Chicago Bears

Bears wide receiver Kevin White leaves no doubt: 'It’s got to happen now'

Bears wide receiver Kevin White leaves no doubt: 'It’s got to happen now'

Four games over the span of two years. That has been the NFL “career” of Kevin White, chosen seventh overall by the Bears in the 2015 draft. That’s little more than what the Bears got from Juaquin Iglesias, the same as they realized from Jarron Gilbert and less than Evan Rodriguez gave them in those players’ single, eminently forgettable year as Bears.

White did manage to move out to lead the Bears in pass receptions last year before the second of his season-ending leg injuries occurred. Maybe it was a tease, maybe (the Bears hope) a foreshadowing. Either way, White is unequivocal about the significance of 2017 as he and the Bears work through their OTA’s and minicamp leading into the break before training camp:

“It's got to happen now,” White said on Tuesday, a day that saw him participate fully in practice. “I've got to turn it up. You know even in year one, year two, I always want to turn it up and show what I can do.

“So to me, year three, it's time.”

“Time.” That’s the thing with White now.

He is returning under a closely monitored program, which has meant not taking part in every offseason practice. Yet that comes with its own peril, that of not fast-tracking a talented wide receiver who needs playing time to stretch and hone his abilities.

Now White, with franchise-grade natural speed, has the added task of re-learning elements of the act of running itself.

“You could say that I've just got to train the body again,” White said. “Fixing things, correcting things and just getting back to it. Overall I'm not worried about it, everything takes time but I feel pretty good.”

The Bears were cautious with White and his stress fracture of the 2015 offseason. A surgery in June would have allowed him to be back playing by midseason, but the early decision was to be conservative, turning to surgery only when the injury failed to heal sufficiently on its own.

Now a third offseason has as one of its central questions the development of a player projected to be one of the foundation pillars of the team by this time.

If there is a positive, it is that White considers himself a better receiver now than when he came to the Bears out of West Virginia.

“I think that’s common sense,” White said. “The knowledge I have, coaches I have around me.”

The time White has around those coaches remains the key.

WATCH: Deonte Thompson channels inner Devin Hester with 109-yard return in Bears preseason game

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AP

WATCH: Deonte Thompson channels inner Devin Hester with 109-yard return in Bears preseason game

It's been a while since Devin Hester electrified the city of Chicago with his touchdown returns, but we got flashbacks of that Saturday night.

Deonte Thompson took a page out of the book of arguably the best returner in NFL history by returning a 109-yard missed field goal to the house as the first half expired during the Bears' second preseason game in Arizona.

It gave the Bears a 17-7 lead, and even had John Fox going crazy on the sideline:

Deonte Thompson, you are ridiculous?

Five Bears who can improve their stock Saturday night against Arizona

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USA Today Sports Images

Five Bears who can improve their stock Saturday night against Arizona

1. QB Mike Glennon

The Bears’ first team offense as a whole could be included under this subhead, whether it’s the offensive line creating holes for a running back (Jordan Howard won't play with a minor corneal abrasion) or the receivers creating more separation to get open. But the onus is on Glennon to be better than he was Thursday night and prove that 0.0 quarterback rating was the product of a small sample size and not a sign of more serious issues. On the other side of things, a bad game from Glennon only would lead to further questions about his ability to succeed as the Bears’ starting quarterback. 

“I mean, (this game is) bigger than the first but not as big as the third,” Glennon said. “I don’t really know how else to say it. Everything gets more amplified Week 1 to 2, 2 to 3 and then ultimately the season opener. Obviously I want to go out and play well but I don’t want to make too big a deal and put too much pressure on a preseason game.” 

2. WR Kevin White

Cameron Meredith can do a lot to help Glennon’s case, but the Bears have a good idea of what they have in the third-year receiver who’s been one of the more steady performers during training camp. Kevin White is in a different position, having not been targeted at all against the Denver Broncos and still needing to prove plenty going into his third year in the NFL. White’s growth this year may be slow, but he needs to show some signs of that growth during preseason games to build up some confidence for Sept. 10. 

“Anytime you go through some injuries, there’s a whole mental game that plays a part of it,” fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz (more on him in a bit) said. “Just talking to him – I think he’s over it. He understands those things are behind him. His confidence is back in his body with the things that he can do. You’re starting to see that out there on the football field. He’s really hitting another gear, catching these balls, going deep down the field and putting pressure on these defensive backs.”

3. WR Victor Cruz

It was a little jarring to see Cruz, a Super Bowl-winning former Pro Bowler, playing until the final snap of Thursday’s game — even if that had something to do with the Bears not having Daniel Braverman available and losing Rueben Randle and Joshua Bellamy to injuries during the game. But Cruz hasn’t seemed to significantly push Kendall Wright for the No. 1 slot receiver job over the last few weeks, and could find himself on the roster bubble by the end of the month. A good showing Saturday night could provide a nice boost to his chance of avoiding that bubble.  

“I've been impressed with him,” Fox said before the Bears’ first preseason game. “He's got a great feel for the game. Sometimes it might not be just how fast they are physically but how fast they play, and he seems to be that type of guy. He's still got plenty of gas in the tank and we're excited to have him.”

4. DE Jonathan Bullard

Bullard is the only player on this list who flashed last Thursday, with an impressive tackle for a loss probably the Bears’ second-best defensive play of the day behind Leonard Floyd’s first-play-of-the-game sack. He’s had a solid camp, too, showing some promising signs after struggling to show much of anything a year ago. For Bullard, Saturday night will be about keeping his arrow pointing up, perhaps to the point that he could start at defensive end opposite Akiem Hicks in Week 1. 

“He’s definitely stronger, faster,” Hicks said. “He was already explosive, right? He has picked up the game to a point where he can play within the scheme now and see things come and be able to predict the play in order to get a step on the guard or the tackle, whoever he’s playing against. Just the things that come with getting more reps.”

5. CB Kyle Fuller

No player may have a better opportunity Saturday night than Fuller, who should be in line to take first-team reps with Bryce Callahan out and Prince Amukamara missing practices this week with a strained hamstring. What Fuller does with this opportunity could be a major deciding factor of whether or not he’s part of the Bears’ 53-man roster — this coaching staff and front office didn’t draft him, and his fifth-year option for 2018 was declined in the spring. 

“It’s a new year,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said earlier this month when asked about Fuller. “We start evaluating guys by what you’ve seen on the field at this point.”