A featured part of the offensive shortcomings last Sunday against the Houston Texans was, unfortunately, Kevin White after the rookie wide receiver mis-ran a route, leading to an interception. White’s inexperience obviously can’t be overcome in one week but the Bears have some options for maximizing what they get out of their young wideout, and they involve more than White.
But they don’t come without a little risk and making some choices.
The first is to make full use of No. 3 wideout Eddie Royal. But the Bears started just three games last year with nickel personnel, and their preferred personnel packages favor running the football. Eight times they opened with two or three tight ends last season, and against Houston, fullback Paul Lasike started.
That said, Royal played 36 snaps (White played 55 of the Bears’ 56, and Alshon Jeffery 53), and it was Royal catching a 19-yard pass just before halftime for the Bears’ second touchdown.
“It was good to have Eddie out there,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “He definitely gives us a reliable veteran presence at wide receiver. He made some big plays for us. He played really smart in the two-minute drill at the end of the half, which was important to us to go down and put points on the board.”
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Royal also is a familiar comfort blanket for Jay Cutler, extending back to the two playing together with the Denver Broncos. And while White is still mastering route-running, Royal is among the NFL’s best at that art.
“Eddie can play outside, he can play inside,” Cutler said. “He’s a savvy vet. I’m comfortable with him. I think he is one of the best route runners on the outside in the league and he’s a smart football player. He’s kind of that catch all, comfortable guy, you put him in ‘12’ [personnel: one back, two tight ends, two receivers], you put him in ‘11’ [personnel: one back, one tight end, three receivers] and you can kind of move him around and he’s gonna get the job done.”
The second option for getting greater impact out of White is simplifying elements of his job.
White had just two years at West Virginia and the reality is that he was not required to run a wide range of routes from both sides of the field. Necessarily, he’s playing some catchup, against NFL competition.
The result has been that he is thinking and not playing as fast as his 4.35 speed suggests. The burden is on White to learn the offense — all of it — but coaches routinely tailor plans to the skillsets of their players, and dialing down White’s playbook should not be ruled out.
“Just making sure that when we’re putting in route concepts that we ‘put the birds in the right place’ is what we say,” Loggains said. Coaches will be charged with “just making sure that we do stuff that Kevin is able to practice and he gets the looks that he’s able to see and just making sure that he feels really comfortable with the things he’s done. His route tree may be limited, but it’s going to continue to grow weekly in the things as he grows as a player.”