The most obvious change the Bears could make after a 1-3 September was playing Mitchell Trubisky instead of Mike Glennon, but that wasn’t the only performance-based swap available to this coaching staff. Tre McBride played 43 snaps on Monday against the Minnesota Vikings, while Josh Bellamy played only seven offensive snaps after averaging 36.75 in the Bears’ first four games.
And on Tuesday, Deonte Thompson was released and Tanner Gentry was promoted from the practice squad. With Markus Wheaton (groin) out for at least Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, Gentry should be in line for a bigger opportunity than he had in Week 2, when he received largely garbage time snaps in that blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Coach Fox always says this: He says, ’If it’s not broke, don’t mess with it.’ If it’s not going the right way, let’s try something else,’” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “We’re not ecstatic where we’re at right now in the passing game. I know it’s getting better and better each week. It’ll continue to get better as we built some continuity with Mitch and some of these new receivers.”
The Bears’ receivers need to better help Trubisky, and Gentry and McBride likely can’t be much worse than the rest of a group that’s combined for 45 receptions on 75 targets for 494 yards and two touchdowns (of that total, Kendall Wright has 18 receptions, 23 targets, 200 yards and one touchdown).
While Gentry and Trubisky showed a strong rapport during training camp, it’d be unfair to expect the undrafted rookie from Wyoming to go from being waived twice (and not picked up by another team) to being a go-to target for the rookie quarterback. Gentry's ball skills and instincts, though, are good assets for Trubisky to have at his disposal.
“I guess my mindset every day is just give them a reason to keep me around,” Gentry said. “Make a play, whether that’s a block, special teams, a big catch — whatever that is, do something positive so that when they see the film they can see that and basically give them a reason to yeah, keep me around, and that’s it.”
McBride flashed a bit on Monday night, with an 18-yard reception and what would’ve been a big-time 26-yard catch had Cody Whitehair’s holding penalty not called it back. Prior to the Vikings game, McBride played all of two snaps against the Buccaneers, which were his only offensive snaps since the end of the 2015 season.
“This game has its obstacles, but that’s what they pay us for,” McBride said. “They pay us to come in and adapt and to make plays happen when they call our name, no questions asked. So that’s what I’m trying to do and that’s what we’re all trying to do.”
Ideally, the Bears would’ve been able to play Gentry and/or McBride because they forced their way into the mix through continued competition from training camp into the regular season. But injuries to Cameron Meredith, Kevin White and now Wheaton (who only had one catch on nine targets) forced the Bears to get creative with their receiving corps.
Perhaps the Bears unearth a hidden gem in Gentry and/or McBride. Perhaps they don’t. But it’s certainly worth giving them both a shot at this point in the season.