For so many recent Bears training camps, there was some drama to play out at the receiver positions, some position competition, something to resolve, usually something significant and pressing.
Not this year.
The training camp “issues,” such as they are, are not really issues at all. There is no "Devin Hester as No. 1 receiver." No "How will they use Brandon Manumaleuna?" Not even "Who will win the No. 3 slot?"
Drama around the tight end position dissipated when Martellus Bennett attended the mandatory minicamp and said he intended to be there for training camp. What the Bears are able to get from oft-injured Zach Miller or Dante Rosario are not front-burner concerns.
Brandon Marshall is gone, which by definition reduces the “drama” quotient by somewhere between half and two-thirds. The only drama now is performance-related, whether or how quickly rookie Kevin White reaches the level of excellence set by Marshall and expected of a No. 7-overall draft choice. White missed a number of offseason sessions, some for an unknown reason, but no indication of worrisome drama there.
“It'll happen, slowly but surely,” White said. “It'll all come together.”
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His bosses agree: “It’s always tough [for] rookie receivers,” said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “It’s completely different than anything you’ve done, and just getting used to the tempo and the speed of practice and being able to maintain it. Coach Fox said it best: ‘You’re getting ready for a 20-plus game season, where the most you’ve ever gone is 13.’ And so for [White] to get ready, it’s going to be a mental challenge, but I think he’s up for it.”
Alshon Jeffery is a known NFL quantity. The only “drama” there is whether the Bears go to him before season’s end with a new contract to pre-empt his reaching free agency. The assumption is that the early stages of talks have begun and that the Bears will not stint on keeping an impact receiver of Jeffery’s stature in place.
Replacing Marshall with White has obvious payroll effects, even with the money spent to add Eddie Royal this offseason.
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Royal effectively removes any of the drama around the No. 3 receiver spot. Marquess Wilson displayed promise in the early days of camp 2014 before suffering a broken clavicle. But the anticipation of Wilson’s return from injury seemed inflated; Wilson caught 17 passes over the final six games but averaged a very modest 8.2 yards per catch and scored just once, doing nothing to lead the new coaching regime to do anything but upgrade the No. 3 position with Royal, who is on a mild mission of his own.
“I’m trying to show that I’m more than a slot, that I can play outside and I can play everywhere,” Royal said. “As a receiver, you don’t want to be defined in just one role. You want to try to expand that, and that’s what I’m trying to do now.”
Wilson projects as depth at, ideally, more than one position. Josh Morgan caught 10 passes in spot duty last season (seven starts) but signed with the New Orleans Saints in May. Josh Bellamy returns but is in roster competition with rookie free agents Ify Umodu and Cameron Meredith, Rashad Lawrence and possibly Marc Mariani, whose chief value lies in return abilities.