The Bears released their first depth chart of the regular season Wednesday in advance of Sunday’s opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
While most of the media attention was focused on rookie Mitchell Trubisky’s ascension to the No. 2 quarterback position, there were other interesting tidbits as well.
Receiver Kendall Wright played in 66 games with 41 starts the past five seasons with the Titans.
With Cameron Meredith placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL, Kendall Wright is listed as a starting receiver opposite Kevin White. The second-stringers are Deonte Thompson and Markus Wheaton, while the third-teamers are Tre McBride and Joshua Bellamy.
The Bears plan to fill the void created by Meredith’s injury by relying on several different players. But expectations are especially high for White, who is healthy after missing 28 of 32 games during his first two NFL seasons with leg injuries.
General manager Ryan Pace is convinced that White is the same player the Bears selected with the seventh pick in the 2015 draft out of West Virginia.
“I believe that he is; now he’s got chance to showcase it,” Pace said. “The good thing is that he’s strung together healthy practices. I think that was important for him. He has really only had one training camp. For him to be able to string together healthy practices and stack positive days, now we’re set for him to have a big year for us.”
Starting quarterback Mike Glennon believes that White can emerge as a No. 1 receiver.
“Kevin definitely can,” Glennon said. “He’s got the size, the athleticism, the strength. He has what you’re looking for. He hasn’t been healthy. I think we just need to all give him the opportunity to be that guy and I think he’ll show that this year.”
There’s no surprise with the offensive line; it returns intact from last season, with left tackle Charles Leno Jr., left guard Kyle Long, center Cody Whitehair, right guard Josh Sitton and right tackle Bobby Massie. The only difference is that Long and Sitton have swapped guard spots.
Dion Sims is the starting tight end, followed by Zach Miller, Adam Shaheen and Daniel Brown.
At running back, rookie fourth-round pick Tarik Cohen is listed in the No. 2 spot behind Jordan Howard and ahead of Benny Cunningham Jr. and Taquan Mizzell.
Cohen brings dynamic playmaking ability in a small 5-6, 181-pound package.
“I think he’s going to be a good change of pace guy for Jordan,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “He has speed and quickness. And don’t underestimate him because of his size because he’s a tough, compact kid. Strong. And we’re excited about the role he’s going to fill.
“He’s going to have a select group of plays every week, just like Benny will as well and like Jordan will, and I think [Cohen] will be a nice complement to the group.”
On defense, starting ends Akiem Hicks and Mitch Unrein are backed up by Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard, while Eddie Goldman starts ahead of John Jenkins at nose tackle. Second-year pros Harris and Bullard beat out veteran Jaye Howard Jr. for a roster spot.
“The emergence of those players, that’s exciting to see,” Pace said. “They’re good young players. Both of them are explosive. I couldn’t be happier with their development. I think you’ve got to credit [defensive line coach] Jay Rodgers a lot of those two guys because I think they’re set for big years for us.”
Willie Young and Leonard Floyd are the starting outside linebackers, ahead of Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho, while Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan are the first-team inside linebackers ahead of Christian Jones and Nick Kwiatkoski.
All four starters in the secondary are new to the Bears this season with Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper Sr. at cornerback and Quintin Demps and rookie Eddie Jackson at safety. Jackson edged out third-year pro Adrian Amos for the job.
“What we saw in the draft is it’s his ball skills that jump out right away, but he’s got natural instincts and anticipation,” Pace said. “That’s something back there that we’ve been looking for a while now, and I think he pairs really well with Demps. We’ve kind of got the savvy vet with Demps and the emerging rookie with Jackson.
“You can just see him anticipate routes, break on things early and just have a great feel and natural instincts back there. Like this whole rookie class in general, it’s not too big for him. He plays with a confidence and swagger that’s refreshing to see in a young player.”
Thompson is listed as the No. 1 kickoff returner, ahead of Cunningham, Cohen and Jackson, while Bryce Callahan is the top punt returner, followed by Cre’Von LeBlanc, Jackson and Cohen.