Wilson ready to make his mark

Bears second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson has added weight this offseason and is ready to make his mark as Chicago's third wide receiver.

For seventh-round selections, life in the NFL is an uphill climb. Most are lucky to make the 53-man roster of the team that drafted them and not often do they climb out of the special-teams ranks.

Rarely do seventh rounders have an impact on either offense or defense. Even fewer end up as starters and only a very small percentage make that leap in just their second season.

Yet that's exactly what Chicago Bears sophomore wide receiver Marquess Wilson has done in a little over a year with the organization.

During organized team activities (OTAs) this week, Wilson worked exclusively with the first team as the Bears' No. 3 wideout, although he says nothing is being handed to him.

"It's not really my spot yet," Wilson told Bear Report. "I'm fighting for it day in and day out. It's up to the coaches on my performance and the competition with the other guys."

It may not be his spot officially but no receiver on the roster has as much potential as Wilson, who spent much of his offseason training with Brandon Marshall and his teammates in Florida.

"[Marshall] basically kept teaching me how to be a pro: how to workout, how to eat, how to take care of my body," Wilson said. "It's going to help me out a lot. Routes, plays, we went over that in Florida. It's muscle memory now.

"Jay [Cutler] came down. The whole offensive line came down. Skill guys came down, DBs, and we all got together and went over routes and formations. It helped everybody. We all grew closer and I feel like the team chemistry is going to help us out on the field."

The extra time helped, as Wilson looked very comfortable in the starting lineup. Also noticeable was his added strength, something GM Phil Emery talked about earlier this month.

"Marquess has done very well during the offseason training," Emery said during his pre-draft press conference. "I think everybody saw the pictures of him and several of his teammates down training with Brandon. He's put on a good amount of lean mass. You know, the weights that have been reported on him were always under what he actually was. He's been in the 190s since he's been here. He's a little closer to 200 or over 200 now. He's had a good offseason."

Wilson confirmed the strength gain, saying he currently weighs 205.

"I feel like I'm stronger. I got faster with the strength I gained," said Wilson. "I've always been small my whole life. I just wanted to put on a little bit more weight."

The increased size in noticeable, particularly in his arms. At 6-3, 205, Wilson now has the frame to withstand first-team reps, one that should help him in jump-ball and 50/50 situations.

The added bulk and dedication he's shown this offseason is just one more step in Wilson's journey to put a turbulent collegiate career – he walked out on this Washington State team midway through his junior season – behind him.

"Work ethic, that was one of the main things that was a concern about me coming out of college," he said. "Watching Brandon, Alshon [Jeffery], Martellus [Bennett], Matt [Forte], Jay, the whole line, all the skill guys, them pushing it. And I'm like, ‘I can do that.' That just made me want to better myself and push harder than I ever pushed.

"These guys are a special group of guys. They're mentors. I'm only 21, so Brandon taking me under his wing, Alshon, Jay, all those guys, it just helped me out throughout last year keeping my head on and keeping me on a steady pace."

To this point, the hard work has paid off. He'll be pushed by veterans Domenik Hixon, Eric Weems and Josh Morgan during training camp but unless he completely derails over the next few months, Wilson is poised to play a significant role for the Bears' offense this season.

He's replacing Earl Bennett, who was released by the team this offseason. Bennett had good hands but he wasn't big or fast. His ceiling was low.

Wilson is a tall and fast, and now he's strong. Bennett didn't have any of those traits and he still managed 32 catches and four touchdowns last year. There's no reason Wilson can't match, or best, that production. And if he keeps taking steps forward like his did his rookie season, he has the potential to develop into one of the top slot receivers in the league.

The sky is the limit for Wilson and it appears his head is on straight. A breakout season could be on the horizon.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.


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