Hoge: The Football Column, Week 5

Kevin White. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Kevin White. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It sucks.

That’s the common sentiment from the Bears’ front office, coaches and players when asked about Kevin White’s latest injury — a spiral fracture in his left fibula.

“I love the guy,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “I hate that this happened.”

From the day he entered the building following the 2015 NFL Draft, White quickly established himself as a popular teammate at Halas Hall. Oozing with talent, White is a genuinely nice, humble person who works extremely hard to fulfill his potential. He’s hard on himself — probably too hard — and he’s constantly seeking out coaches and teammates for advice.

Podcast — Intentional Grounding, Episode 54: Week 5 Bears, NFL Preview

Unfortunately, he’s also had some incredibly tough luck with two significant injuries to the same leg and it’s completely fair to wonder if White will ever live up to his draft status as the seventh overall pick out of West Virginia.

But let’s be clear: it is way too early to give up on Kevin White.

Yes, even if he manages to return from injured reserve later this season, White’s first two NFL seasons will be defined by injuries. But, like the fractured tibia he suffered last year (a much more significant injury), White is expected to make a full recovery.

Oddly, I feel much more optimistic about White’s future in the NFL now than I did two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, we didn’t know if White could play. He couldn’t run enough NFL routes, he was playing cautiously, and was dropping the football, making him an untrustworthy target. That all changed in the last two games as White caught 12 passes for 117 yards.

“I think we kind of saw a little more aggressiveness,” Bears head coach John Fox said about White’s last game against the Lions. “He kind of cut loose and played rather than thinking, going through it like most young players.”

Look, White still has a ton to prove. His first four games in a Bears uniform were still somewhat underwhelming for a No. 7 overall draft pick. But he was showing significant progress before his surgically repaired leg got caught up underneath an opposing player and created a new problem.

Is it fair to wonder if White’s left leg will always be a little fragile? Yes. Is it fair to wonder how much this latest injury will stunt his growth? Yes. But is it fair to give up on a talented, 24-year-old wide receiver who checks nearly every box on-and-off the field?

Absolutely not.

Three Key Questions: 

1. Can Brian Hoyer keep this up? This is the first time in Hoyer’s eight-year career that he has put together back-to-back 300-yard games with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It seems unlikely he can keep up that pace, but the Colts’ defense isn’t exactly shutting opposing offenses down. If the Bears can establish the run early again, Hoyer should have another strong performance.

2. What will the Bears’ receiving corp look like? Cam Meredith figures to get more playing time with Kevin White on injured reserve, but Eddie Royal is dealing with a calf injury and did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. The guess here is that Dowell Loggains will be fine with Deonte Thompson and/or Josh Bellamy getting more reps, but it’s possible they choose to promote rookie Daniel Braverman if Royal can’t play.

3. How do the Colts respond after their losing trip to London? This is less about jet lag (I really don’t think that’s a big deal) and more about the team morale. There’s been turmoil in Indianapolis for over a year now and I think it’s fair to wonder if the Colts are completely on board with the current regime. This seems like a pivotal game for Chuck Pagano’s team as this season could spiral downward in a hurry.

Prediction: Bears 24, Colts 23

I don’t expect the Bears’ defense to keep their opponent without a touchdown again, but they still should be able to create some pressure against a Colts offensive line that has allowed 15 sacks in four games. On the offensive side, the Bears still can improve. The efficiency was better against the Lions, but they still left too many points off the scoreboard. As long as the Bears’ special teams unit doesn’t commit costly mistakes, I think the Bears edge the Colts out in the fourth quarter.

Around The League

As Hurricane Matthew wreaks havoc on the eastern coastline of Florida, the NFL is monitoring the situation closely and discussing contingency plans for the Titans-Dolphins game in Miami Sunday and the Bucs-Panthers game in Charlotte Monday. Fortunately, the Jaguars are on a bye, as Jacksonville looks like it will be hit hard by the storm … The Atlanta Falcons were caught for using “excessive levels of on-field physical contact” during the offseason program this year and were docked three days of OTA practices next spring … The Minnesota Vikings are starting to remind me a little bit of the 2006 Chicago Bears. They have an outstanding defense with an unspectacular, but effective offense that scores just enough to win games. On one hand, Sam Bradford is better than Rex Grossman, but on the other, the Bears had the x-factor in Devin Hester. Will the QB be enough to get the Vikings over the hump? Or will Minnesota eventually stall out like the ’06 Bears did in the Super Bowl? … Considering I picked the Steelers over the Eagles and the Cardinals over the Rams the last two weeks, you should probably ignore my “lock of the week,” but I’m going with the Eagles over the Lions (+3.0) Sunday.

NFL Draft Game Of The Week

No. 23 Florida State at No. 10 Miami (-3.0) — 7 p.m. CT on ABC

This is the first time Miami will be featured in a big game this season, giving Bears fans a good look at quarterback Brad Kaaya, a potential first round talent if he chooses to come out early.

NFL prospects to watch:

Miami QB Brad Kaaya
Miami WR Stacy Coley
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
Florida State OT Roderick Johnson
Florida State WR Travis Rudolph

The Saturday Itinerary

Here’s what I would be watching if I was sitting on my couch all day Saturday:

11 a.m. (ABC) — Notre Dame at North Carolina State (-2.5)

It’s not a great state of early games, so why not take a look at DeShone Kizer against an opponent he should have some success against?

NFL prospect to watch: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer

Alternate Games: Texas at No. 20 Oklahoma (-11.5) on FS1; Iowa at Minnesota (+1.0) on ESPN2

2:30 p.m. (CBS) — No. 9 Tennessee at No. 8 Texas A&M (-7.0)

The Aggies have a bunch of injuries, including one to star defensive end Myles Garrett. If he doesn’t play, this game takes a hit, but there’s still plenty of NFL talent on both sides of the ball. If nothing else, this should be a great game between two good SEC teams.

NFL prospect to watch: Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett

Alternate Games: No. 25 Virginia Tech at No. 17 North Carolina (-1.5) on ABC/ESPN2; Indiana at Ohio State (-28.5) on ESPN

6 p.m. (ESPN) — No. 1 Alabama at No. 16 Arkansas (+14.0)

Alabama has put up some impressive numbers on defense… except when they actually played a good team. Ole Miss put up 43 points on the Crimson Tide three weeks ago and Arkansas should be able to score enough to keep this game close.

NFL prospect to watch: Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen

Alternate Games: No. 4 Michigan at Rutgers (+19.5) on ESPN2; No. 5 Washington at Oregon (+9.0) at 6:30 p.m. on FOX

The Nightcap: 9:30 p.m. (ESPN) — Washington State at No. 15 Stanford (-7.0)

Upset Alert: 6 p.m. (ESPN) — No. 1 Alabama at No. 16 Arkansas (+14.0)

The Top 10

1. Ohio State
2. Alabama
3. Michigan
4. Clemson
5. Louisville
6. Washington
7. Houston
8. Tennessee
9. Texas A&M
10. Miami

Adam Hoge covers the Chicago Bears for WGN Radio and WGNRadio.com. He also co-hosts The Beat, weekends on 720 WGN. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.