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Chicago Bears

Miller's injury has Bears looking for replacement at No. 3 receiver

Bears wide receiver Kevin White reaches out for a pass in the first half against the Cardinals Sept. 23 in Glendale, Ariz.
Bears wide receiver Kevin White reaches out for a pass in the first half against the Cardinals Sept. 23 in Glendale, Ariz.

Through one-quarter of the season, Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel already have emerged as the go-to wide receivers in the Bears’ offense, although tight end Trey Burton and running back Tarik Cohen will continue to play integral roles, as well.

What’s not so clear is how the depth behind Robinson and Gabriel will shake out, especially with the iffy state of rookie Anthony Miller’s dislocated shoulder, which could be a season-long issue.

Until he was injured in Week 3, Miller clearly was the No. 3 receiver option with 11 targets and eight catches for 60 yards. His absence in Week 4 gave Josh Bellamy the opportunity to snag a 20-yard touchdown pass, and Kevin White played a season-high 25 snaps, although he’s still looking for his first target. Seventh-round pick Javon Wims was active for the first time in the regular season after flashing big-play potential in the preseason.

White’s situation is the most intriguing, considering he was the seventh-overall pick in 2015, but mostly because of injuries, he’s started only five games – none this year. He has 21 career receptions, including only two since the end of the 2016 season and has been the forgotten man in the Bears’ offense.

While Robinson has been targeted 32 times, Gabriel 29, Burton 19, Cohen 16 and Miller 11, White has nothing but goose eggs. Seven players were targeted against the Bucs while White was blocking.

“Different guys were catching it, and that’s going to be like that as we go,” Nagy said. “It may not always be the one guy all the time [because] when you [spread the ball around], it makes it harder on the defense. Kevin did what we asked him to. He did everything great.”

“He had an unbelievable attitude all week in practice, and I think what you’ll see in him is just a continued growth within this offense, whatever that role is. I thought he did a great job when he was in there. Who knows, he could get more targets in Miami. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

The Bears hope to have Miller back by then, but there’s no guarantee. Before he was hurt against the Cardinals, the second-round pick from Memphis had a career-best four receptions in that game. He’s added discipline to his array of weapons, which already includes reliable hands, toughness and run-after-the-catch ability.

“He’s growing,” receivers coach Mike Furrey said. “He’s learning. It’s a huge transition for anybody [from college to the pros]. He’s growing in the playbook, and he’s understanding how to be a pro. He’s understanding how to practice, the timing of all of the things that have to happen – that there are actually three- to five-step drops, and you can’t shorten routes – all those little details he’s been really hammering on.

“He’s been getting better and better and better. That’s why it was good to see in the Arizona game; he started creating separation, he started getting across on crossing routes, and he started making plays after the catch.”

As Nagy said, he likes to spread the ball around in his offense, and it’ll be interesting to see how it’s distributed going forward.

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