<
>

Victor Cruz, Bears receivers have 'room for for improvement'

Bears receiver Victor Cruz played only 18 snaps against the Cardinals and was not targeted. Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- For a team searching for viable solutions at wide receiver, the Chicago Bears have yet to give Victor Cruz much run with the starters.

Cruz, 30, played only 18 snaps in Chicago's second preseason game at Arizona, finishing the night with zero targets.

To put that in perspective, Bears receiver Titus Davis was on the field for 29 plays. Undrafted rookie receiver Tanner Gentry out of Wyoming played 23 snaps.

Last year, Cruz caught 39 passes for 586 yards and one touchdown in 15 games. He left New York with 53 career starts, 303 receptions, 4,549 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns.

"He's primarily a slot," Bears coach John Fox said of Cruz. "He's a guy that's got a lot of experience. I think he understands the game. He hasn't had a whole lot of opportunity yet. We'll kind of keep rolling those guys through there. I felt our first group of receivers improved from Week 1. I expect the same thing from Week 2."

Is there a reason behind Cruz's lack of opportunities?

"No. Not really, just that we have to look at a lot of guys," Fox said.

But Fox isn't bashful about pointing out Chicago needs more out of its receivers.

"Again, we've got room for improvement," Fox said.

Outside of Cameron Meredith, and possibly Kendall Wright who previously played for Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains in Tennessee, there aren't a lot of receivers to trust at the moment.

Free-agent pickup Markus Wheaton -- supposed to be the team's deep threat -- is still sidelined with a broken left pinkie finger that required surgery. Wheaton, who also underwent an appendectomy, has barely practiced.

Former seventh overall pick Kevin White has yet to make any impact plays since the Bears drafted him.

Veterans Deonte Thompson and Josh Bellamy are excellent special teamers, but not built to be long-term contributors on offense.

In a surprising twist, Gentry and Davis routinely make the most noticeable plays at practice of any receiver on the 90-man roster. In particular, Gentry shined on the practice field almost every single day in Bourbonnais.

And remember, the Bears have depth at tight end with Zach Miller, who's a proven weapon in the passing game when healthy.

Where does that leave Cruz?

That's tough to say. Cruz played 38 snaps (three catches, 11 yards and one touchdown on six targets) in Chicago's exhibition opener against the Denver Broncos, but the most important preseason work is done in Games 2 and 3. Cruz must make the most of whatever opportunities he's given over the next two weeks to feel good about his chances of making the 53.