White wasn’t going to start. At least not right away after missing so much time in camp and with the way Marquess Wilson was playing. As physically talented as he may be, White enters the NFL raw and was drafted to a team full of polished receivers. The Bears were going to have packages for White, similar to how the Vikings used Cordarrelle Patterson as a rookie.
The Bears didn’t draft White for 2015. They drafted him for 2016-2026.
In some ways, having Wilson on the field instead of White will be more beneficial to the Bears. Adam Gase was going to be limited with the plays he could run with White because the rookie is going to take a while to develop a full route tree. Wilson isn’t anywhere near the athletic freak that White is, but he should be able to run every play they call.
The Bears are going to run the ball more in 2015. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to throw it a ton too, but with Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marty Bennett, there isn’t going to be a lot of targets to go around. White was going to be the sixth-most targeted Bears player, more of a specialty player than anything else. The Bears would have benefited from his ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands and threaten defenses deep, but his absence shouldn’t have a big impact on what they accomplish this season.
The biggest issue the Bears have with the White injury is timing. They made two separate wagers on wide receivers in the offseason. The first was that White is going to be a star that demands double teams. The second was that Jeffery isn’t that caliber of player, a bet they made by not extending him before the deals for Dez White, T.Y. Hilton and Demaryius Thomas upped the price by a few million dollars per season. They were safe bets because they had two years to see if they were right.
Even if Jeffery dominated in 2015, they could tag him in 2016 and watch White develop alongside him after he took a starting role. Now, they’re losing a year of evaluation with White. The Bears may be forced to bite the bullet on Jeffery and give him a lot of money up front. If he proves not to be up to the challenge, it will make moving on from him easier.
White’s injury cost the Bears a negotiating chip. It put a wrinkle in their long-term plan, but doesn’t necessarily change what they will accomplish right now.