How’s Chicago Bears Wideout Kevin White Doing?

When a NFL team has an elite receiver or two, it presents multiple opportunities to exploit weaknesses that defenses may have. This is why teams will spend high draft picks on the position even though these players can often take some time to develop. Justin Twell checks in on Chicago Bears wideout Kevin White to monitor he’s progressing in the NFL game.

Kevin White is an intriguing player to follow this season. The seventh-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft was expected to make a big impact for the Chicago Bears last year, but a stress fracture in his lower shin caused the wide receiver from West Virginia to miss his rookie year.

While the Bears could have rushed him back at the end of last season, they instead showed patience with White. Chicago kept him on the reserve / PUP list, sending a clear message that his long-term health was more important to the team.

Now that we are three weeks into the 2016 season and the Bears are winless, and don’t look competitive or even watchable, it’s worth looking at how White has settled in and how he projects the rest of the season. Will he develop into the player that the Bears envisioned or will he be a bust?

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Week 1 vs Houston Texans

White’s debut came in the season opener at NRG Stadium in Houston. It was a tough matchup against a solid Texans defense, and it’s fair to say he got off on the wrong foot.

On just the second play of the second half, with the Bears holding a 14-10 lead, it’s 2nd and 5 on their 22-yard line. White is lined up to the right of the formation in a 21 personnel package. The Bears had targeted White four times in the first half so they certainly figured to get him involved in this game, and he was clearly the intended target on this play.

White, who should have run an intermediate out-route, comes to a complete stop as he breaks back toward the sideline and Cutler throws the ball to where he expects White to be in the flat. But White is nowhere near the pass and it’s intercepted by Texans safety Andre Hal.

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White was not targeted again until the final two minutes of the fourth quarter when the game was all but out of reach. Here the Bears face a 3rd and 15 from their own 26-yard line. White runs a dig route across the middle of the field and finds a nice hole for a 19-yard gain. He finished the game with three catches on seven targets for 34 yards.

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Context is key here being that it was near the end of the game, but I like Cutler targeting White in an attempt to build up his confidence moving onto Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles.




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Week 2 vs Philadelphia Eagles

White is made his home debut on Monday Night Football and finished the game with a similar stat line to the previous week with four catches for 36 yards on six targets. His first target came in the second quarter on a 2nd and 11 from the Philadelphia 49-yard line, coming out of an 11 personnel package.

White runs a simple, quick out-route for a 9-yard gain, but it’s his ability to catch the ball securely with his hands, away from his body, and his willingness to work for extra yards that make this play worth noting. White tries to turn back to the middle of the field, hoping to gain yards after the catch and possibly a first down rather than taking the easy option and getting out of bounds.

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White’s longest gain of the night was a 19-yard reception. Again context comes into play here as there is 8:56 left in the game, with the Bears facing a 1st and 10 from their 34-yard line, down 29-7.

This play is similar to his 19-yard gain on the dig route he ran in Week 1. He runs the same pattern, once again out of an 11 personnel package, but this time he shows great awareness and the ability to high point the ball, which is a bit overthrown.

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The game against the Eagles was a tough night for the Bears but White recovered to have his best game, at least statistically, in Week 3 on Sunday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys.



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Week 3 vs Dallas Cowboys

The Bears targeted White on their first drive of the game in this matchup. With 8:16 left in the first quarter on 3rd and 4 from their own 31-yard line, White runs a short crossing pattern, but what’s impressive is what he does as he sees quarterback Brian Hoyer looking for an open receiver by working through his progressions.

Unlike Week 1 when his unfinished route led to an interception, he helps to create an open throwing window for Hoyer, and therefore an easy completion, by cutting back outside as Hoyer steps up in the pocket. With the ball in his hands White avoids a tackle and manages to gain extra yards. Unfortunately the play was called back on a holding penalty, but it was a nice play by White nonetheless.

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Once again context is key on this next play as the Bears are down 31-17 with 3:31 left in the game. But what we see here is a highlight reel play and perhaps one of the best catches we’ve seen this season.

White runs a go route against the Cowboys’ dime personnel package, with tight man coverage from cornerback Morris Claiborne. Hoyer puts the ball up and White uses his athleticism, concentration, and hands to snag the ball away from Claiborne before securing it as he is falling backward onto the ground for a 32-yard gain.

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White finished this game with a team-high 14 targets, catching six passes for 62 yards. Heading into Week 4, White leads all Bears receivers with 27 targets and is third on the team with 13 catches for 132 yards.

It was always going to take some time for White to settle into the offense and adjust to the NFL level of play. After a shaky start, he looks like he is finding his feet and becoming more confident. He’s certainly being given the opportunity to show what he can do, but I would like the Bears to take some risks as the season progresses and let White stretch the field a little more as he did in the game against Dallas.With a season that already looks like it could result in rebuilding for the Bears organization, it would be nice to see them let loose and see what kind of young talent, led by White, the team possesses.  

White has the traits to be at the very least an extremely solid NFL wide receiver and he should get better. He has very good technique and hand usage, and his ability to high point the ball should create some big plays for the Bears offense. This is something the Bears and their fans will want to see more of and should bring much needed excitement and success to the Bears offense moving forward.

Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinTwell78. Check out his work here, including on how the Detroit Lions will fare without Megatron, the elite Minnesota Vikings’ linebacker corps, the potential for a breakout season from the Chicago Bears’ Eddie Goldman, and how the return of Jordy Nelson helps the Packers.

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All film courtesy of NFL Game Pass

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