Chicago Bears: It’s Match Point, Marquess Wilson
Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson.
Jeffery has had back to back 1,100 yard plus seasons for the Bears totaling 17 touchdowns and leading the Bears in receiving in both 2013 and 2014.
White is a highly touted 2015 first round draft pick that finished his final season at West Virginia with 109 receptions for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns, adding numerous All-American mentions and was a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, the annual award for the most outstanding receiver in college football.
Royal is a reliable veteran receiver in his eighth season that re-established himself in San Diego last year amassing 778 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Wilson is the third year receiver that has had only 19 receptions in 17 games over the last two years, spending the majority of his second year on the sidelines with a broke collarbone.
Clearly, even if you’ve never watched Sesame Street before, one of these things don’t belong with the other. And to steal from the tennis world, match point is coming and it’s Wilson’s serve.
Many NFL pundits believed that Wilson would have a breakout 2014 season, but a training camp injury, where he broke his clavicle while extending to snag a deep ball, derailed this prediction.
Due to Brandon Marshall’s late season injury, the hype train was in full effect when Wilson returned from the IR to play opposite Jeffery. Jay Cutler likes throwing the ball downfield to tall receivers (with mixed results), and at 6-foot-4-inches, Wilson certainly had that. Wilson ended up playing the final seven games of the 2014 regular season, but unfortunately, perhaps due in part to Cutler’s downward slide, only caught 17 passes for 140 yards and a single touchdown.
Since Wilson was a Phil Emery seventh-round pick, new management has nothing invested in keeping Wilson involved. And although team and public expectations have been lowered, that’s hardly a safe place to be for the third year reciever.
But let’s not forget that even with the late round pick, Wilson was a difference maker at Washington State. In his three years there, he put 3207 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns in 33 games. In fact, he averaged a whopping 17.0 yards per reception in college, actually leading the Pac-10 in 2010 with 18.3 yards per reception. Of course, the reason why Wilson only played 33 games in 3 years is because he left Washington State after bizarrely accusing head coach Mike Leach and staff of abuse, which Wilson later recanted. Red flags were there, but so was the potential.
With all the offseason activity at receiver, including signing Eddie Royal and drafting Kevin White, Wilson appeared to fall down the Bears’ WR depth chart. But recent reports indicate that Wilson is receiving opportunities at OTAs. And new Bears head coach John Fox has definitely taken note:
“It was probably a frustrating start to his career, but he caught our eye as a guy that we were impressed with on the tape, albeit limited tape and I’ve liked what I’ve seen during these first six practice opportunities.”
Whether this continues or not is anyone’s guess. Although playing as a WR3 in OTAs, he’s more likely in line for WR4 duties assuming things move along as expected for Kevin White. I suspect a few preseason games will be in order to see if Wilson can demonstrate some chemistry with Cutler. If Wilson can become more consistent and come close to his yards per reception average in college, he has a shot at becoming a viable receiving target as he was predicted to be in 2014.
Unfortunately, new offensive coordinator Adam Gase didn’t show much love for his WR3 in Denver. In fact, he favored using his TE or RB as a third option more often than not. Doesn’t mean that Wilson can’t be a reliable contributor, but it will certainly be an uphill battle into the regular season.
Bottom line, though, is that Bears fans shouldn’t forget about him. If Cutler gets back to form, there may be plenty of targets to go around in the revamped Gase offense. And Wilson can be a big part of that.
Your serve, Mr. Wilson.