LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The issue of who is throwing the passes has become secondary for the Chicago Bears to who is catching them.
When wide receiver Cameron Meredith suffered a season-ending torn left anterior cruciate ligament against Tennessee on Sunday, the Bears suddenly had a receiver problem only two weeks before the start of the season.
“You feel bad for Cam,” coach John Fox said. “He’s well-liked, a good teammate, obviously we’ll miss him.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him in his recovery, but somebody’s got to take that spot.”
Mike Glennon appears to have solidified the starting quarterback spot over Mitchell Trubisky for opening day against Atlanta after a strong effort in Sunday’s 19-7 preseason win over Tennessee.
So now it’s the receiver spot the Bears must solve with the loss of Meredith, last season’s receiving leader. Meredith stepped up last season when former Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery was plagued by injuries and a suspension, and he finished with 66 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns.
It means 2015 first-round draft pick Kevin White must become the main receiving threat after he missed most of his first two seasons with leg injuries.
“I feel like I’ve got to step it up a little more,” White said. “Everybody’s got to take their game to another level.”
White caught 19 passes for 187 yards last season before a fractured leg ended his season during the fourth game. To this point, he hasn’t been able to show the big-play ability he flashed at West Virginia before becoming the No. 7 pick of the draft.
“I’ve said all along he needs to continue to improve,” Fox said. “We saw improvement last week in Tennessee.
“I’ve seen that improvement because he’s been able to stay healthy and stack those practices and now games together.”
White said his knowledge of the Bears offense is good enough now so he can make an impact as a deep receiver or on underneath routes.
“I like to try to broaden my game in all aspects,” White said. “If the ball’s coming my way I try to make a play happen.”
White’s lack of an impact so far has made him a target for criticism after being drafted so high.
“I think he isn’t letting any of this get to him,” Bears wide receiver Victor Cruz said. “He’s going out there and putting his best foot forward. I’ve seen some of his best days here in the past couple weeks of practice.
“So he’s doing some good things and he’s understanding his role even more as these days go on.”
Cruz and fellow free agent acquisitions Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton appear next in line for consideration to play in the starting lineup at wide receiver in place of Meredith.
The Bears could turn to the waiver wire at this position for help when roster cuts are made league-wide this weekend following Thursday’s preseason finale with Cleveland.
Wright, a former Tennessee Titans receiver, has six preseason catches and has been playing ahead of Cruz through much of the preseason.
Cruz said he’s healthier than he’s been since suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2014.
“I still feel like the quickness is there,” Cruz said. “I still feel like the play-making ability is there.
“Now it’s just to continue to show that each and every time I’m on the field whether it will be practice or on game day.”
Wheaton, a former Steeler, came to the Bears with a shoulder issue. In training camp he had to undergo an appendectomy. Then he suffered a broken finger and is currently not practicing.
“We’ve got another game to evaluate,” Fox said. “As far as Markus goes, that will be the quicker we can get him back the better.
“It’s a broken, surgically repaired pinky and when he’s cleared he’ll be out there.”
Fox said Trubisky would start Thursday’s final preseason game with Cleveland. Reserves will play most of the game.
“It’s not easy to get live game reps as a quarterback in this league, it helps development,” Fox said. “He needs all those opportunities he can get, and no different Thursday night.”
When Trubisky leaves, Connor Shaw will take over at quarterback. Neither Glennon nor backup quarterback Mark Sanchez will play.
NOTES: Fox said guard Kyle Long remains a possibility to start the opening game even though he still is not practicing regularly after ankle surgery. … Linebacker Leonard Floyd returned to the practice field after suffering a foot injury in Sunday’s game. … Cornerback Prince Amukamara suffered an ankle injury against Tennessee and did not practice. He is day to day.
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