The 2016 season was a disappointment for the Chicago Bears. They finished with a record of 3-13, Quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Kevin White were both dealing with injuries, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was suspended four games due to PEDs, and the defense struggled.
Despite all the bad 2016 moments endured by the Bears, there were still some bright spots such as rookie running back Jordan Howard rushing for 1,313 yards, and wide receiver Cam Meredith becoming a playmaker.
The expectation was that Jeffery, White, and a combination of Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson would be the top three wide receivers in Chicago’s offense. Meredith’s emergence was completely unanticipated. Meredith had 66 receptions (97 targets) for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games. This was a vast improvement from his rookie season in 2015, where he only had 11 catches (16 targets) for 120 yards in 11 games.
Meredith, who went undrafted in 2015 out of Illinois State, began his career as a quarterback. In his last two years at Illinois State, Meredith made the transition to wide receiver and performed exceedingly well. In 2013, he was second on the team in receptions with 21 but led the team in receiving yards (370) and touchdowns (5). Finally, as a redshirt senior in 2014, he had a career-year finishing with 66 receptions for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns.
At 6-foot-3 and 200 lbs, he is a big body wide receiver that can run solid routes, find the open spaces in the defense, and can go up and get the football.
Last season, Meredith had four games of 100 plus receiving yards, including his first ever start. Meredith dominated in the Bears’ 29-23 loss in Week 5, playing opposite Jeffery. He had nine receptions (12 targets) for 130 yards and a touchdown.
His touchdown came in the second quarter after Howard ran for 57 yards. On second and goal, Hoyer found Meredith, after he faked Colts cornerback Patrick Robinson into thinking that he was running a curl route, but put a double move on him for a touchdown.
However, that was not his best game last season as that would come against Washington. Even though the Bears lost 41-21, Meredith put on a show with nine receptions (12 targets) for 135 yards.
The potential Meredith showed last season should make the Bears feel comfortable about potentially making him their No.1 wide receiver. But that may not be easy because White is still there and they are probably hoping the former seventh overall pick can stay healthy and put together a productive season.
Over the offseason, Chicago added wide receivers Victor Cruz, Markus Wheaton, and Kendall Wright. None of these wide receivers are necessarily number one options, but they each do something particularly well.
At this stage in his young career, Meredith has all the potential in the world to be groomed into a number one wide receiver. The Bears’ front office believes this too, as they have high expectations for him.
"Cam just has a great attitude right now," said Bears GM Ryan Pace. "He's getting better. I just love his skill set, love his professionalism and I think we're going to see him ascend."
Meredith has the tools around him to succeed, especially with the options the Bears have at wide receiver. Fellow wide receivers such as Cruz, Wheaton and Wright should be able to open up the field for him.
If the Bears can get even adequate quarterback play out of Mike Glennon, a 1,000-yard season for Meredith is certainly possible.