Meredith catching on with Chicago Bears

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith (81) catches a 21-yard touchdown reception against the Washington Redskins during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith (81) catches a 21-yard touchdown reception against the Washington Redskins during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 12/30/2016 6:16 AM

When it comes to breakout seasons, no Chicago Bears player has done it better this year than wide receiver Cam Meredith.

The former Illinois State quarterback didn't even dress for the first two games this year.

 

But going into Sunday's season finale, Meredith leads the Bears with 62 receptions and 827 receiving yards. He's tied with tight end Zach Miller for the team lead with 4 receiving touchdowns.

Injuries to Miller and wide receivers Kevin White, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson, plus the four-game PED suspension of Alshon Jeffery, gave Meredith opportunities, and he seized them.

His numbers are all the more impressive considering he was a quarterback at St. Joseph High School in Westchester and for his first two years at ISU before converting. Undrafted in 2015, Meredith has exceeded even his own expectations.

"I didn't really foresee it immediately," he said of his rapid rise. "But I knew if I put the work in, put the hours in out there in the off-season, (got) the knowledge from the other guys, picked their brains, eventually I could become one of those great players like they are."

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The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Meredith flashed talent as a rookie last year with the Bears but in limited playing time had just 11 catches for 120 yards.

This year he had 11 catches (for 106 yards) in Week 6 alone. A week earlier he had 9 catches for 130 yards, and he has caught 9 passes in each of the past two games, accumulating 104 yards vs. Green Bay, then 135 against Washington.

Despite his humble beginning, Meredith set lofty goals, some of which he already has attained.

"I wanted to become a starter in the league," he said. "I got an opportunity to do that, so I can check that off the list. A thousand yards, I'm getting close there. There are little steps to take to being a great player in this league. I'm just trying to take one week at a time."

The 23-year-old has impressed coach John Fox with a work ethic and raw talent that all coaches admire, and as he has matured he has become more consistent.

"He flashed at us last year," Fox said. "(But) one of the issues with young players is consistency. I've seen him develop a lot more consistency this year. His hands have improved.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"C.J. (wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson) has done a good job with him. It's a tight group of guys. They push each other. There's competition there. I like his growth pattern and where he's going, and that will catapult him to next season as well."

Meredith is under contract for one more year at the bargain-basement price of $617,000 after making $527,000 this year.

With Jeffery eligible for free agency, White a perennial injury concern and Royal over-injured and overpaid, Meredith provides production and affordability.

He also has impressed offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains with his ability to learn the responsibilities of all three receiver positions. That allowed Meredith to play in the slot as well as outside, so he could fill in for whoever was hurt.

But Meredith's rapid ascension still took Loggains a bit by surprise.

"Cam showed enough last year that you're intrigued by it, Loggains said. "But (you think) 'Is he going to take the next step? Is he going to turn the corner? Is he going to become a consistent player and not a flash in the pan?'

"To me, where Cam has made the biggest jump, is he's become very consistent. He's become reliable, and the quarterbacks trust him."

• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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