When he went from St. Joseph’s High School in Westchester to Illinois State, Cameron Meredith went as a quarterback, and he played there sparingly through his sophomore year.
Then he switched to wide receiver as a junior and played well enough to eventually make the Bears as an undrafted free agent. But he never entirely stopped thinking like a quarterback.
“A little bit. It’s started to kind of fade away,” said Meredith, whose 40 snaps over the past two games included 26 in the win over Detroit when Kevin White suffered a potentially season-ending broken leg. “It helps a little bit but it’s a little different on the other side of the fence. You’ve definitely got to get on the same page as the quarterback and those things kind of take care of themselves.”
Meredith played in 11 games last season, with zero starts and a total of 134 snaps. Now he confronts coaches with a decision.
Eddie Royal has regained explosiveness after an injury-marred 2015, but Royal did not withstand the rigors and assaults of starting and was himself lost for a combined seven games because of an ankle injury, a knee injury and illness. Royal has played the fewest snaps of the Bears’ top three wideouts prior to White’s injury, and inserting him into the starting lineup, in addition to his nickel-package responsibilities, could break the smallish Royal.
Additionally, Meredith as a backup spent most of his training camp and preseason working with quarterback Brian Hoyer, now the presumptive starter.
“I’ve been working with Brian for a while now because I was working with the ‘2’s’ for a little bit,” Meredith said. “I think it’s different for everybody, but Brian has definitely stepped up and made a lot of big plays and we’re getting a lot more comfortable with his ball and his release and stuff like that. It’s good to get on the same page with him early and going forward.”
Significantly, Meredith has indeed appeared to be on a same page with Hoyer. The quarterback targeted him as many times – five – in the Detroit game as he did Alshon Jeffery, and that in less than half the number of snaps that Jeffery played. And “targets” in part reflect a quarterback’s confidence in a receiver.
Meredith caught all three throws to him on a critical drive for a field goal midway through the second half. That field goal was the winning margin.
“I’ve been impressed with Cam,” Hoyer said. “I think skill-wise he’s big, he’s fast. I think you have seen that the last two weeks — the one in Dallas where he went up and snatched it and even this past week, he had a good catch on one of the rollouts where he went up and grabbed it.
“His hands are impressive for being a guy who hasn’t really played receiver that long, I know he’s a former quarterback. He’s going to get his opportunity to step up and I think he’s made strides to be ready for that opportunity.”