Chicago Bears: Could Tre McBride be this season’s Cameron Meredith?

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Can Tre McBride finally prove the doubters wrong and be another solid free agent find for the Chicago Bears?

Much of the talk about young Chicago Bears receivers potentially making an impact has revolved around Tanner Gentry. Given the pre-draft optimism surrounding him and his training camp flashes, that hype train isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

And lo! and behold, the Bears have now promoted Gentry to the active roster, giving him another chance to prove himself. I’ll certainly be hoping he can; the Chicago Bears badly need a boost at the receiver position.

But if you’re looking for an unheralded receiver that could potentially have a 2016 Cameron Meredith-like impact, might I point you in the direction of former William and Mary wide receiver Tre McBride?

A former 2015 seventh-round pick of the Tennessee Titans, McBride, after struggling to find his place there, has now found himself fighting for playing time here in Chicago.

Only now, instead of sitting on a depth chart behind the likes of Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe, he finds himself in a heavily depleted wide receiver room searching desperately for playmakers.

Might the conditions be right for him to earn a real role in the NFL at last?

If you watched the game on Monday night, you probably noticed McBride starting on the outside along with Markus Wheaton. In fact, the Bears essentially benched Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson, two experienced receivers in this offense, for him.

With that in mind, it looks like the Chicago Bears will give him every chance to earn his keep.

Sound familiar? As in not unlike the way Meredith got increased opportunities to prove himself last year with Kevin White injured and Alshon Jeffery missing time due to suspension?

And aside from simply the situation, the young receiver showed Monday that he could have the makings of a hidden gem.

McBride this Year’s Breakout Candidate?

Sure, McBride’s stat line of one catch for 18 yards won’t blow any doors off in and of itself. And he largely will get lumped in with a receiving corps that didn’t entirely scare anyone on the Minnesota Vikings Monday night, though his role appeared to include a lot of decoy routes to open up stuff underneath.

But that’s not to say that his performance didn’t provide any intrigue at all.

In fact, with Wheaton—the Bears’ in-theory top receiver, though Kendall Wright appears to have claimed that role—struggling to do anything productive, McBride’s catch, plus one that was called back, should pique everyone’s interest.

Looking on McBride’s profile, he’s got the requisite physical ability and skills to make a difference for the Chicago Bears.

For one thing, he has outstanding hands, something he showcased above and on a scintillating sideline grab negated by a holding penalty from Cody Whitehair. And given that the Chicago Bears have the third-most dropped passes (8) in the NFL right now, that skill can’t be undersold.

Plus, McBride also brings a speed element that few on the team currently possess, having clocked an impressive 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Combine at 6’0, 210 pounds. And he showed some of that speed Monday night, getting open down the field for Mitch Trubisky a few times.

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The key for McBride, not unlike Gentry, will be refining his route-running, varying up his routes and keeping defenders off-balance.

Right now, he still rounds off routes and needs to add some creativity on patterns to get separation. In fact, concerns about his ability to separate from NFL competition held him back in the draft.

The Bears, and McBride, are hoping that an extended audition can prove some of those doubters wrong.

The Outlook

Call me crazy, but I think that McBride could be more impactful than Gentry going forward this year.

His speed and hands could make him an ideal complement to Wheaton and Wright, relegating worse receivers like Bellamy to limited roles. And though he hasn’t shown it yet here, McBride also plays the ball in the air well much like Gentry does.

But whereas Gentry may struggle more to get free against NFL competition due to not possessing either great speed, quickness or route-running ability, I think McBride has a bit more to work with in that regard. Now, we just have to see if he can put his speed to use while honing his craft.

Next: Offensive grades for the Chicago Bears vs. Vikings

If he does, he could carve out a big role as an unheralded receiver much like Meredith did last year.

Might he be this year’s free agent star of the year? By the looks of it, the Chicago Bears are just as anxious to find out as we are.