An undrafted rookie with the Bears last season, converted college quarterback Cameron Meredith was a surprise contributor at wide receiver, catching 11 passes for 120 yards.
A year later, Meredith has taken another huge leap, emerging as a bona fide starting-caliber wideout. The Illinois State product enters the final week of the season leading the Bears in all receiving categories with 62 catches for 827 yards and four touchdowns.
"Cam showed enough last year that you're intrigued by it," said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. "But is he going to take the next step, is he going to turn the corner, is he going to become a consistent player and not a flash in the pan?
Receiver Cameron Meredith leads the Bears in all receiving categories with 62 catches for 827 yards and four touchdowns.
"That to me is where Cam has made the biggest jump—he's become very consistent. He's become reliable and the quarterbacks trust him. It's easy to see their comfort level with him because he is consistent."
Last season Meredith took advantage of expanded playing time when receivers Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson all were sidelined with injuries. It's been a similar story this year with White, Royal and Wilson on injured reserve and Jeffery recently serving a four-game PED suspension.
Meredith has been especially productive in the Bears' last two games, catching nine passes for 104 yards against the Packers and nine passes for a career-high 135 yards and one touchdown versus the Redskins.
"You've got to give credit to Cam that he stepped up and made himself very valuable, a really important part of the offense," Loggains said. "Where Cam really separated himself from the rest of the group was the ability to play all three [receiver] spots.
"We can move him around when guys do get banged up. Or we've been down in a couple of these games. All of a sudden you're throwing the ball more and the receiver rotation starts to change. Cam gives you the flexibility. If [other receivers] need a break, he can step in at X, Z and F and play, and that's critical."
Meredith's ability to quickly grasp all three receiving positions no doubt has a little to do with the fact that he played quarterback his first three seasons at Illinois State.
"I do think that definitely helped him a lot and it is impressive because it's not easy to do," Loggains said. "It's something you don't talk about a lot [except] inside your building, inside football organizations about position flexibility and that's what it is.
"He played a lot in the slot with Royal out. There's a lot of detail that goes into playing the slot. Cam didn't get a lot of work in OTAs and training camp [in the slot] because we didn't anticipate him playing that role. So he's done a nice job growing up quickly."
Like Loggains, coach John Fox is impressed with Meredith's reliability.
"One of the issues with young players is consistency," Fox said. "I've seen him develop a lot more consistency this year than a year ago. His hands have improved. I think [receivers coach Curtis Johnson] has done a good job with him. It's a tight group of guys. They push each other. There's competition there. I like his growth pattern and where he's going and that will catapult him to next season as well."
Since being discovered by the Bears in a pre-draft tryout for local prospects last year, Meredith feels that route running is the area he's improved most.
"When I first started playing receiver that was one of the main things I really constantly focused on," Meredith said. "It's different once you get into the league. Guys are faster. Getting in and out of my breaks, being physical at the point of attack, those are all things I'm still working on, but I'm definitely getting better at it."