INDIANAPOLIS – The injury that will idle rookie wide receiver Kevin White for a yet-undetermined length of time created an unwelcome opportunity for Marquess Wilson. The situation, however, is more dire than encouraging, for Wilson and for the Bears.
White was drafted for a reason, to stretch the field with a dangerous long-range weapon that also would enhance the run game by forcing defenses to respect the Bears’ deep game. The Bears have made clear their intent to run the football but losing White, possibly for the season, creates a need bordering on the desperate.
Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal are the only receivers on the roster with more than 20 career receptions. And Jeffery averaged 13.3 yards per catch last season, Royal 12.5, with no reception longer than 47 yards. Jeffery had only one longer than 44.
Wilson arguably would have been under some roster pressure with a healthy White, if only because Wilson is a non-contributor on special teams. His return from a fractured clavicle suffered last training camp was much anticipated but he caught a modest 17 passes despite starting six games.
More concerning, he has averaged just 8.1 yards for his 19 career catches, hardly the deep threat that White was anticipated to be, and not yet what the Bears need.
Wilson left Washington State early, so perhaps he’ll have an NFL growth spurt.
“I think he's the youngest kid on the team still, and this is his going to be his third year. He's a mature 21 or 22-year-old whatever he is now,” said quarterback Jay Cutler.
“We just need him to take that next step and get some confidence. Getting hurt last year set him back a little bit. Once he gets out there, catches some balls and gets going some, he's going to be a threat.”
Similar sentiments were the order last year. Wilson was never close to being a threat.
With Jeffery out with a calf injury, Wilson did deliver some of the few impact passing plays managed by the Bears offense in the joint practices with the Indianapolis Colts. But Wilson has looked very good in practices before.
“I think he’s shown good improvement,” said Bears head coach John Fox. “He’s getting better, we’re leaning on him some. He’s a guy we saw a little bit on tape a year ago and felt pretty good about. He’s getting plenty of opportunities and I’m excited to see where he goes with it.”
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Wilson is under no illusions of the task at hand. It is beyond simply seeing it as an “opportunity.”
“I don’t really look at it like that,” Wilson said. “When my name’s called, I just go out there and play football. Just being able to be a playmaker and doing things right. And just, yeah, being a playmaker and being able to be trusted and known as a guy that could be able to make a play when the play comes his way.”