It has taken Deonte Thompson all of three games with the Buffalo Bills to surpass his production in five games with the Chicago Bears. Go figure.
Thompson, who had 11 catches, 125 receiving yards, and a touchdown in five games, has 12 catches and 193 receiving yards in three games with the Bills. The Bears released Thompson on October 11, since then, he has snapped with a four-catch, 107-yard performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7 and a seven-catch, 81-yard game against the New York Jets last night on Thursday Night Football. And as Adam Hoge of WGN Radio notes, Bears receivers have combined to catch eight passes for 159 yards in the last three games.
Despite the rebuilding year and a lack of quality and quantity in available targets, the Bears did not deem Thompson worthy of a longer look on their roster. This isn’t to say Thompson is about to break out and turn into a star overnight, but his production since leaving Chicago’s offense should raise some questions regarding the Bears’ WR evaluation process, especially as we move into an offseason where that figures to be a key priority.
Again, the struggles of the Bears’ wide receiver situation cannot be overstated. Trading Brandon Marshall in 2015 and allowing Alshon Jeffery to walk away in free agency two years later left the Bears with an undrafted free agent with one successful NFL season under his belt (Cameron Meredith) and an oft-injured, unproven 2015 first-round draft pick (Kevin White) as the team’s top targets for 2017. Considering the number of injuries sustained and relative inexperience of the players on the roster and the practice squad, perhaps Thompson should have received more of a look.
In fact, that’s how things looked when Meredith went down for the season with an ACL injury during the third preseason game and White was placed on injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury in Week 1.
The Bears initially gave Thompson more reps than initially expected early in the season. He started three of the five games he appeared in and played nearly two-thirds of the team’s offensive snaps. He even appeared to have a clear path to receiving targets from rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, with whom he worked with as a member of the third-string offense in training camp and the preseason. However, Thompson went from seeing 77.9 percent of the team’s snaps in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers to 11.5 percent of snaps in Trubisky’s debut against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5. The Bears released Thompson two days after he played on just seven snaps.
Thompson arrived at Halas Hall in 2015 when the Chicago Bears were looking for special teams help for their kick return unit. He climbed up the depth chart and eventually see time as a wide receiver in 2016 and 2017 as players went down with injuries and suspensions. Perhaps the Bears had seen enough and figured it was time to give other players in their system a shot. But by the looks of things, they might have missed out on someone who was right under their nose all along.