New Bears Receivers Add Multiple Dimensions

The trade of Anthony Miller reflected both the ability of recent roster additions to do more than the Bears expected and to let the team do more with them.
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The trade of Anthony Miller opened up a starting slot receiver hole in the lineup for the Bears.

The look will be different without Miller but it had already been changing. They seem determined to have receivers capable of playing all the positions and not just one spot, in order to become more unpredictable.

The trade made it apparent the addition of Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin was not simply done for the sake of competition but to facilitate alterations to how receivers perform.

Once the Bears got a look at those two receivers and some others, they saw added dimensions.

"Those are guys that obviously bring a lot of juice to the room when it comes to sheer play-making ability," Bears receiver Allen Robinson said, after practicing for the first time with Byrd and Goodwin. "I know that you've seen those guys on other teams make big plays, stretch the field.

"At the same time, those guys are competitors. They come out to work each and every day and that's what you want to bring to your room. Not only do they have their personal skillset, but at the same time they have very good mentalities coming into our room, which I think will help us all year."

The mentality part is big. Coaches either indicated or outright said Miller needed to be better with the offense and his roles in it. Goodwin and Byrd come in and already have this mentality.

This had little to do with what everyone initially expected from Byrd and Goodwin. Speed for the 40 in the 4.2s was the calling card for both, but what the Bears have found bringing both in is they play faster not necessarily in terms of physical speed but in their thought process.

Both seemed to impress immediately with their ability to understand and fit into the offense.

"With Damiere, I think it's pretty evident off the season that he had the last few years and last year being in New England, what he brings is a nice element of speed and play-making ability with the ball in his hands," coach Matt Nagy said during minicamp. "Then, the other part, too, that I really like is that he's really a student of the game. He's able to come in here and digest different positions and not make mistakes or make the same mistake twice.

"That's a credit to him. He's new to this offense. He's very eager and he's attentive in meetings and you can see it on the field. I'm looking forward to seeing what he's going to do now."

This is so important when the goal is to have players who can throw off a defense by lining up in different spots on the field. Apparently Byrd can do this.

Byrd had caught Bill Belichick's eye in New England with route running better than what could have been expected, according to reports by Patriots media. Byrd didn't play the slot entirely with the Patriots. He actually lined up more often on the outside initially but moved more inside later. Either way, he proved more useful in one season than they could have expected for someone who had been with three different teams in three years.

With Goodwin, the speed was obviously the attraction because of his Olympic reputation but the Bears also saw something else.

"Overall I see a young man who is a 4.27," coach Mike Furrey said. "If he's slow on one day he's going to be in the 4.3s. He still has the speed.

"I think when you go back and look at him two years ago, this young man was set to get ready to take off and become one of the most elite receivers in this league with his skill set. You know being able to catch the football very naturally, an unbelievable, patient route runner, a very very smart football player."

Smart and patient are two words the Bears never used to describe Miller.

With an emphasis on thinking as much as speed, the Bears are looking to fool opponents as much as run past them.

Any way they can get open for Andy Dalton, first, and later Justin Fields, can help turn the receiver corps into a more viable all-around threat to defenses.

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