LAKE FOREST – For all of our focus on the Chicago Bears running game, or lack thereof, the primary reason they ranked 29th in the NFL in 2019 in total offense is they were also just 25th throwing the football and dead last in the league – 32nd – in average gain per pass.
Haters are quick to lay the blame for that at the feet of Mitch Trubisky and how many times have you heard by now that the Bears had the least productive tight ends in the league last season?
But why does it seem no one is questioning whether the Bears are good enough at wide receiver?
Allen Robinson is a legit No. 1, Pro Bowl caliber wide receiver as well as true leader and important voice in the lockerroom and he won’t turn 27 until August.
Anthony Miller has flashed the creds to be a solid No. 2 but inconsistency and injuries have kept him from establishing that role, and after those two the Bears have no sure things.
Riley Ridley earned a jersey for just five games as a rookie and had just six catches for 69 yards, Javon Wims appeared to be going backwards last season and this year’s fifth round pick, Darnell Mooney is intriguing but still just a fifth rounder.
Veterans Cordarrelle Patterson and Ted Ginn Jr. will be key cogs in the Bears offense and special teams as special weapons, but neither is an every down receiver.
So what are the Bears thinking and what should they do?
There isn’t a ton of talent on the street right now. Demaryius Thomas, Paul Richardson, Jordan Matthews, Chris Hogan and former Bear Taylor Gabriel are out there, and there are reports that Josh Gordon has applied to the league for reinstatement again.
Before we go too deep here we should add that while Tarik Cohen will also never be a true wideout, he is another very special talent that will line up at the position and free agent Jimmy Graham is really another receiver rather than a tight end and at 6-foot-7, 265 pounds a true matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
And wide receivers coach Mike Furrey likes what he sees behind Robinson and Miller in his receivers' room, starting with Ridley.
“The one thing I’m really excited about right now, and I’ll be honest with all of you, I think the biggest growth we’re going to see with anybody in our room is going to be Riley Ridley," Furrey said.
“His preparation right now, his attitude, his desire, the passion he has to become successful in this game, he loves the process.
“I believe he’s going to make some noise on our roster.”
While Mooney is obviously an unknown Furrey sees a lot he likes there too.
“It’s hard to coach speed, it’s hard to coach agility. Those things, you either have them or you don’t. It’s hard to really just turn somebody into a Usain Bolt," Furrey said. “I think Darnell, the agility, the explosiveness, he has very natural hands and so I think those are three pretty good things that we’ll be able to build on.”
Furrey acknowledges Ginn Jr. is here to play a supporting role.
“I think when you add a guy like a Ted Ginn into your room, that's obviously one of the fastest players in this league, he's been a teammate, he hasn't been the No. 1 on anybody's team because he's always been the No. 2 to somebody that's probably been one of the best wide receivers in the league," Furrey said.
Beyond all that the only guy out there you can strongly project better than what they have is Gordon, and he comes with a bucket full of issues.
The mercurial 29-year old is now six full seasons removed from his 2013 All Pro campaign, missed most of the 2014 season and all of ’15 and ’16 and has played just 33 games over the past six seasons.
Add in Gordon’s seven different suspensions for either illegal substances or performance enhancing drugs and as much as I would absolutely love to see the young man turn his life around, the Bears might as well buy a lottery ticket if they hope to upgrade the receiver position.
It does look like the Bears best bet right now at receiver is to go with what they have, and hope the sum of those parts is a lot more than it’s been in recent seasons.