BOURBONNAIS -- On a day when five-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall had a bad case of "the drops" and fellow Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery sat out with a sore foot, the continuing development of 2013 seventh-round pick Marquess Wilson was worth noting.
The Bears knew Wilson was a bit of a project when they selected him. He was just 20 and had played less than three seasons at Washington State.
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But they also knew he already had displayed production and potential. Without the benefit of a redshirt year, Wilson posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in the Pac-12.
Walking off the team in his junior season after a falling out with coach Mike Leach caused Wilson's draft stock to plummet. But after catching just 2 passes for 13 yards as a rookie, the 6-foot-4, 184-pound Wilson appears ready to emerge as a viable alternative in one of the NFL's top passing offenses.
In terms of stature, Wilson blends right in with the 6-4 Marshall and the 6-3 Jeffery. And his performance on the field is getting closer to that of the Bears' twin towers, who accounted for 2,716 yards, 189 catches and 19 touchdowns last season.
"I certainly know when the ball comes his way, Jay Cutler and the rest of the team trust that he's going to catch the football," offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said.
Building that trust with the quarterback is imperative for any pass catcher who wants to see the ball on a regular basis, and Wilson says it's a pretty simple formula.
"Shoot, every time he throws it to you, you better catch it," he said of Cutler. "That's how you're going to gain the trust. Just get open and then pray that he'll throw it to you. If you show him you can get open, he'll throw it to you."
Wilson clearly knows what to do with the ball once it comes his way. He averaged 17.0 yards per catch at Washington State and, through the Bears' off-season program and four training-camp practices, he has impressed Cutler with his progress.
"He's doing a great job," Cutler said. "We're asking him to do a lot. With some guys going down periodically, he's got to know a lot of positions.
"He's done a really good job of getting in shape. He knows the plays; he knows where to line up. It's just working against press (coverage), going against T.J. (Tim Jennings) and Peanut (Charles Tillman), and even the young kid, Kyle Fuller, is doing a great job against him.
"Just getting the reps and getting the experience is where he's got to improve."
Being mentored as a rookie by Marshall and Jeffery, watching their success and then training with them in South Florida in the off-season has provided Wilson with a blueprint for success.
"It's helped a lot," he said. "I got to watch Brandon and Alshon just do what they do best and dominate on the field. Then, training with the guys this year, it made me grow as a football player and a person."
The encouraging words from teammates and coaches are nice, too, but Wilson says he can't afford to be distracted by that.
"You can't let the words get to you, and you can't worry about what other people say," he said. "I can say 'Thank you,' but I still have to be myself and do what I do and play football. You just have to continue to play your game."
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