How will the Bears fill a major void at receiver? There are some options in play.
(CBS) There’s little precedent to what Bears receiver Kevin White has endured on the field during his NFL career.
In a loss to the Falcons in Sunday’s season opener, White suffered what the Bears are calling a fractured scapula after making a reception for no gain in the fourth quarter. He pulled himself off the field, went to the injury tent on the sidelines, then left the field to the locker room.
With that, White’s third NFL season is likely over. White will be placed on injured reserve for the third time in as many seasons, and season-ending surgery is a possibility. He has played in five regular-season games in three seasons and walked off the field healthy for only three.
White’s rookie season was lost due to a stress fracture in his left shin suffered in the offseason. He was injured in the fourth game of 2016 after suffering fractured fibula in that same leg. But White returned determined to prove himself as a top receiver this season. Barring a major surprise in the diagnosis, he won’ t get that chance.
The Bears already lost Cam Meredith to a torn ACL in the third preseason game, and now they’ ve lost White, too. They’ re running out of men to play next-man-up at receiver. So, what’s next?
Markus Wheaton’s health will be closely evaluated this week as he recovers from a broken finger. He got closer to a potential return last week, though he was just catching Nerf footballs a week ago at this time before upgrading to regular footballs. In Wheaton, the Bears have their next top target alongside Kendall Wright, Deonte Thompson and a slew of tight ends who will be relied on more than ever.
In Josh Bellamy, the Bears have a special teams role player who hasn’ t proved sure with the hands. Tre McBride, signed off waivers, needs more time in practice.
Tanner Gentry, the undrafted free agent out of Wyoming who became a training camp fan favorite, was waived and signed to the practice squad after the team wanted to see him improve his route running. While Gentry showed he can go for a deep ball, the Bears want to see him become more crisp with cuts.
“Continue to work hard in practice and work hard on my route running, ” Gentry said last week. “Just continue to get better. When my name is called, I’ ll be ready.
“ (I hope to) just to be able to run a variety of different routes, be able to drop my weight at the top of routes and get in and out of breaks.”
The Bears will surely explore their options in free agency. There are intriguing players available such as Dorial Green-Beckham or Vincent Jackson who could at least provide a veteran presence on the outside and better Mike Glennon’s chances for this season. Victor Cruz likely won’ t get a call back after failing to earn a place with a weak receiving group in camp.
But anything the Bears do at receiver is a quick fix. Coach John Fox said after Sunday’s loss that he has “a very good team” this season, but it’s one with a major void to fill. Could general manager Ryan Pace get really aggressive and pursue a trade in the coming weeks? It depends on how invested he feels in this new season.
After losing White for another season, it’s hard to imagine anything from him after another long rehab. He and Meredith were set to be the Bears’ top targets, and now the Bears are desperate for solutions at receiver – for this season and beyond.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.