Bears WR Kevin White to have surgery on stress fracture, could miss season


Bears WR Kevin White to have surgery on stress fracture, could miss season

BOURBONNAIS — The bad news for Kevin White, which began with the rookie wide receiver and No. 7 pick of the 2015 NFL Draft suffering a stress fracture earlier this offseason, turned a little worse this week when the decision was made to have White undergo surgery after the injury failed to heal with rest alone.

Bears GM Ryan Pace confirmed the plan on Saturday, acknowledging that a chance exists that White could miss the season. Player and team remain hopeful, however, and the plan now is to leave White on the PUP list, meaning he could return after the first six games.

On the positive side, Pace said that the calf injury suffered late this week by receiver Alshon Jeffery is “mild” and not any threat to Jeffery being available for Week 1. Jeffery will not, however, be part of any practices or next Saturday’s game with the Indianapolis Colts.

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The White injury occurred sometime in the later part of OTA’s and White did not practice in the final team minicamp nor in any of the training camp sessions. The surgery will involve inserting a rod in the tibia, a procedure that Bears wide receiver/returner Marc Mariani has had performed successfully.

Surgery earlier was considered but “a lot of times these stress fractures heal on their own, so that was our plan going forward, that was our hope going forward, which is why we had him stay off of it,” Pace said. Instead the Bears restricted him to the sidelines and only allowed him to begin light running last Monday.

White suffered a “setback” this week, Pace said, and took the news on surgery hard.

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“He's emotional,” Pace said. “I know he sincerely cares about this organization, about his teammates, about coach [John] Fox. It's from the bottom of his heart, and that's why, to me - and I know, this is kind of a weird time to say this - but man, I'm telling you, that guy, it's confirmed to me the type of person he is, through this process.”

The immediate hope is to fill the void from within. Undrafted rookie Cameron Meredith from Illinois State flashed in the Bears' preseason-opening victory against the Miami Dolphnis and projects to get an expanded opportunity. Mariani was elevated to the No. 1 offense vs. Miami with Jeffery out and has Jay Cutler’s confidence as a sure-handed receiver.

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“Obviously, right away, you look at your own roster,” Pace said. “There's guys that are going to have to step up and emerge and all those things are going to have to happen. We're confident with that.

“Just like all these positions, we're going to be scouring the preseason. Whether it's trade scenarios or claims, that part's actually fun as an evaluator, looking forward to that. There's some guys out here that are going to step up, and we feel confident with that.”

White began camp on the PUP list. He began light running early last week, but the pain returned, and the Bears opted that White undergo surgery.

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

1. Good games from Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. Here’s a sampling of Pro Football Focus grades for primary middle/inside/will linebackers against New England this year: 

Reggie Ragland (KC): 60.1
Anthony Hitchens (KC): 30.2
Zaire Franklin (IND): 48.6
Najee Goode (IND): 47.1
Kiko Alonso (MIA): 63.9
Raekwon McMillan (MIA): 62.5
Christian Jones (DET): 59.7
Jarrad Davis (DET): 29.8
Telvin Smith Sr. (JAX): 64.1
Myles Jack (JAX): 61.0
Bernardrick McKinney (HOU): 68.7
Zach Cunningham (HOU): 43.2

Think what you will of Pro Football Focus’ grades, but the average here is 53.2. Interestingly, though, the average grade for these 12 players over the course of the 2018 season is 51.5. So maybe the issue is the Patriots have faced a bunch of mediocre-to-bad linebackers, allowing them to take advantage of those soft spots with Sony Michel running the ball and James White catching it. Smith’s PFF grade is 62.3; Trevathan’s is 64.3, so by this measure, they’re better than any of the interior linebackers the Patriots have faced but still are the weak spot in the Bears’ defense (only Jonathan Bullard has a lower PFF grade among players with 100 or more snaps). 

How Smith and Trevathan play will be key in determining how quickly Brady is able to get the ball out (with passes to White), and how many times they get into third-and-less-than-five situations (with Michel running it). Both those factors will be critical for the Bears’ pass rush, which brings us to our next point.

2. Pressure Tom Brady without blitzing. Brady is a master of beating blitzes, completing 23 of 21 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and only one sack when blitzed, per PFF (that’s good for a 138.4 passer rating). When he’s under pressure, though, he has his lowest passer rating — which is still 87.2 — but the point here is that the Bears can’t afford to have to send blitzes to try to get pressure on Brady. The Bears were one of the best teams in the league at pressuring opposing quarterbacks without blitzing before the trip to Miami, and how healthy Khalil Mack really is will be a critical determining factor in those efforts. But when the Bears do earn their pass-rushing opportunities, as Akiem Hicks put it, they need to at least affect Brady and not let him comfortably sit back to pick apart their defense. 

3. Convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. This was a point Taylor Gabriel made this week about the state of the NFL in 2018: You can no longer afford to settle for three points or, worse, come away from a red zone possession with no points. Scoring is up league-wide, and the Patriots have scored 38, 38 and 43 points in their last three games. One of the biggest reasons the Bears lost that shootout in Miami was two turnovers from inside the five-yard line (Jordan Howard’s fumble, Mitch Trubisky’s interception). Stopping New England’s offense will be difficult, and the expectation should be for Sunday to be a high-scoring afternoon. If that’s the case, the Bears will have to get in the end zone every opportunity they get. The good news: New England’s defense is allowing a touchdown on 68 percent of their opponents’ possessions inside the red zone. 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Bears 27. The Bears’ defense sounded properly motivated after getting gouged by Brock Osweiler in Miami last weekend, but that only goes so far when one of the best quarterbacks of all time rolls into town. This winds up being a back-and-forth affair, but the guy with 54 game-winning drives in his regular season and playoff career makes it 55 late in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. A close loss to the Patriots wouldn’t dampen the positive vibes around the Bears, so long as they respond with wins against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the next two weeks.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.