Evaluating the Bears’ receiver group becomes nearly impossible – hence the “incomplete” – with the constant stream of injuries, beginning with Kevin White’s stress fracture in the offseason and continuing with Alshon Jeffery missing games with myriad injuries before going on IR, and Eddie Royal breaking down and missing seven entire games. Even No. 4 receiver Marquess Wilson was on IR with a season-ending foot injury suffered in the San Francisco game.
Emblematic of the problems at receiver: Jeffery led the Bears with 54 receptions, followed by Martellus Bennett with 53. Bennett preceded Jeffery onto IR and was a significant loss, mitigated by the emergence of Zach Miller at tight end, but even Miller was down with injury for game 16. Tight end becomes a question area given the uncertain status of Bennett and his attitude.
“I think when you look at the guys who have gone down, they were the guys that were getting so many of the reps,” said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “And then you take them off the field and now you’re putting in guys that are almost starting over a little bit.
“And we try to keep guys caught up but when you start going plays off of plays and then all of the sudden you get a new guy in there and he’s like, ‘well, I’ve never done that before,’ you almost have to start from the beginning every once in a while and get these guys caught up and then get them on the same page with the quarterback because he hasn’t had reps with them. So it does hurt you a little bit as far as how advanced you can get.”
As coach John Fox said of the overall, the Detroit game was “a microcosm of our season.” The wide receivers provided precisely that kind of game. Josh Bellamy failed to catch a key third-down pass on a back-shoulder throw in the quarter, letting the ball go right through his hands in another missed opportunity for Bellamy with the front-line receivers down. But he fought through tight coverage from Detroit rookie cornerback Quandre Diggs to haul in a 34-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler in the third quarter.
Cameron Meredith showed his inexperience on the Bears’ first possession when he was unable to at least break up a slightly underthrown pass in the end zone, resulting in an interception off the deflection.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
If there was a positive to emerge from the chaos at wide receiver it was the play of Marc Mariani, who finished with a modest 22 receptions, including a team-leading 6 for 80 yards in the Detroit game. Mariani projects to have an expanded role as a nickel/slot receiver with Royal, in part because the quarterback trusts him.
“He’s always been that guy,” Jay Cutler said. "He’s always the guy who is going to work extremely hard. He’s going to be where he’s supposed to be. I think now he’s just getting more attempts because our numbers have dwindled so out of necessity he’s been out there a lot more and he’s become a viable option for us.”
Moon's WR Grade: Incomplete