Royalty Is Unpredictable: Is Eddie Royal a Fit for the Chicago Bears?
Ah yes, everyone loves royalty.
Remember the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton back in 2011? The one that was hyped by basically every TV channel under the sun and such hard hitting journalistic outlets as People Magazine and US Weekly? Believe it or not, that wedding ceremony was viewed live by 72 million on YouTube and about 36.7 million on TV in just the United Kingdom alone.
E Entertainment Television is going to try and replicate that obsession with a new fake royal family on a show called “The Royals”. Call me a skeptic, but I’m not sure I can buy Elizabeth Hurley as the Queen.
Well, one Royal that thankfully has nothing to do with that series, is Eddie Royal. But before we get to talking about Mr. Royal, let’s recap where the Bears were just prior to his acquisition.
Marshall Marshall Marshall! It’s Always Marshall!
After Brandon Marshall was shipped off to New York to join the Jets for an almost laughable 5th round draft pick, people (and by people, I mean Bears fans and other rabid irrational folks — and it’s OK for me to say that because I’m one of those people) began to wonder if head coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace were the right guys for the job after all.
I mean, Marshall has meant a lot to the Bears over the years, and vice versa is also true. In fact, Marshall once, not too long ago, referred to his March 2012 trade from Miami to Chicago as being “life-saving and career-saving”. And Marshall and Cutler are, perhaps contrary to what people think based on what they see on the sidelines during games, the best of friends. In fact, Marshall once compared his relationship with Cutler to that of an old married couple. Marshall went on to have his best year ever in Chicago in 2012 with 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns. Sure, he had a down year in 2014, mostly due to injury, but you can imagine the surprise we all had when the Bears decided to break up the “old married couple” and go a different direction.
And many Bears fans and NFL pundits speculated as to who might be picked up to fill the void. Alshon Jeffery is absolutely solid, but there were questions as to whether Marquess Wilson would be the answer as a WR2, particularly after his less than stellar starts at the end of the 2014 regular season. And now we have part of the answer — Eddie Royal.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 12, 2015
We’re Getting the Band Back Together
Eddie Royal was selected by the Denver Broncos in the second round (42nd overall – interestingly, two spots before the Bears selected Matt Forte). And he went on to have his best year of career his rookie season playing with Jay Cutler in Denver. He hauled in 91 receptions for 980 yards and 5 touchdowns (only 13 less receptions than team leader Brandon Marshall). But after Cutler left, instead of trending up, Royal flatlined. Over the next 3 seasons with the Broncos, Royal had 1127 yards and 4 touchdowns TOTAL. Royal had a change of scenery in 2012 to San Diego, but didn’t do much his first season with the Chargers. Royal, however, seemed rejuvenated in 2013 and 2014, garnering 631 yards & 8 touchdowns in 2013 and 778 yards & 7 touchdowns in 2014.
Coming off this promising season, he’s now being reunited with Jay Cutler. Recall that Jay Cutler was once a Pro Bowler. I know it’s hard to imagine, but back in 2008, when Cutler was throwing to Royal and Marshall, he was considered one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. In fact, Cutler’s Pro Bowl was the only Pro Bowl I ever attended, and I was absolutely thrilled when I heard Cutler was coming to the Bears the following season. Of course, I never thought we would be sitting in 2015 trying to find a way to trade Cutler away.
But then John Fox pseudo-committed to Cutler (thank goodness my Cutler jersey is good for at least one more year) with this lukewarm statement:
#Bears coach John Fox says QB Jay Cutler is capable of improving because he possesses intelligence & willingness to work.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 11, 2015
Assuming that means Fox is trusting Cutler to start in 2015, it’s now important to put Cutler in the best position to succeed by providing some solid receiving options. I think Eddie Royal fits the bill.
Make Way for Royal-ty
Royal is more of a slot/possession receiver, and less of a deep threat like Marshall was. But that doesn’t mean Royal isn’t good at making plays and gaining yards. Just check out these ridiculous returns for touchdowns that he’s had against the Chargers (you can skip over the interview if you’d like – highlights start at the 42 second mark):
Plus, it’s clear that new offensive coordinator Adam Gase knows how to take advantage of speed in screen and short slant plays, as he really optimized Emmanuel Sanders in Denver last year with screens and slants. In conjunction with Cutler’s familiarity with Royal, these plays should provide a solid boost to the offense and an element of speed that seemed to be missing in 2014. If Royal can step into that position with the Bears, he should be a great weapon to help Cutler move the chains. In addition, as you can see above, Royal can also provide support on special teams for kick and punt returns averaging 10.6 yards per punt return and 24.1 yards per kick return throughout his career.
Perhaps most importantly, although the financial terms were not disclosed, Royal’s three year contract is unlikely to blow the bank. So it does allow the Bears to continue filling need positions (as I’ve discussed previously) around the defense. In addition, Royal is a veteran that can help guide a younger wide receiver, such as Wilson, or perhaps a receiver selected in the draft.
No matter how you look at it, this is a smart pick up by the Bears and a welcome addition to an offense that has potential to make a comeback in 2015. At least one fan (yours truly) is pretty excited about that.
And honestly, who doesn’t like adding a Royal to their team?