The following is the third of eight position previews in advance of training camp.
When the Bears report to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais next week, they’ll do so with one of the NFL’s deepest and most talented receiving corps.
The group is led by Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller, all of whom joined the Bears last year as part of a major renovation at the position. The trio helped lead the team to a 12-4 record and the NFC North championship by combining for 155 receptions, 1,865 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Robinson caught 55 passes for a team-high 754 yards and four TDs after missing most of the 2017 season with a torn ACL. He capped his first year in Chicago by setting a Bears postseason receiving record with 143 yards in a wild-card loss to the Eagles.
A role player in four previous NFL seasons with the Browns and Falcons, Gabriel made the most of expanded playing time in his first season with the Bears. Starting a career-high 11 games, he caught 67 passes for 688 yards and two touchdowns.
Miller led the team with seven touchdown receptions, the second most by an NFL rookie behind only the Falcons’ Calvin Ridley, who had 10. The seven TDs were the most by a Bears rookie since Willie Gault had eight in 1983.
Miller, a 2018 second-round pick from Memphis, sat out the offseason program while recovering from shoulder surgery. But he is expected to be ready to start training camp.
Expectations are high for Robinson, Gabriel and Miller after they spent the entire offseason working with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
“Being able to get a lot of reps with him, to be able to see a lot of film on how we want our routes run, I think that’s helped a lot,” Robinson said. “Last year we were trying to get everything on the fly. During the season last year, we were running some of the routes for the first time in games. So being able to get a lot of the reps, to see different leverages, has helped out a tremendous amount.”
The difference is also like night-and-day to Gabriel.
“We’re not installing,” he said. “We’re not trying to figure out where we have to line up. Now we’re just figuring out situations. It’s definitely a drastic change.
“The terminology is expanded. It’s more detailed. We know what Mitch wants. Mitch kind of can feel our speed, the tempo of what we’re doing.”
A two-time All-Pro kick returner in six seasons with the Vikings (2013-16), Raiders (2017) and Patriots (2018), Patterson has caught 184 passes for 1,872 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 687 yards and seven TDs on 184 carries.
Hall spent the past two seasons with the Falcons, appearing in 24 games, all as a reserve, catching 12 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. The 5-10, 190-pounder served as Atlanta’s primary kickoff returner last season, playing in all 16 contests and averaging 23.7 yards on 26 returns with a long of 53 yards.
Ridley was selected by the Bears in the fourth round of the draft. In three seasons at Georgia, he caught 69 passes for 1,015 yards and 13 touchdowns in 28 games. Last year Ridley set career highs with 14 games played, 43 catches, 559 yards and nine TDs.
The Bears are also high on Javon Wims, a 2018 seventh-round pick who teamed with Ridley at Georgia. Wims led the NFL in receiving yards with 227 last preseason. He then spent most of the year on the practice squad before catching four passes for 32 yards in the season finale against the Vikings in Minnesota.