Pre-camp check: Receivers

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
9:00
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Overview: Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery combined for 189 catches, 2,716 yards and 19 touchdowns. The yardage ranked as No. 2 in the NFL of all duos behind only Denver’s Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker (2,718).

So it’s not like Marshall and Jeffery will be sneaking up on any opponents in 2014, and there’s now the added pressure of raising the high bar already set.

Marshall
Jeffery
“I think we have a special group,” Marshall said of the offense. “Their approach to practice to their approach to the film room, it’s amazing, and I think if we continue to do that, we’ll continue to grow. We have a tremendous upside. But again, we have to prove it. If we continue to work, we’ll be OK. What we did last year was really tough. You bring in a new coach with a really sophisticated offense, you’ve got [quarterback] Jay [Cutler], he’s been in different offenses almost every other year. So for us to make that leap last year says a lot about our coaching staff and our players. This year, that’s something to build off and we can possibly be better.”

Battle to watch: The Bears want Marquess Wilson to win the No. 3 spot, and that will be an important position for the team moving forward as defenses start to devote more attention to Marshall and Jeffery on the outside. A dynamic player that can threaten the seam -- similar to the way Martellus Bennett does from the tight end spot -- could open up things for everybody else on offense. So unless Wilson falters significantly in camp and in the preseason, the job appears to be his to lose.

That means most of the competition will be for those final spots on the roster at receiver, and will involve veterans such as Josh Morgan, Eric Weems, Micheal Spurlock, Armanti Edwards, Chris Williams and Josh Bellamy. So we’re talking about six players competing for two, possibly three roster spots, and the ability to contribute on special teams will likely wind up being a major determining factor.

Of the group, Morgan is probably the most polished as a receiver while Weems and Spurlock possess a combination of skills as receivers and return men.

Dark horse: Terrence Toliver, believe it or not, is actually in his second stint with the Bears. The club first signed him in January 2013, before cutting him at the end of camp. The Bears then brought back Toliver last October. Toliver hasn’t caught a single pass in an NFL regular-season game, yet he’s spent time with five different teams. Toliver possesses some upside, and is similar to Marshall and Jeffery in terms of size (6-foot-5, 204 pounds). He’s shown gradual improvement throughout his tenure with the Bears, but the question is whether he’ll receive enough of an opportunity to show the club what he can do in training camp and the preseason.

Who makes the cut: If the Bears keep five receivers, they’ll likely go into the season with Marshall, Jeffery, Wilson, Morgan and Weems. If they keep six, Williams would likely make the cut over the other competitors.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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