Bears

While Bears continue downward spiral, Cameron Meredith opening eyes in Chicago

While Bears continue downward spiral, Cameron Meredith opening eyes in Chicago

At this point, the Bears season needs to be taken for what it is: a developmental year.

Forget the grand illusion that this team could be in the crowded NFC playoff picture if not for a couple of bounces going their way the last two games.

After suffering their second consecutive loss, this time blowing a double-digit fourth-quarter lead to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars — a bottom feeder in arguably the worst division in the NFL — it would behoove the Bears to use the remaining 10 games to see which players on their roster could be potential building-blocks for 2017 and beyond.

One of those potential building-blocks is wide receiver Cameron Meredith.

Meredith has been thrust into a key role and tasked with playing a larger part in the Bears offense due to former No. 1 pick Kevin White going on IR with a broken leg earlier this month. White's departure has been Meredith's gain as he continues to produce at a high clip and deliver the type of production the Bears thought they would be getting out of White.

For the second straight game, Meredith led all Bears wideouts in receptions (11), yards (113) and targets (15). Pair that with his performance in a Week 5 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Meredith now has accrued an eye-opening 27 targets and hauled in 20 catches for 243 yards and a touchdowns in his last two games.

"Cam is a playmaker when he gets the ball and he's made some plays with it," Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer said.

To see Meredith continue to put up impressive stat lines has been a pleasant surprise in a season that's been mired by disappointment. And what's been even more stunning in Meredith's sudden rise is the fact that he's only been playing wide receiver for a few years

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!].

The 24-year-old starred as a quarterback at St. Joseph High School in Chicago's western suburbs and after not getting any FBS-level offers, enrolled at Illinois State where he served as Redbirds' backup quarterback in 2011 and 2012 before transitioning to wide receiver in 2013.

After going undrafted and receiving an invite to minicamp in 2015, Meredith ultimately played his way onto the Bears' final 53-man roster. This past preseason, Meredith had to do it all over again and fight for his roster spot in a crowded wide receiver group.

The Bears decision to keep him around could pay major dividends as the front office builds for the future.

"I think it's just getting the reps, honestly," Meredith said. "The more I'm out there, the more confidence I'm getting in my hands and routes and stuff like that, and also in my preparation during the week. I'm just going to continue to work on that and continue to get better and grow and come like that every week."

Under Center Podcast: Should Bears have added Cam Newton over Nick Foles?

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Should Bears have added Cam Newton over Nick Foles?

JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis and Adam Hoge debate and discuss which quarterback GM Ryan Pace should have gone after this offseason.

Later, they discuss hurdles the NFL still has to go through in order to start the season, and also dive into Jay Cutler's chicken mystery.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

(1:51) - Did the Bears make the right decision by going after Nick Foles?

(7:47) - Is Cam Newton's upside bigger than Foles'?

(18:00) - What can the NFL learn from MLB's return-to-play plan?

(30:23) - NFL will shorten the preseason to two games

(37:00) - Bears coverage will change this year

(45:13) - Jay Cutler's missing chickens

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

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Robert Quinn says he wants to be 'icing on the cake' for Bears defense

Robert Quinn says he wants to be 'icing on the cake' for Bears defense

The failures of former Bears first-round pick Leonard Floyd have been well documented. His inability to develop into the kind of pass rusher GM Ryan Pace was expecting when he selected him with the ninth overall pick in 2016 forced Chicago to make a massive investment in the position this offseason when they signed Robert Quinn to a five-year, $70 million deal.

The Bears' decision to move on from Floyd was the result of his absolute failure to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks. He managed just 18.5 sacks in four seasons in Chicago, including a career-low three in 2019. 

Quinn represents a massive upgrade opposite Khalil Mack, and he told Terrell Owens on the 'Getcha Popcorn Ready' podcast that he wants to be the missing piece on what could be a championship-caliber defense.

"They already have the talent there," Quinn said of the Bears defense. "I'm just trying to bring the icing on the cake. I believe in my talents. I know what I bring to the table and again I know what they had there already. 

"I think with that formula, we can do something special this year."

Quinn had a bounce-back season in 2019 with the Cowboys when he registered 11.5 sacks. It was his first season with more than 10 sacks since 2014, but it wasn't a fluke. Quinn's battled injuries over the last few years (which is obviously a concern moving forward), but when healthy, he's one of the game's top sack artists.

Quinn had a remarkable 19 sacks in 2013 with the Rams.

Quinn's presence off the edge will be a boon for Mack, who's coming off his worst season since his rookie year. His 8.5 sacks broke his streak of four-straight seasons with 10.5 sacks or more. Mack's down season was proof that he isn't Superman, although he sometimes plays like it, and that he needs a complementary edge rusher who can take some focus of pass protection away from him. Quinn will be that guy.

The only thing that will prevent Quinn from making a massive impact with the Bears is his health. He's played a full 16 games just once in the last five years; he appeared in 14 games in 2019.