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Bears 2024 position preview: Receiver


The following is the third of nine position previews in advance of training camp.

The Bears' talented receiving corps enters the 2024 season with a mix of experience and youth, highlighted by a pair of star veterans – DJ Moore and Keenan Allen – and rookie Rome Odunze.

Of the three, Moore is the only returner from the 2023 season. After being acquired by the Bears in a blockbuster deal with the Panthers last March, the seven-year pro continued to be one of the NFL's top receivers during his first season in Chicago, setting career highs in receptions (96), receiving yards (1,364), total touchdowns (nine) and catch percentage (70.6). The veteran consistently showed off his playmaking ability by recording 558 of his 1,364 yards after the catch, which ranked 10th in the NFL.

The Philadelphia native — who has recorded 1,000+ yards in four of the last five seasons — will look to remain one of the Bears' top offensive weapons as he helps rookie quarterback Caleb Williams acclimate to the NFL.

"You've got to get that connection down with Caleb and with everybody, even Rome and the whole room," Moore told reporters May 23. "The whole offense just wants to be around each other and build that bond, the relationships that we had last year, and form it with new people."

Another crucial piece to the success of the revamped Bears offense will be Allen, who the Bears acquired in a trade with the Chargers March 14. The 31-year-old joins a new team for the first time after spending 11 seasons in California.

The six-time Pro Bowler has been productive and dependable throughout his career, appearing in 139 games with 134 starts while totaling 10,530 yards and 59 touchdowns on 904 receptions. Allen totaled six 1,000-yard seasons with the Chargers, became the first player in NFL history to catch at least 15 passes in three career games and the fastest player in NFL history to surpass 900 receptions.

Much like Moore, Allen is also coming off a career year, as he led the NFL with a Chargers-record 108 receptions for 1,243 yards and seven TDs in 2023 despite missing the final four games with a heel injury. With Allen's addition, the Bears are the only NFL team with two receivers who both compiled at least 1,200 yards last season.

"All the NFL coaches have seen Keenan for a lot of years, and the first thing that comes to mind is that he's crafty," coach Matt Eberflus said June 4. "He is so crafty with his route running. It seems like he's always open, even when I used to double cover him … He understands his body and understands his way. He's really friendly to the quarterback because he's a really big target and he's very good at what he does."

Both Moore and Allen will serve as mentors to Odunze, who the Bears selected No. 9 overall in this year's draft. Odunze was one of the top overall prospects in 2024 after a highly productive career at Washington where he caught 314 passes for 3,272 yards and 24 touchdowns.

As a senior, the 6-3, 215-pounder was named AP First-Team All-American after notching a career-high 92 receptions, 1,640 yards and 13 TDs.

Throughout the Bears offseason program, Odunze impressed his new coaches and teammates with his raw talent and ability to learn quickly.

"With Rome, DJ, Keenan, Gerald (Everett), Cole (Kmet) — we've got a different group of guys that can all be versatile in what they're asked to do," offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said June 12. "So the great thing about Rome going from a draft process to on the field now is seeing that. Whether it was him talking about plays in the different formal meetings and pro days, and then that comes to life when he gets into a new system.

"He's able to pick up an offense right away — really understand all three of the receiver spots right away, so he's not sitting there locked into one thing. He's really picking this offense up as a conceptual learner, which I think only helps him down the road in the regular season when you start moving guys around."

The Bears receiving corps also features returning contributors who also returned kicks in 2023 – Tyler Scott and Velus Jones Jr.

Scott enters his second NFL season after being selected No. 133 overall by the Bears in 2023. The Cincinnati product played in all 17 games as rookie and caught 17 passes for 168 yards while recording seven carries for 41 yards. He returned five kicks for 108 yards, including a season-high 33-yard return Sept. 10 against the Packers.

Jones has been with the Bears since being drafted No. 71 overall in 2022, appearing in 26 career games with 11 receptions for 127 yards and one receiving touchdown. He also has rushed for 154 yards on 17 attempts, which includes a 42-yard rushing TD. The Tennessee product has also recorded 34 kickoff returns for 1,042 yards.

Along with Scott and Jones, veteran DeAndre Carter will be in the mix as a return specialist. Carter appeared in four games with the Bears in 2020 and has played in 94 total contests over six NFL seasons.

Other veteran options include four-year pro Nsimba Webster, who has split the last three seasons between the Bears' active roster and practice squad, Dante Pettis, who returns to Chicago after playing all 17 games for the club in 2022, Collin Johnson and Freddie Swain.

Undrafted rookies John Jackson — who played with Williams at USC before transferring to Nevada for the 2023 season — and Louisiana product Peter LeBlanc will also compete for roster spots during training camp.