyle Long’s brother Chris is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, and their father Howie is an NFL Hall of Famer. But nonetheless, looking at Bosa complete the string of 1st round selections for their family made Long take to Twitter to tell the world how he really felt about the accomplishment.

The humorous tweet from Long elicited some great responses.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.