July 25, 2021


Hub Arkush: The Bears have an unusual but exciting problem at wide receiver

Plenty of NFL bodies but only two sure things and not enough roster spots to go around

LAKE FOREST — The Chicago Bears have an interesting dilemma at wide receiver.

Allen Robinson remains a solid number one. Darnell Mooney already appears much improved. Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd give the group speed to burn. Dazz Newsome is an interesting sixth round pick to compete with Goodwin, Byrd and Tarik Cohen in the slot, and the impressive potential of Anthony Miller and Riley Ridley will be on display once again in training camp.

Most teams carry six wide receivers. But some get by with five, and occasionally we’ll see seven on a depth chart. It seems most likely the Bears will land on five or six with Cohen certain to make the running back depth chart and the competition is guaranteed to be fierce throughout the preseason.

It’s the problem every G.M. hopes for.

The issue for the Bears though looks to be after Robinson and Mooney they have a lot of guys who can play, but can any be consistent playmakers?

There’s no reason to worry about Robinson in spite of his contract quagmire.

“Right now, I’m just focusing on things I can control, coming back, being the best player I can be, trying to help the offense continue to improve,” Robinson said. “That’s the main focus for me right now, just controlling what I can.

“Helping myself to be better will help this team to be better and obviously will help us from an organizational standpoint be better than we have in the past couple of years.”

The slot position is fascinating though because it is where Cohen, Goodwin, Byrd and Miller will all be battling for snaps and Cohen and Miller can match Goodwin’s and Byrd’s rare speed with exceptional quickness of their own.

Money offers no real clarity here.

Goodwin is set to make about $1.21 million, Byrd $1.12 million and Miller $1.2 million but Goodwin only has $350,000 guaranteed and Byrd $387,500, while there is still $493,000 in dead cap money on Miller’s rookie deal making him the most expensive to cut.

On the face of it, it’s hard to envision all three on the final roster along with Cohen but Miller’s comfort level lining up outside as well makes it a definite possibility.

Wide receivers coach Mike Furrey is hopeful that Miller has finally figured out what it takes to play at the highest level but he’s also preaching competition.

“Anthony’s been in our meetings, he’s been doing a great job, we haven’t skipped a beat at all so you know he’s doing his job,” Furrey said. “He’s growing up, you know he’s maturing, he’s understanding all the things that we’ve talked about really for the last couple years.

“He’s been alert, he’s been attentive and he’s doing what we’re asking him to do so it’s going to be fun.

“I think when you do look at our room, all you guys, you already know with the additions of Marquise and Damiere and obviously Dazz, you know we’ve got some other guys that will be here.”

If all five – ARob, Mooney, Miller, Goodwin and Byrd - stick around it leaves possibly one spot for Newsome, Ridley and Javon Wims who is still here as well to battle it out.

Here are a few numbers to keep in mind as we wait for this to sort itself out.

Over his career, 79.3% of Goodwin’s 140 catches are for first downs and he’s averaged 16.6 yards per catch, 58.2% of Miller’s 134 catches were first downs and he’s averaged 11.7, and Byrd has 57.1% of 91 career receptions for first downs and a 12.0 average.

Goodwin is going to be a Bear, and having played just three seasons to Goodwin’s seven and Byrd’s five Miller is actually the most productive of the bunch.

It looks like that first five I mentioned should all stick but if not, contrary to what so many expected Byrd could be in greater jeopardy than Miller based on their ceilings and production if Miller is ready to focus.

As for the sixth spot it’s possible Newsome’s broken collarbone lands him on I.R. this year, but if not he probably is the front-runner among himself, Ridley, Wims and a handful of practice squad hopefuls.

Once it’s set it should be the most dangerous and deep group the Bears have had in a while.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media