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Only break Bears WR White can catch is bad one

(TSX / STATS) -- LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A lack of explosive proven wide receivers was an obvious Chicago Bears weakness heading into Sunday's season opener.

After the 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the problem appears much greater as a result of a broken collarbone suffered by receiver Kevin White.

It's a familiar situation for White and the Bears. He has played five games since being the seventh pick of the 2015 draft, the first player ever chosen by general manager Ryan Pace.

White missed all of his rookie season with a left shin fracture and all but four games last year with another left leg fracture.

"My heart goes out to him," head coach John Fox said Monday at Halas Hall. "He was very disappointed and discouraged in the locker room after the game for obvious reasons.

"Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to him. He was pretty upset about it last night and they're doing evaluations right now."

The Bears could be looking at the waiver wire, might promote undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry from the practice squad or turn to Tre McBride III, a receiver claimed off waivers after being cut by Tennessee following the preseason.

"He spent last week getting kind of oriented in our offense; he's a possibility," Fox said of McBride.

They could go into Sunday's game at Tampa with free-agent acquisition Markus Wheaton available for the first time, as well. He hadn't practiced in a month before last week due to a broken pinkie that required surgery.

"Markus Wheaton is improving," Fox said. "He did actually practice last week, albeit with a fairly major club on his hand. Then we'll have some options, looking around the league as well, so those are always options."

Regardless, the Bears lack a receiver with great speed to go with their ability to high-point a ball like White was supposed to be able to do when drafted. They've seen very little of this ability since White has played in only five games, and has 21 receptions for 193 yards without a touchdown.

The injuries seem to be stacking up early again for the Bears, who said before the season that depth was a greater strength this season. They wound up with 19 on injured reserve last year.

"We dealt with that more than our share last year, and it's not unusual but we'll adjust," Fox said.

Slot receiver Kendall Wright, tight end Zach Miller and special teams players Deonte Thompson and Josh Bellamy are options quarterback Mike Glennon will lean on now in the passing game, as well as rookie running back Tarik Cohen.

Cohen caught a team-high eight passes in his first NFL game.

"Ain't no denying the fact that the kid is special," Miller said. "All over the place too -- in the backfield, catching footballs split out and running after the catch. He's special, and it's fun playing ball with him.

"He's a man. He's a man. I don't care about his stature, he's a man. He took a ton of shots, hopped back up. Can't say enough about him."

Cohen even played as quarterback in the wildcat offense.

About the only thing Cohen couldn't do was get on the field for the game-deciding series with the Bears facing first-and-goal at the 5-yard line in the final 30 seconds.

Cohen was in for only one play of a four-play stretch, all of which went for incompletions.

"I know we have a lot of playmakers all around this team," Cohen said. "Just because I'm not on the field doesn't mean a play can't be made."

Cohen is not yet an accomplished blocker, and the team's best pass-blocking back, Benny Cunningham, suffered a high ankle sprain earlier in the game.

"There's a lot of protection involved and we'd had a couple of those issues earlier in the game," Fox said. "Without getting into too much detail that was the reason."

--A day after the Bears allowed an 88-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper of Atlanta, coaches and players were still trying to determine how it happened. The secondary and linebackers appeared confused just before the snap but no timeout was taken.

There also was another play like it when the Bears did call a timeout first.

"I think the one we called timeout they subbed late and we subbed extra late," head coach John Fox said. "And we weren't going to make it. So my hamstring is still tight from running down there (to call timeout), but we did get the timeout."

Fox said on the long gainer, the defensive call was in early, but wasn't communicated properly. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman had a concussion in the game, and it's possible it could have been a factor in not getting it called correctly.

If the play had been executed properly, there should have been one safety in the middle of the field deep.

Quintin Demps was "leaning a little bit too much to Julio (Jones)," Fox said. "And then a couple of our linebackers could have done a better job of carrying the seam route by the tight end."

--After missing last season due to a knee injury, cornerback Kyle Fuller seemed a prime candidate to be cut before training camp.

Instead, the ankle injury to Prince Amukamara and a solid camp and preseason left Fuller starting and he didn't disappoint by helping hold Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones in check.

Jones had four catches for 66 yards, well off his averages for the past three seasons.

"Talk about a guy who has persevered through injury," general manager Ryan Pace said. "He's just shown that he's healthy. You can see that his movement skills have improved. He's playing confident right now."

Marcus Cooper also had a hand in stopping Jones.

--After being deemed healthy enough to play following arthroscopic knee surgery, linebacker Pernell McPhee made it onto the field for only four plays in the opener.

"It was just the way the game sorted out," head coach John Fox said. "It was a little bit of they blended some big people, and little people throughout, they kind of highlighted on more little people. What I mean by that is more wide receivers. ... It just didn't pan out to where it was more his kind of game."

The way the Bears used linebackers in the game was unorthodox to say the least. They put pass rusher Leonard Floyd in coverage on a lot of snaps and he had a pass defended.

Chicago had reserve Sam Acho on the field for 68 percent of the snaps, but starting linebacker Willie Young only for 34 percent.

"I think Sam Acho played really well against the run," Fox said. "I thought defensively that was a strong suit in that game, was our rush defense that made it a little bit more one-dimensional, albeit not quite enough at the end of the day."

NOTES: WR Kevin White (collarbone) went on injured reserve with an injury suffered when he was tackled on a reception for zero yards in Sunday's loss. ... RB Benny Cunningham (ankle) suffered an injury against Atlanta and is day-to-day. Losing Cunningham deprives the Bears of their most effective pass blocker in the backfield, as well as a valued special teams player. The Bears cut running back Jeremy Langford at the end of the preseason and Cunningham was the third back behind Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. The Bears acquired Taquan Mizzell on waivers from the Ravens at the end of the preseason, and he still needs to become better acquainted with the offense. ... LB Jerrell Freeman (concussion, pectoral muscle) is in the NFL concussion protocol following an injury suffered Sunday against Atlanta. Nick Kwiatkoski would likely replace Freeman. He started seven games as a rookie last year when Danny Trevathan was injured and Freeman was suspended for a PED policy violation. "He understands our defense a lot better," head coach John Fox said of Kwiatkoski. "He had some good games in the preseason. I know our coaching staff is very confident in him." ... CB Prince Amukamara (ankle) did not play Sunday and is day-to-day with an injury suffered in the next-to-last preseason game. ... G Kyle Long (ankle) did not dress for the opener. He practiced last week on a limited basis and his status for the Tampa Bay game will be updated later in the week. ... RB Jordan Howard (shoulder) suffered a slight injury in the game but head coach John Fox said Monday it was not serious.

Updated September 11, 2017

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