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Bears 2023 training camp preview: Wide receivers

Chicago Bears training camp is less than a month away, which means it’s time to start looking ahead at the roster the team is bringing to Lake Forest.

We’re unveiling our Bears 2023 training camp position previews, where we’re breaking down every player by position and examining the biggest question facing the group.

Up next is wide receiver, where Chicago made massive efforts to improve their  receiving corps. First, they traded a second-round pick for Chase Claypool last year and then the first overall pick for DJ Moore.

After overhauling the wide receiver room, it’s become crowded at Halas Hall, with 12 players heading into training camp. Most teams only carry five wide receivers, at most six, so most of the guys on this list won’t be on the final roster.

With new faces on the roster, what will happen to players like Darnell Mooney and Velus Jones? Here’s a closer look at the Bears’ receivers heading into training camp:

DJ Moore

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Bears have the best wide receiver in the NFC North, not named Justin Jefferson. By trading the first overall pick to the Panthers, Chicago found their WR1.

During his five years with the Panthers, Moore averaged 75 receptions, 1,078 yards, and 3.5 touchdowns. His career 5,201 yards would rank first all-time in Bears history – he’s the best wide receiver the team has had in a long time.

Darnell Mooney

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Mooney is returning from injury and will become a free agent in 2024, if not given an extension during the season. It’s unclear if Mooney will get extended due to his injury; Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet are also free agents, and the change in front-office staff.

The veteran receiver has an estimated value of $14 million per year. Unless he returns to his 2021 form, a handful of free-agent receivers can serve as a second or third wide receiver for cheaper.

Chase Claypool

After a breakout rookie year, Claypool plateaued in his second year and has been unable to find the endzone the way he did in 2020. After possibly wearing out his welcome in Pittsburgh, the Bears traded their second-round pick for him, and he didn’t get off to a fast start.

With an entire offseason under his belt and the opportunity to learn the playbook, the fourth-year wide receiver will have to earn his right to spend his future in Chicago.

Equanimeous St. Brown

Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

“EQ” is back for his second year on the Bears after signing a one-year contract extension. Right now, he’s playing a similar role to Claypool as the physical, big-body, run-blocking wide receiver that wins in traffic. St. Brown is more familiar with the Bears offense than Claypool.

If the former Pittsburgh receiver has learned the playbook, he might take more snaps away from St. Brown. If not, the 26-year-old will have a chance to earn a long-term contract.

Tyler Scott

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The rookie wide receiver will find time in the slot and as a deep threat in the Bears’ offense. Scott can get to top speed quickly and has drawn comparisons to T.Y. Hilton. Ten of his 14 touchdowns in college were plays of 30 yards or more.

Scott will immediately contribute to the Bears’ offense and give them a threat who can push Darnell Mooney or Velus Jones Jr.

Dante Pettis

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

A possession slot receiver with special teams ability, Pettis is a journeyman receiver brought back on a one-year deal. The 27-year-old played in 17 games for Chicago last year. He became a red zone threat – his three touchdowns were second-most behind Cole Kmet.

The wide receiver room remains crowded. It’s unclear if Pettis will be on the final roster when the Bears take the field against Green Bay on Sept. 10.

Velus Jones Jr.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

It’s unclear where Velus Jones fits in the Bears offense. He’s 26 years old and only in his second year. He had a slow start in 2022, struggling as a wide receiver and punt returner.

While he was never a receiving threat, Jones only took 22% of the offensive snaps last year and lost three fumbles. The second-year player must establish a role on the team, or he could find himself out of Chicago soon. 

Nsimba Webster

A journeyman receiver with 14 career receiving yards, Webster is likely a practice squad player or will play for a different team. He’s made a career as a specialist on special teams. Webster has 18 career tackles and more than 600 combined return yards. 

Daurice Fountain

A developmental wide receiver, Fountain will likely be on the practice squad. The Bears are his third team, and he has two receptions for 23 yards in his career despite being drafted in the fifth round in 2018. 

Joe Reed

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Another journeyman wide receiver, Reed adds value as a run blocker and kick returner. He has had no recorded catches since being drafted in 2020.

Thyrick Pitts

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

An undrafted wide receiver from FCS- Delaware, Pitts is a developmental receiver with the size and speed of NFL receivers. He will need to spend time learning to compete against better competition and how to get open against NFL defenders. 

Aron Cruickshank

A speedy receiver that is best known as a return man, Cruickshank is unlikely a starting wide receiver in the NFL. The undrafted rookie has more than 2,700 return yards and only 900 receiving yards despite playing for five years at Wisconsin and Rutgers. 

Big question: Who will win the battle for the final roster spots?

The Bears’ top four wide receivers already are set with DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and rookie Tyler Scott. But there will be plenty of competition for those final two roster spots. Equanimeous St. Brown, Velus Jones and Dante Pettis will be vying for those WR5 and WR6 roles. St. Brown probably has the edge for that fifth spot, given his blocking ability and experience in Luke Getsy’s scheme. So the real fun should be with Jones and Pettis, where special teams contributions — and the battle at return specialist — will likely determine the winner.

Training camp position previews

LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 02: <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/33399" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Justin Fields;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Justin Fields</a> #1 of the Chicago Bears takes part in a drill during training camp at the PNC Center at Halas Hall on August 02, 2022 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

We’re unveiling our Bears 2023 training camp position previews, where we’re breaking down every player by position and examining the biggest question facing the group.

Quarterbacks

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends (7/10)

Offensive line (7/12)

Edge rushers (7/14)

Interior defensive line (7/16)

Linebackers (7/18)

Cornerbacks (7/20)

Safeties (7/22)

Special teams (7/24)

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Story originally appeared on Bears Wire