Can Bears' Race to 1,000 Receiving Yards Be Three-Way Chase?

Five times in history teams have had 1,000-yard triplets who were wide receivers or tight ends and the Bears might find it difficult with their offensive plan.
Rome Odunze hauls in a throw during the early part of Chicago Bears minicamp.
Rome Odunze hauls in a throw during the early part of Chicago Bears minicamp. / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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 D.J. Moore said it first. Rome Odunze talked about it. D.J. Keenan Allen said it's on.

This would be the great 2024 race to 1,000 receiving yards for the Bears.

"Like I said, it's probably going to be a race to 1,000 now," Moore said. "I don't know who's going to get there first, but it's going to be a race."

Odunze might be a rookie but he's game.

"Absolutely, I think that's exactly what it is, it's a very competitive environment," Odunze said. "I think for me, for myself I think what I want in a wide receiver room is for everybody to think they're wide receiver 1. That's the mind set that I bring into the room and it's a friendly competition."

Allen, seemed to discount a rookie getting there first, and talked about a race between himself and Moore: "Yeah, I mean, obviously we both want to be successful. We both want the ball. We're both playmakers. So, it's gonna be a race."

The More the Merrier

Getting there first is fine but the Bears would like multiple receivers crossing that 1,000-yard finish line.

Would it be possible for all three to get there? Five times before in the NFL it's been done by teams with players other than running backs., but only four by three wide receivers. The first time was by Air Coryell and the San Diego Chargers but one of the receivers was tight end Kellen Winslow (1,290 yards). The other two were John Jefferson (1,340) and Charlie Joiner (1,132).

The 1995 Falcons did it with Eric Metcalf used as a receiver and also as a running back (1,189 yards), along with wide receiver Terance Metcalf (1,039) and wide receiver Bert Emanuel (1,039).

The other three teams to do it were with three wide receivers:

  • The 1989 Washington Redskins with Art Monk (1,186), Ricky Sanders (1,138) and Gary Clark (1,229).
  • The 2004 Indianapolis Colts with Marvin Harrison (1,113), Reggie Wayne (1,210) and Brandon Stokley (1,077).
  • The 2008 Arizona Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald (1,431), Anquan Boldin (1,038) and Steve Breaston (1,006).

Considering the talent level of Odunze, it would seem a possibility he could join Moore and Allen if Breaston, Stokely, Metcalf and Emanuel could do it as third wide receivers.

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The real issue isn't whether the three receivers are capable. It's whether Caleb Williams is capable of supplying them the football for such big yardage totals.

No one doubts Williams' arm but almost all the quarterbacks able to get their three wide receivers to 1,000 yards each were experienced. The only one close to being a rookie was the uncle of current Bears reserve quarterback Brett Rypien, Washington's Mark Rypien. In 1989, it was his second season when Monk, Sanders and Clark did it.

What it requires more than anything else is a 4,000-yard passer. Four of the five teams with 1,000-yard trios had 4,000-yard passers and as all Bears fans know, they don't exactly have a history of players throwing for this many yards.

There have been 130 4,000-yard passing seasons in NFL history and no Bears QB has done it.

Rypien (3,768 yards) was the only QB not to get 4,000 passing yards when three receivers had 1,000-yard seasons, and this was because he missed two games that Doug Williams started. Peyton Manning for the Colts in 2004 (4,557), Dan Fouts for the 1980 Chargers (4,715), Jeff George with the 1995 Falcons (4,143) and Kurt Warner with the 2008 Cardinals (4,583) were the QBs for those 1,000-yard trios.

It wouldn't be out of the question for Williams to hit this number with the receiver talent around him, but only five rookie QBs have done it: Cam Newton in 2011 (4,051), Andrew Luck (4,374) in 2012, Jameis Winston in 2015 (4,042), Justin Herbert in 2020 (4,336) and C.J. Stroud (4,108) with the Texans 00last season.

Balance Could Slow the Chase

The bottom line for the Bears is there are probably too many other potential weapons to take away from wide receivers in the passing attack so that even if Williams could do it, he probably wouldn't. And offensive coordinator Shane Waldron is one to stress balance.

With Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett as possible tight end targets, and a running game featuring D'Andre Swift, Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson, the Bears will likely disperse the ball more instead of focus on a wide receiver or two or three. They'll all get their chances.

A good example of what might happen occurred last year. While working in Seattle, Waldron had D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba together on the same receiver group with QB Geno Smith and three potential tight end targets and a running back rotation. Only Metcalf hit 1,000 yards receiving.

The key is whether they actually won games with three receivers at 1,000 yards, and the only team of the five with 1,000-yard triplets but not to make the playoffs was the 1989 Redskins. They went 10-6 but didn't make it to postseason.

So while it's likely one will cross the finish line to 1,000 yards and possibly two, someone is likely to be left out. What the Bears want is not to be left out of postseason.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven


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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN

BearDigest.com 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 Sports.com and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.