THE GOOD, THE, BAD, THE UGLY: I wrote at the beginning of the season that this appeared to be one of the Bears’ biggest holes, and I think that proved to be the case. I say that now with a caveat, however. … in fact, a few of them.
Cal didn’t get too much playmaking from its receivers this season. Marvin Jones upped his production from last year, this season catching 50 passes for 765 yards and four touchdowns. But his output dropped off at the end of the year and he also surprisingly hurt the Bears with some key dropped passes.
Keenan Allen obviously demonstrated the athletic potential to be a big-time player, but nagging injuries set him back a bit. After his huge game in the season-opener against UC Davis, Allen never had a performance that really made you stand up and take notice. Sure, he had some productive games, but nothing like his debut.
After those two starters, the Bears got virtually nothing from the rest of their receiving corps. Part of that is because Jones and Allen received a good bulk of the snaps, but Cal clearly still lacks depth at the position. Allen was second on the team with 46 catches for 390 yards and five touchdowns. The third-leading pass-catcher among receivers was Jeremy Ross with 18, followed by Michael Calvin and tight end Anthony Miller with 13.
All that being said, it’s difficult to quantify just how much the lack of production was a product of forces beyond the receivers’ control. Clearly, after Kevin Riley went down, the proficiency at quarterback did as well. And Riley himself was playing below expectations before his season-ending injury.
The offensive line was spotty. There were some games they pass protected well, other games in which there was simply no time for the quarterback to throw or the receivers to run their routes.
Then there’s the question of schematics. Did Cal’s coaching staff put the receivers in the best position to make plays? Especially at the end of the year, it seemed as though the receivers weren’t really being asked to stretch the field or even get down the field for any substance. They weren’t getting open consistently enough — how much of that is their own ability and how much is it schematics?
All of these factors play a part. But even afterconsidering all that, it’s clear the Bears need improved play from their receivers. There were too many dropped passes and not enough game-changing plays.
MOVING FORWARD: The receivers that the Bears decided to redshirt this season better be good.
Even with the addition of Allen, Cal still needs an influx of talent at receiver. The Bears thought they had enough depth heading into the season so they decided to redshirt Tevin Carter, Kaelin Clay and Terrance Montgomery. Now, it’s clear they definitely need those players next season.
Cal needs Jones to cure the case of the drops he got this season and continue to outjump and outmuscle receivers down the field. The Bears need Allen to continue to develop his apparent all-conference ability.
But most of all, they need one or two more receivers to emerge. The Bears had high hopes for Calvin this season because he reportedly had a terrific summer and training camp, but it didnt’ happen. Alex Lagemann completely fell out of the picture, seeing minimal playing time and catching just one pass.
Cal can’t go into next season counting on Calvin and Lagemann. If they emerge, it will be a bonus. The Bears need guys like Carter and Clay to become a force, sooner rather than later. Of course, there are some things that are out of their control, but the things that they can control, they have to do well.
The Bears also could use more production from Miller, who earned a lot of preseason honors but was barely heard from, at least as a pass-catcher. If nothing else, Miller’s draft stock, which declined since the beginning of the year, could use a boost.