NOTEBOOK: Preparing for Chicago's pass catchers

After missing his entire rookie season last year with a leg injury, Bears wide receiver Kevin White has improved steadily every week for Chicago in 2016.

This will be the first time the Lions have seen the Bears' 2015 first-round (7th overall) draft pick.

White has increased his production every week, from three receptions for 34 yards against the Texans to four catches for 36 yards vs. the Eagles to a career-high six for 62 yards last week in Dallas.

"He flashes big, fast, he's very talented," said Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin of White. "There's a reason he was picked number seven last year; 6-foot-3, runs a 4.3, really can do something when he gets the ball in his hands. Could be a mismatch if you let it, so we've got to make sure we're mindful of that."

With White back in the fold, the Bears now have two big, very talented receivers on the outside with him and Alshon Jeffery. Eddie Royal has been very good in the slot for Chicago, and tight end Zach Miller's 15 receptions rank fifth among tight ends.

"You're going to have a one-on-one opportunity with one or the other in most situations," head coach Jim Caldwell said of White and Jeffery.

"Both of them are capable with White being very, very capable with his speed, ability to jump over the top of you with his length and athleticism. You talk about Jeffery on the other side, if you decide to try and double up on the outside you're going to deal with Royal in the middle, who's been really effective as well.

"Not only that, their tight ends have been coming along. They had (8) catches, I think, last week, something like that. So, they have a pretty well-rounded offense."

The Lions have allowed 10 completions of 20-plus yards in three games, and rank 31st in the NFL on third down, allowing opponents to gain a first down 50 percent of the time. Breakdowns in coverage and big plays have been a problem early on.

"We talked about eliminating big plays, and that's going to be one area where (our) guys have got to be up to the challenge this week," Austin said. "If not, those guys can wreck the game."


The Lions haven't gotten much from their return game early on this season, as Detroit ranks 15th in kickoff return average (20.9) and 20th returning punts (7.6).

"Yet," Caldwell chimed in when asked Friday about those units not having a big return on the year. "I think that's important, because oftentimes I think that people will look at three games in the season, and think that the season's over with."

The Lions are the only team in the NFL that hasn't started a drive in opponent territory. That statistic reflects their lack of takeaways (1) and big plays on special teams.

"Do we have individuals that are capable of giving us big plays? You better believe it," Caldwell said. "They've got to show up. Do we have individuals that are capable of giving us long runs in our return game? You better believe it, we do, plus our punt return and our kickoff return.

"But, it has to show up, but it's not just them. It's the guys that are blocking for them that give them the alleys to run, and things of that nature. We have that capability, we haven't gotten it yet, but I think you'll see it forth coming."


The three captains for Detroit's divisional contest in Chicago on Sunday are: Golden Tate (offense), Darius Slay (defense) and Brandon Copeland (special teams).

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