The Chicago Bears drafted Alshon Jeffery last year with the hope that he would develop into the No. 2 wide receiver they have lacked to compliment Brandon Marshall. Jeffery has improved steadily this season, and yesterday he a monster game, recording 10 catches for a franchise record 218 yards and 1 touchdown.
Jeffery’s emergence certainly makes the Bears a better football team, but fantasy owners of Marshall are not nearly as pleased. While Jeffery was having the best game of his career, Marshall received just 5 targets (Jeffery had 13), catching 4 balls for 30 yards and a late touchdown that saved his day from a fantasy perspective.
Is this a one game blip for Marshall, or the beginning of a concerning trend? The reality is that the answer is a bit of both. Marshall is not going to be held to less than 50 yards very often. He is simply too good and Jay Cutler trusts him too much for Marshall to just fall off from a fantasy perspective. That being said, Marshall is also not going to receive the ridiculous amount of targets he got last season. Marshall has 47 targets to Jeffery’s 45 this season, and expect that trend to continue.
While Jeffery’s increased targets will obviously lower Marshall’s opportunities, his development will help in another way. Last season, Marshall constantly faced double and even triple teams, simply because opponents knew Cutler had nowhere else to go with the ball. With addition of Martellus Bennett and the emergence of Jeffery, opponents can no longer focus on Marshall so heavily. He will see more single coverage in coming weeks, and there are very few corners that can successfully cover Marshall by themselves with any consistency.
Going forward, there is little reason to worry about Marshall. Owners may want to drop the expectations of the occasional 25 point performance like he had last year, but there are still few safer options at wide receiver than Marshall. The Bears are still working out the kinks in their new offense, but there is no doubt that Brandon Marshall will be a big part of whatever they do in the future.