The Chicago Bears' first appearance in Soldier Field of 2013 made it clear that they're going to need young wide receivers such as Joe Anderson and Marquess Wilson to be ready to compete in 2013.
During the Bears' "Family Fest" practice at Soldier Field, both Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffery left practice. The Chicago Sun-Times reported Bennett left for a "possible" concussion and Jeffery left with a "tight hamstring."
Both moves may have been for precautionary measures, but neither player has given much reason to believe they can stay on the field.
The two played just six games together in 2012, as both suffered a couple different injuries. When they both played, the Bears scored 22.5 points per game. That number isn't particularly impressive, but it's lowered by the team's 32-7 loss to San Francisco with Jay Cutler on the sidelines. Outside of that disaster, they scored 25.6 points per game with both receivers on the field.
Bennett missed two games early last season due to a hand injury and two more with a concussion. When he's been on the field, Bennett has been a productive player for the Bears. As I broke down in April, Bennett's per-snap production has been similar to that of Minnesota receiver Greg Jennings, but he hasn't been able to stay on the field. He missed five games in 2011 and two more in 2010.
Concussions are serious injuries and something that should be treated as such. If Bennett has his second concussion in less than 10 months, both he and the Bears should be worried.
During his rookie season for the Bears, he missed six games and parts of two others. He also missed the Bears' final minicamp with a hamstring injury. The fact that he was pulled from practice with more hamstring issue is certainly a cause for concern.
Perhaps it's nothing and Jeffery's injuries are just a fluke.
Maybe Bennett can find a way to stay on the field for 16 games for the first time since 2009.
The Bears better be prepared if they can't.
Chicago didn't invest very much in the position during the offseason. They didn't sign a significant free-agent wide receiver, and seventh-rounder Marquess Wilson was their highest draft pick at the position.
Joe Anderson was with the team last year as an undrafted rookie. He only saw special teams action at the end of the season, but that could change this year if Jeffery and Bennett struggle with injuries again.
Anderson has had a good camp so far and appears to be an ascending player. He seems to have a lock on the job as the Bears' fourth receiver, and the primary backup to both Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. However, it remains to be seen if he can play in the slot.
If he's unable to play the slot, the Bears could put Marshall there more in their three wide receiver sets. As I wrote in April, that's something they should do more anyway to create mismatches.
Wilson is an interesting option for the slot. At 6'3" and 194 pounds, the 20-year-old is taller and more slender than the stereotypical slot receiver. He only did seven repetitions of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine, so it seems he'll have trouble beating press coverage on the outside.
As CBS Chicago's Dan Durkin noted, Wilson excelled after the catch while at Washington State. He posted the second-best time in the three-cone drill at the NFL Combine, that kind of agility could be useful in the slot.
Wilson has shown that ability in camp so far. CBS Chicago's Adam Hoge said that Wilson "doesn't look like a seventh rounder" and that he has "caught the eye of head coach Marc Trestman."
It's undeniable that with Anderson and Wilson, the Bears have two receivers with a lot of potential. They both seem like they'll be playmakers in the future, but the Bears may need them sooner than later.
In an ideal world, both Bennett and Jeffery will stay healthy for the entire season. However, recent history gives us little hope that will actually happen. If the Bears' offense is going to reach the level many are expecting, they'll probably need Anderson and Wilson to be ready to contribute.
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