FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Saying the 2016 Chicago Bears offense is a work in progress is kind of like announcing Bill Belichick is a good football coach.
But while the offensive line will be a question mark well into the regular season, there’s no real telling what they have at running back until the O-line improves and tight end just isn’t going to be a strength, there is something happening to the wide receiver corps in Foxborough.
Forget that Alshon Jeffery actually showed some emotion in a “baseball fight” with Malcolm Butler on Monday, through two full days of practice he has been the best player on the field from either team, with the exception of course of Tom Brady, and perhaps even Kevin White.
Jeffery has gone strong and hard through two full, physical practices with no soft tissue concerns, and has been unstoppable for the Pats.
But you know Jeffery could, you’re just never sure if he will.
The bigger revelation here at “Camp Belichick & Fox” has been White. You can argue that the second-year player selected with the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft is seeing his first legitimate NFL test facing one of the NFL’s best teams here in what have been surprisingly physical and extremely competitive practices.
On Tuesday, White won the day, as he did a lot of the dirty work underneath while Jeffery challenged the secondary, and White looked like a seasoned pro.
(John) Fox was reserved in his praise saying, “They’re both very, very talented players. Being out here practicing where they get that timing with the quarterback and the rest of the offensive teammates the better.”
Referring to their health issues Fox added, “We’ve had a little bit of a string there, knock on wood. But when healthy they’re both very capable.”
This was one of those days though where Foxy’s quotes didn’t do justice to the glean in his eye.
Talking specifically about the impact of White’s lost rookie season, Fox added, “I think there’s some rust. I think anytime someone doesn’t practice and play, we have to bring the WD40 out and spray the rust off.
“I’m seeing progress with him getting back into football condition.”
Most impressive about White in Tuesday’s practice was the route-running and physicality he displayed in matchups with Patriots starting corners Butler, Logan Ryan and nickel Justin Coleman.
Running primarily inside slants, short curls and button hooks underneath, for arguably the first time this summer White looked more like a receiver than an athlete against one of the league’s better defenses.
Make no mistake, White still has a great deal of work to do to demonstrate he’s grasped the whole route tree, but the consistency with which he made plays in traffic vs. Butler and Logan should not be ignored.
It is also hard to imagine after watching practice No. 2 between the Patriots and Bears that Josh Bellamy hasn’t already secured a spot on the roster.
Bellamy proved himself an invaluable special teams presence last year, has had a very good summer to date and for whatever reason he’s been consistently behind the secondary in training camp more than any other receiver.
Bellamy did it again vs. the Patriots getting wide open deep twice for two touchdowns on Tuesday.
The two other receivers who’ve stood out throughout camp are Marc Mariani – wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson says “I love, absolutely love him” – and seventh-round pick Daniel Braverman, although Braverman has looked more like a seventh-rounder here in New England.
Beyond so much good news for Jay Cutler and Dowell Loggains, the upshot of all this could be bad news for Eddie Royal.
Mariani appears to have made the team and as much as the Bears would probably love to sneak Braverman through to the practice squad it seems unlikely they could.
The Bears aren’t going to keep three slot receivers and having missed over two weeks and counting with concussion issues, the veteran Royal is looking more and more like the odd man out.