LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears are counting on big things from Kevin White after drafting the receiver with the No. 7 overall pick in 2015.
A shaky debut after a yearlong wait does not change that.
“Kev is his worst critic,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He’s hard on himself. He is a pleaser. He wants to play well for Jay (Cutler). He wants to help alleviate some stress off Eddie (Royal) and Alshon (Jeffery) and Zach (Miller), and he wants to make sure he’s doing his role and that’s why we love the kid, that’s why he’s going to be a good player. He cares so much and he wants to be good. He’s staying extra and he’s working and he’s doing everything the right way.”
The season-opening loss at Houston last week underscored just how much room White has to grow after missing his rookie season. He caught just three passes for 34 yards and ran a wrong route on an interception. He has a chance to redeem himself against Philadelphia on Monday night, his first regular-season game at Soldier Field.
With his size and speed, the Bears envisioned the 6-foot-3, 216-pound White forming a dominant tandem with Jeffery when they drafted him.
Those hopes got put on hold because of a stress fracture in his left shin that required surgery and sidelined White for his rookie season. He had few practices before this past offseason let alone any game experience, so it’s not that surprising he will need time to adjust to the NFL.
“You look at any young guy, they’re not going to walk in the door randomly and they’re better,” Cutler said. “They’re going to study. But most of the stuff is done on the football field and the more you can do out there, the more you experience things, the more reps you get, the really good ones, they figure it out pretty quickly.”
The Bears need White to be a quick study considering how important a piece he is in general manager Ryan Pace’s rebuilding plan. For now they need to find ways to take advantage of his size, speed and strength while developing his route-running skill, which was considered his weakness coming out of West Virginia.
Loggains said that means keeping it simple.
“At West Virginia, the route tree wasn’t big,” Loggains said. “He played on one side of the field. Making sure that we put him in situations that it’s stuff that he’s familiar with and comfortable with is the biggest thing, and just give him a bunch of reps.”
He’s off to a shaky start and so are the Bears after finishing last in the NFC North.
“Definitely still building,” White said. “Just got to get more reps, game reps will help. I’m excited. Not worried or panicking or anything like that all.”
The interception was a particularly rough moment for White. He pulled up on a route when the safety crashed down rather than burst toward the right sideline with the Bears leading 14-10 early in the third quarter. A lunging Andre Hal intercepted, leading to a field goal for Houston, and Cutler was seen pointing and waving at White.
“It was a different look that we got,” White said. “Wasn’t expecting it. Should’ve ran out and just stayed with my job, but it caught me off-guard. Like I said, the more reps I get, the more game time I get, I’ll get a lot more comfortable with it.”
White said the interception “weighed on me a little bit.”
“I hate messing up,” he said. “I like to try to be perfect and do a lot of exciting things. I could do better. Can’t hang my head, have to move on.”