ORLANDO, Fla. – Marc Trestman said the Chicago Bears are not "anointing" Marquess Wilson as the No. 3 receiver in the offense, but the coach hopes the second-year player can develop like Alshon Jeffery did a year ago.
Wilson apparently will get the first shot at replacing Earl Bennett, who was released Tuesday after declining to take a pay cut. It creates a sizeable void in the offense. Bennett was only fifth on the team in receptions with 32, but he was on the field for 51.2 percent of the snaps.
That means the Bears must replace Bennett’s playing time with a new wide receiver or make a subtle shift in the offense and not rely on three-receiver sets as often. Wilson, a seventh-round pick last year from Washington State, has a wide-open opportunity.
“I think he showed that we can work with him and develop him,” Trestman said Sunday at the NFL owners’ meeting. “He’s got the football intelligence that we’re looking for and the ability to be flexible within the offense. He was consistent. So we’ll see how it goes. We’re not anointing people at this point in time. He’s going to have a chance to compete and be a part of what we do after Alshon and Brandon (Marshall). We’ll see how it goes. We’ve got a long way to go but we like (Wilson) and we’re excited about him to develop him and work him.”
Jeffery’s rookie season was truncated by injuries – he suffered a broken hand and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in 2012 – but he exploded in his second season to finish sixth in the NFL with 1,421 yards. He averaged 16 yards per catch, scored seven touchdowns and became one of eight players in NFL history to record two 200-yard games in the same season.
Obviously, the Bears don’t expect Wilson, who participated in 10 games (75 snaps) and made two catches for 13 yards, to make that kind of statistical impact. It’s not feasible unless an injury takes place as Marshall, Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte will remain the main cogs in the passing game.
But the Bears can hope to have more production from the third receiver provided everything falls into place. Wilson is only 21 and wide receivers coach Mike Groh was impressed last year with the receiver’s ability to be elusive with defensive backs. Wilson’s strength at 6-4, 184 pounds was a question, but Groh said his route-running ability makes it difficult for cornerbacks to jam him off course.
If the Bears succeed with Wilson, it will be a solid cap-saving move. Bennett was on the books to count $2.45 million against the salary cap and Wilson’s cap charge for 2014 is less than $507,000.
Domenik Hixon has experience as a complementary wide receiver and the release of Bennett likely increases chances general manager Phil Emery will target another player at the position in the later rounds of the draft. But the biggest chance to grow unmistakably belongs to Wilson.
“It wasn’t letting Earl go,” Trestman said. “Letting anybody go is not easy. Hixon has got experience and we feel good about Marquess and our ability to develop him like we did a year ago with Alshon. We’ll just see how it goes during the OTAs and during training camp.”firstname.lastname@example.org