Commentary

Quick to catch on

Marquess Wilson looks ready to make big strides in his second year with Bears

Updated: June 11, 2014, 7:23 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- It's Game 4 for the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night, but who needs the Stanley Cup final when you have the Chicago Bears' organized team activities?

A championship-size Chicago media contingent herded into the Walter Payton Center to watch the Bears practice in shorts because you, the sports consumer, can't get enough Chicago Bears news. Jimmy Clausen drew a crowd that would make Jonathan Quick nervous after practice, and I'm not sure we'll see him throw a ball in a preseason game.

Everyone wants a Bears scoop, any scoop, so here goes mine: Receiver Marquess Wilson is going to be very good.

This isn't breaking news, per se, as we've been aware of Wilson's potential since he was drafted in the seventh round in 2013. As the Bears' offseason has progressed, Wilson has been a storyline because the second-year player is trying to replace Earl Bennett as Jay Cutler's third wide receiver in what is expected to be one of the league's best offenses.

[+] EnlargeMarquess Wilson
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhSecond-year receiver Marquess Wilson has looked sharp in recent workouts.
Writing about the guy on his way up is one of the few reliable stories we have in sports. Wilson will be that story unless he plateaus short of expectations.

Watching Wilson, listed at 6-foot-4, 184 pounds, during the third and final OTA open to the media, you could see his skill set, albeit in shorts. He explodes off the line, runs correct routes and makes catches. So he's a receiver, basically. Playing in the shadow of the best receiver tandem in the league, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, he'll get plenty of looks in the slot and around the field as Cutler and coach Marc Trestman look for mismatches.

Like most rookies, Wilson said he was in awe of the veterans last year. Now in his second year of offseason work, he's much more comfortable being in the NFL.

"I don't think about much on the field," he said. "I just play the game and that's a big relief off your shoulders. I can just go out, run the plays and not worry about messing up."

Wilson worked out with Marshall at his facility in Florida, spending about six weeks there. He lifted, drilled plays and worked on his "quick twitch off the ball," the imperceptible way great receivers start off the line.

Wilson, who worked with the first team in practice, said the value of the OTAs were time to work on eliminating little mistakes from the day before.

"It takes work," he said. "You can't just wake up and do it."

So, how good is Wilson, who went 30th overall ... in the seventh round of the 2013 draft? Just ask Cutler. Seriously, if you see him, ask, because we can't. Cutler didn't talk after the team's three OTAs open to the media. He'll talk next Tuesday at veterans' mini-camp.

So, instead, I asked Jordan Palmer, Cutler's backup, who sat out Wednesday with a shoulder injury.

"Oh man, he's going to be big-time," Palmer said. "I don't know how that guy went in the seventh round. I said the same thing last year, but this year he spent the whole offseason with Brandon [Marshall], put on 5 or 10 pounds, I think. He's explosive, he knows the offense, he knows where to go. He's a playmaker. He's going to be a big part of our offense this year. And if something were to happen to our other two guys, he's a guy I know Jay feels comfortable with, he can jump in and play 'X' or 'Z' and take over for the league's best receivers."

So, Jordan Palmer is a fan.

"We saw it early last year," he said. "I think we saw it in training camp. And he's just a good dude. He works hard, Football's the most important thing he's got going on. Those are the kind of receivers you like."

Wilson didn't get many looks last year. OK, he caught two passes for 13 yards. But when the Bears released Bennett and didn't target a starting receiver in free agency or the draft, it became apparent how much the Bears were counting on Wilson, who fell to the seventh round last year after getting suspended and then quitting Washington State's team.

While he didn't mesh with the combustible Mike Leach, Wilson is getting his education now from Marc Trestman, receivers coach Mike Groh, Cutler, Marshall and Jeffery.

(Is Halas Hall becoming the Harvard for receivers? What a strange time.)

"He's hungry and he's learning how to work from Alshon Jeffery, who never stops working, and from Brandon Marshall, who never stops working," Palmer said. "He's in a position right now where he's learning how to be a pro from two absolute pros."

One way Wilson has learned how to be a pro is by observation.

"I never talk," Wilson said. "There's an occasional time I try and get a joke out there, but nobody laughs. So I just keep quiet."

Off the field that's fine, but for the Bears' offense to reach its potential, Wilson will need to be heard on the field. He won't have a problem making noise.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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