The Bears will have a tough task ahead of them when the season begins in September. New defensive coordinator Sean Desai and the Bears' secondary will be put to the test against some of the league's most elite wide receivers. Are Jaylon Johnson and Desmond Trufant up for the challenge? Here are the top 10 dynamic duos the Bears must stop this season.
Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk could become a rare duo for the 49ers in 2021.
Aiyuk had a spectacular rookie season in 2020 posting 60 receptions for 748 yards and five touchdowns. Aiyuk had the third-most receiving yards for a rookie in franchise history only below his teammate Deebo Samuel and Jerry Rice.
Samuel, when healthy is a dynamic weapon for Kyle Shanahan's offense. He had the second-most receiving yards by a rookie in franchise history in 2019 with 802. In 2020, Samuel only played seven games, starting in five, and caught 33 passes for 391 yards and one touchdown.
If Samuel can stay on the field and return to his 2019 production, opposing teams could be in trouble when facing the combo of him and Aiyuk for years to come.
Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh set out to get Lamar Jackson some more weapons at receiver this offseason. They accomplished their plan by adding former first-round pick
Sammy Watkins in free agency and drafting Rashod Bateman from Minnesota with the 27th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Marquise Brown in the first round of the 2019 draft, but he hasn't been able to break out in a big way thus far in his career.
Brown caught 58 passes for 769 yards and eight touchdowns last season as the leading receiver on the team, but Baltimore's passing attack struggled for much of the year.
That should all change with Sammy Watkins on the field alongside Brown, Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews.
Watkins is a proven No. 2 receiver who helped lead the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Bowls playing opposite of Tyreek Hill.
Watkins missed six games last season while dealing with a concussion and hamstring strain, but still posted 37 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns.
If he can get back to being the reliable target he was in 2019 and to help free up Brown as a deep threat down the field, the Ravens might be able to have a strong passing game in 2021.
The Bengals went back to LSU in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft and selected Joe Burrow’s old teammate Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick.
Chase and Burrow had incredible success during their last seasons in Baton Rouge helping lead the Tigers to a National Championship. The 2019 Biletnikoff winner caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns during his sophomore season at LSU before opting out of the 2020 season. But
Zac Taylor and the Bengals are betting on the chemistry Burrow and Chase had during their two college seasons together to translate to the pros. Burrow was primed to have a productive rookie season in 2020 before tearing his ACL in Week 11, and plenty of that success was thanks to the emergence of Tee Higgins.
The Bengals’ 2020 second-round pick shined alongside Tyler Boyd last season catching 67 passes for 908 yards and six touchdowns. With Chase joining the fold and Boyd positioned as one of the NFL's best pure-slot receivers, Burrow and the Bengals offense should be able to put up some numbers in 2021.
After the departure of Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster became the Steelers' do-it-all receiver. He showed the versatility to line up anywhere on the field and become a productive playmaker, despite dealing with Pittsburgh’s instability at quarterback. But in 2020, a new weapon emerged as an intriguing No.2 option to form the Steelers’ next great dominant WR duo.
Diontae Johnson, a third-round pick in 2019, broke out in a big way last season. He had 88 receptions for 923 yards and seven touchdowns, while Smith-Schuster had 93 receptions for 831 yards and nine touchdowns.
As Pittsburgh prepares to ride out the final year on Ben Roethlisberger’s contract, Smith-Schuster and Johnson could have a big year ahead of them in 2021.
DeAndre Hopkins and Kyler Murray were a match made in heaven in Arizona. After the Cardinals traded for Hopkins last offseason, he became Murray's go-to target in 2020, catching 115 passes for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns en route to his fourth straight Pro Bowl selection.
Kirk also benefited from the addition of Hopkins, showcasing the ability to be a solid No. 2 receiver for the Cardinals in place of Larry Fitzgerald. Kirk caught 48 passes for 621 yards and a career-high six touchdowns.
The Cardinals also signed former Bengals WR A.J. Green in the offseason, which should only open up more opportunities for Hopkins and Kirk in Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense.
Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are the glue that holds Sean McVay’s brilliant offensive schemes together.
They possess a level of sure-handedness, steady production and run blocking ability that is rarely seen in the NFL.
Woods and Kupp both had 90 plus receptions, and over 900 yards receiving in consecutive seasons for the Rams and with the addition of Matt Stafford the duo’s numbers should only go up in Los Angeles in 2021.
The Bears face the Rams Week 1 at SoFi Stadium on Sunday Night Football.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have been terrorizing opposing defenses since their college days at LSU. After reuniting as teammates in Cleveland in 2019, the pair is ready to take the league by storm once again in 2021. The duo saw a dip in production in 2020 compared to their 2019 season, where both Beckham and Landry had over 1,000 receiving yards.
Beckham caught 23 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns last season before tearing his ACL Week 7 against the Bengals. As a result of the injury, Landry became Baker Mayfield No. 1 receiving option for the rest of the year, but only totaled 72 receptions for 840 yards and three touchdowns.
With both Beckham and Landry healthy heading into OTAs, they both will look to get back to the form that made them a force.
DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett took the league by storm in 2020. Metcalf emerged as an explosive vertical threat that could be a future receiving leader, while Lockett was Russell Wilson's reliable go-to option to get first downs.
Both Metcalf and Lockett possess the level of fearlessness that's needed to be elite. Whether it be going across the middle to make a play or tracking Wilson's deep balls in the air, this duo proved it could be formidable for years to come.
In 2020, Metcalf caught 83 balls for 1,303 yards and 10 touchdowns, breaking
Steve Largent's franchise record for receiving yards in a single season.
Lockett, who recently signed a monster four-year,
$69.2 million contract extension, is also coming off a historic 2020 season. Lockett caught a franchise-record 100 passes for 1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns.
No two wide receivers might have shocked the league more than Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson last season. The Vikings drafted a gem in Jefferson, who had one of the most productive rookie seasons in franchise history, breaking Randy Moss’ rookie records in receptions and receiving yards. He caught 88 passes for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020.
Thielen caught 74 passes for 925 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Both Jefferson and Theilin rank as the No.2 and No. 6 receivers in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus and could be even better in 2021 if Kirk Cousins can stay consistent under center.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers not only have a Hall of Fame QB but the league's best wide receiver tandem heading into the 2021 season in Pro Bowlers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Evans is coming off a strong 2020 season where he caught 70 passes for 1,006 yards and 13 touchdowns despite battle multiple injuries throughout the season.
While Godwin's numbers dipped in 2020 as he battled through a concussion, hamstring strain and fractured left index finger which caused him to miss four games, he still was able to catch 65 passes for 840 yards and 7 touchdowns in 12 games.
With Tom Brady under center and Antonio Brown back in the fold in the slot, the sky is the limit for two of the best wide receivers in 2021.