How Bears plan to solve problems at wide receiver

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Chicago Bears and player Markus Wheaton invade the George Gattas Memorial Stadium football field at Prospect High School for a rare practice in front of thousands of their fans.

    The Chicago Bears and player Markus Wheaton invade the George Gattas Memorial Stadium football field at Prospect High School for a rare practice in front of thousands of their fans. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/15/2017 6:17 AM

If there's a silver lining for the Chicago Bears in the aftermath of Kevin White's potentially season-ending shoulder injury, it's that they're replacing a player who had 2 catches for 6 yards in Week 1.

White has 21 career receptions for 193 yards, a 9.2-yard average and zero touchdowns in five games.

 

The argument could be made that if Markus Wheaton (fractured pinkie) can make his Bears debut vs. the Bucs in Tampa on Sunday the offense could be in better shape at wide receiver than it was in Week 1.

Wheaton has been back at practice since last Thursday, but he remains limited. Factoring in his appendectomy early in training camp, the five-year veteran has had precious little time to work with quarterback Mike Glennon.

Wheaton is an experienced receiver with stretch-the-field speed, and he averaged 17.0 yards on 44 catches in 2015 before missing 14 games last season with a shoulder injury. The question is, how quickly can he get in sync with Glennon?

"Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get a ton of work with him," Glennon said. "That's going to be another guy (we need) to get back into it."

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Glennon spent most of his time in training camp and the preseason throwing to White and Cam Meredith (knee), who also is on injured reserve.

"Every time we were throwing routes on air, I was throwing to Kevin and Cam," Glennon said. "Unfortunately, those guys aren't here."

Last year Meredith emerged as the Bears' go-to wide receiver only because Alshon Jeffery sat out a four-game PED suspension and Eddie Royal spent most of the season injured.

A similar opportunity exists now.

"Guys like Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson and Kendall Wright and now Tre McBride are just going to have to step up, and we'll have to develop that chemistry as fast as we can," Glennon said. "There's really no other choice."

Wright had 3 catches for 34 yards in the season-opening loss to Atlanta. Bellamy, who had 3 catches for 27 yards, was limited at Thursday's practice by a minor ankle injury. Thompson caught 1 pass for 15 yards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

McBride has been with the team less than two weeks, and he played in only nine games in his first two NFL seasons, mostly as a special-teamer. He has just 2 career receptions.

Undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry was promoted this week from the practice squad, and he has the advantage of having been in the system since the spring.

In their current predicament, the Bears need contributions from everyone else to take up the slack left by the loss of Meredith and White, who were penciled in as the No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts.

"Next man up," offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. "That's all we really can do. When Kevin went down (last week), we threw 25 straight passes in those two two-minute drills to get us down there, and those guys responded."

Tight end Zach Miller, an afterthought most of the game, had 3 catches for 31 yards in the final 12 minutes, including back-to-back 12- and 11-yard receptions that got the Bears down to the Falcons' 5-yard line with 21 seconds remaining.

The Bears' other starting tight end vs. Atlanta, Dion Sims, had 2 catches for 31 yards, and rookie running back Tarik Cohen caught 8 passes for 47 yards.

"There's no one guy," Loggains said. "There's no Kevin White; there's no Cam Meredith. Those other guys have to step up. We're counting on them. I think they can, and they're going to have to for us this week.

"It'll be by committee."

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

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