ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Perhaps this is an afterthought in the wake of the Bears’ 41-9 whomping of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, but Matt Nagy’s decision to make Kevin White a healthy scratch came as a surprise an hour and a half before kickoff.
With Allen Robinson (groin) inactive for the second consecutive game, the Bears opted to not only make seventh-round rookie Javon Wims active, but also running back Taquan Mizzell, who was called up from the practice squad on Saturday after Kyle Long was put on injured reserve.
“Kevin and our coaching staff and myself, we’ve had some talks and just in the direction we decided to go for this game,” coach Matt Nagy said. “Nothing by any means is permanent. He’s going to just continue working hard. Kevin is in a good place and I appreciate him being that way. We’re just going to keep plugging away.”
While White and Robinson don’t play the same position, the absence of Robinson in the last two games was an opportunity for White to make his mark on the Bears’ offense. He played 49 snaps against the New England Patriots and New York Jets but was only targeted five times, catching three of them for 70 yards (and one of those catches was that 54-yard Hail Mary that wound up a yard short of the end zone against New England).
Meanwhile, Josh Bellamy — who plays Robinson’s position but has the versatility to play all three of the Bears’ receiver roles — was targeted eight times in the same span, catching four of those for 37 yards. Notably, Bellamy caught all four of his catchable targets against the Jets. Bellamy was targeted twice on Sunday.
Mizzell played a relatively significant role against the Bills, catching one of two targets for five yards while replacing Benny Cunningham as the Bears’ kick returner. That Mizzell and Bellamy both contribute on special teams, while White does not, is an important note here.
White was already unlikely to return to the Bears following the 2018 season after the Bears declined to pick up his fifth-year option back in the spring. White will get a chance to earn a spot on some other team’s roster after hitting free agency, but if he’s not able to put anything on tape over the final eight games of the season, whatever team brings him in will have fewer reasons to keep him if he’s on the roster bubble come cut-down day.
One other notable aspect of the decision to make White inactive: Ryan Pace isn’t meddling in Nagy’s active roster decisions. White was Pace’s first draft pick as Bears’ general manager, and barring a turnaround in these last eight games of the season, will go down as a top-10 bust of a pick.
But on Sunday, White wasn’t one of the Bears’ best 46 players. And while Nagy sees White’s gameday status as a week-to-week thing, that it’s reached that point for the former No. 7 overall pick may be telling enough.
“No discipline,” Nagy said. “He’s healthy. It was just a decision we went with as a staff and Kevin.”