GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 23: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears celebrates with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery #17 after a 11 yard touchdown reception against the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter of the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Chicago Bears report to training camp next week in Bourbonnais, and as we prepare for the team to arrive at Olivet Nazarene University, Grizzly Detail is here to bring you a breakdown of the various position battles that will be taking place when the teams hit the practice fields.
Today we will be focusing our attention on the wide receiver position.
Like several other positions on the Bears’ offense, the wide receiver spot is pretty much locked down in terms of the starters. Alshon Jeffery had a bigger season last year than anyone could have possibly imagined, leading the team in receiving yards with 1421 and catching 89 total passes. Brandon Marshall was no slouch himself, racking up an even 100 receptions for 1295 yards and 12 touchdowns to help pace the Bears’ potent passing attack.
With Jeffery’s emergence last season, it will be really difficult for teams to game plan against the Bears’ receivers. They can still load up double teams against Marshall, but Jeffery’s ability in the vertical game will make that a dangerous proposition, especially against undersized corners and safeties. Help over the top often came too late thanks to Jeffery’s speed, and his vertical ability makes it very tough to defend him.
The battle for the third wide receiver slot vacated by Earl Bennett is going to be one of the most interesting in camp. Domenik Hixon tore his ACL during offseason workouts, but there are still plenty of other options. Marquess Wilson is largely believed to have the inside track, but with only two receptions last season, he isn’t as clear cut a favorite as some would believe.
Josh Morgan is another player to potentially watch, as are Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Morgan had 20 catches for 214 yards for the Washington Redskins last season, and has had three seasons in his career in which he eclipsed the 40-reception plateau. Weems has largely been a special teams ace during his NFL career, but he did have 11 receptions in 2011 for the Atlanta Falcons, so he is capable of catching the ball. The 26-year old Williams doesn’t have any NFL catches, but he will still get a look at the spot.
What to Watch For:
Obviously the back-up battle is what to watch for, but it will also be interesting to see if there’s any hangover on the part of Jeffery after such a breakout season. With Marshall on the other side and a myriad of other weapons for defenses to have to game plan against, it’s unlikely we’ll see a big drop-off, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on.