Bears' Work at Receiver Earns a Nod for Overall Improvement

Analysis: The full Bears receiver group looks formidble to one league analyst, and if it works the way they expect, it's only going to get better.
With DJ Moore, Keenan Allen and No. 9 overall pick Rome Odunze, the Bears have a trio difficult to match at wideout.
With DJ Moore, Keenan Allen and No. 9 overall pick Rome Odunze, the Bears have a trio difficult to match at wideout. / Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
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The true scope of what Bears GM Ryan Poles has done at wide receiver for this season is better understood looking around at other teams.

The Minnesota Vikings have the best receiver in the NFL in Justin Jefferson, a budding young receiver in Jordan Addison, but according to Tony Liebert with Fan Nation's Inside the Vikings, they are considering either Brandon Powell or Jalen Nailor for the third receiver. Powell has 76 catches in five seasons and was undrafted. Nailor is a sixth-round rookie.

The Lions are fortunate to have Amon-Ra St. Brown but they can't be sure about Jameson Williams as a No. 2 with his injury history and the little he has proven by making 25 catches in two years. Beyond that Kalif Raymond has been a dependable special teams player and they no longer have the receiver who hurt the Bears so often in key moments, Josh Reynolds. Now they have Donovan Peoples-Jones, who has had one good year, two bad years and one mediocre year.

The Packers have tons of receiver potential but saying they have three proven veteran receivers requires more imagination than even the most devout Packers fan has, and most of those Cheeseheads can imagine plenty.

Romeo Doubs looks promising, hasn't been over 60 catches and was a fourth-rounder. Christian Watson has 69 catches in two years and I think he just pulled another hamstring. Jayden Reed is off to a good start with 64 catches and 793 yards but again inexperienced. Dontayvion Wicks' 39 catches is more than you should get from a rookie fifth-rounder and they might have something here. Then again, like with all of their receivers, they might not.

The Bears, however, are proven at two receiver positions with receivers ranked in the top 22 by Pro Football Focus, in Keenan Allen and DJ Moore. Their third is the ninth pick of the draft, Rome Odunze, and he gives them their potential as the third-best receiver taken this year and not a Day 3 pick or undrafted free agent. No one can say this and it's the reason PFF has the Bears receiver corps ranked No. 4 overall in an analysis this week, one year after the Bears were at or near the bottom for two years.

Unlike some of the other rankings that have come out, this PFF article from Trevor Sikkema rates full receiver groups and not just the wide receivers.

When PFF did its wide receiver assessments earlier they had the Bears as the only team with three wide receivers in the top 32. Actually, they had three in the top 29.

But this ranking takes into account tight ends and running backs as pass catchers and they don't fall far from the top because of the players they have there, either.  With veteran, productive tight ends Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett and receiving as one of running back D'Andre Swift's strengths, they're behind only the 49ers, Dolphins and Eagles in terms of targets.

"Rookie quarterback Caleb Williams will have a plethora of options in 2024," Sikkema concludes.

It might be only for one year because of the contract situation with Allen, but the Bears are in an unusual position atop the division's receiver corps and also near the top of the NFC.

The problem with receivers is they're only going to be as good as the quarterback who gets them the ball, and counting on rookie is never easy—even if they're the wunderkind top pick of the draft.




Two unmentioned factors could wind up making them even better than they are on paper.

For one, they'll practice daily against one of the best secondaries in the NFL. They tied for No. 1 in interceptions last year.

"Definitely, I think it's you know a learning curve going against one of he best defenses in the league," Odunze said. "You know those guys are assignment sound and they know exactly where they need to be when they need to be there.

"So going against them is just sharpening my skills and I feel tremendously blessed to be able to do that."

It's going to benefit all of them and not just Oduzne.

The rookie is going to be the beneficiary of the other factor. He's already learning on a daily basis what it takes to be an effective veteran NFL receiver from both Moore and Allen.

"I think it's not even measurable what they're able to, you know, the impact they can make on my career," Odunze said. "Just being in the room with them for shoot, I'm losing track of days here, you know four weeks, I've already learned so much so to be in a room with them throughout a whole season, learning from them in training camp."

It's why getting Williams up to the proper level means so much come training camp.

No one wants to waste an opportunity with so many possible ways to score.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.