It’s no secret that the Bears have had an abysmal history of drafting receivers. Likewise, their history of developing pass-catchers has somehow been even worse.
No other franchise has placed greater emphasis on the defensive side of the ball, which is arguably most evident when analyzing the team’s abysmal history at the receiver position.

Their all-time leading pass-catcher is Johnny Morris, whose career began when Dwight D. Eisenhower was the US President. During his 10-year career, he had just over 5,000 yards through the air.

Their second-leading pass-catcher, Harlon Hill, also began his career in the early stages of the Eisenhower administration.

Two running backs, Walter Payton and Matt Forte, are also firmly situated near the top of the rankings, sitting fourth and seventh, respectively. It’s an embarrassing list, to say the least. However, they may have finally found a regime that understands the importance of developing an offense fit for the 21st century.

The Bears sent shockwaves through the NFL when they traded a fourth-round selection for six-time Pro Bowler Keenan Allen on the second day of free agency. However, they were not done adding proven pass-catchers, as they signed tight end Gerald Everett, who has played under coordinator Shane Waldron in both Seattle and Los Angeles, to a multi-year deal the following day. The final piece to the puzzle came on the first night of the NFL draft, as they followed up the Caleb Williams selection by adding one of the draft’s top receivers, Rome Odunze, with the ninth pick.

The Bears had a solid offensive foundation even before the massive infusion of talent mentioned above. Wide receiver D.J. Moore and tight end Cole Kmet, who are both coming off career years, are near the top of the league at their respective positions. However, they needed to fortify the supporting cast to make life easier for Williams, and they clearly got that memo. The trio of Moore, Allen, and Odunze is arguably just as imposing (if not more so) as any three-receiver set in the league. The latter two have earned the recognition of being the alpha pass-catcher for their respective teams throughout their career, and Odunze has more than enough potential to reach that status relatively quickly.

They may have entered uncharted territory with the potential of their receiver room, but they followed a similar blueprint in the past. The Bears were desperate to give second-year signal-caller Mitch Trubisky more help in the 2018 offseason. They did just that by adding receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and tight end Trey Burton in free agency and drafting Anthony Miller, who had drawn pre-draft Antonio Brown comparisons (back when that was still a good thing), in the second round.

The 2018 Chicago Bears are more remembered for their defensive performance. However, the offense, featuring the additions mentioned above, also produced one of the team’s most prolific passing seasons, with just under 3,750 total passing yards and 28 passing touchdowns. Nobody eclipsed the 800-yard mark through the air, but they had a well-rounded attack that spread the ball around the group. When the dust settled, three players finished with over 680 yards, and two others had over 420 yards.

Chicago’s 2018 roster may have featured the most well-rounded group of offensive playmakers, but when it comes to sheer star power, the group pales in comparison to the 2013 squad. Brandon Marshall, who was coming off the best season of his career in his first year in Chicago, and Alshon Jeffery quickly established themselves as one of the league’s most potent duos. The duo combined for over 2700 yards through the air and 19 touchdowns. Free agent acquisition Martellus Bennett also developed into one of the NFL’s best weapons at tight end, and he was an elite third option in a potent passing attack that finished fifth in the league in passing (4281 total yards between Jay Cutler and Josh McCown).

While the Bears may have had a wealth of talent in the receiving room in the early-to-mid 2010s, that period, unfortunately, coincided with a complete overhaul on the defensive side of the ball, which resulted in a net loss for Chicago in the win/loss column.

The elite offensive nucleus mentioned above dissolved seemingly as quickly as it was assembled, and its time in Chicago was marred by a slew of off-the-field distractions.

Longevity has arguably been the most glaring issue with Chicago pass-catchers. Only four receivers in franchise history have eclipsed the 1000-yard mark in back-to-back seasons. Teammates Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery achieved the feat during the period mentioned above. The other two players, Curtis Conway and Marty Booker, were actually teammates at one point as well. They played together for one season in 1999, Conway’s last season in the Windy City and Booker’s first.

Interestingly, neither Conway nor Booker led Chicago in receiving in ’99, as that honor belonged to second-year man Marcus Robinson, who finished the year with 1400 yards. Even wilder? Fourth-year receiver Bobby Engram finished second on the team in receiving, also nearly eclipsing the century mark. The Bears receiving corps that year was DEEP and TALENTED. Want to know what’s not surprising? The Bears still wound up in the cellar of the then-NFC Central division with a 6-10 record. Some things never seem to change.

Chicago has fielded a solid group of pass-catchers on a few different occasions. Nevertheless, they historically always fell well below expectations, and their all-time list has suffered mightily as a result. With that said, the current receiver room has the potential to outperform any previous group by a wide margin. Allen has been one of the most consistent receivers of this generation and has shown no signs of slowing down. Moore proved last season that he can thrive as an alpha number-one receiver and do-it-all playmaker. Likewise, Odunze combines some of the best qualities possessed by both of them, and those skills saw him become one of college football’s most dangerous weapons last season. The comparison becomes downright unfair if you add Kmet’s continued development and Everett’s consistency into the equation.

The Bears suddenly have a lot of mouths to feed, and an extremely talented quarterback is eager to sling them the rock. They should be ready to hit the ground running as soon as the coaching staff is willing to take the training wheels off of Williams.
If he has a relatively quick build-up period, it becomes difficult to envision a scenario where the wealth of offensive talent doesn’t pay immediate dividends.

PHOTO: Chicago Bears

Leave Your Thoughts!

Check Also

PREVIEW: Bears 2024 Quarterback Room

The quarterback is undoubtedly the most important position in football. They are the team&…