Alshon Jeffery was a surprise pick and a steal for the Chicago Bears in the 2012 NFL draft. With a “first-round grade”, character issues caused Jeffery to slide to the Bears with the 45th pick in the second-round. Jeffery proved the Bears organization correct with him not having any off the field issues; all the same, it’s on the field where Jeffery needs to step up in order to claim the second starting receiver spot opposite Pro Bowl and 1,000 yard receiver Brandon Marshall.
Jeffery showed flashes as a rookie. In this first season on the field with the Bears, he finished the season with 24 receptions on 48 targets, 367 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. For a receiver many thought as a simple possession receiver, Jeffery played with an explosiveness with four 30-yard catches during the year. However, he had several problems during the season which halted his play and production.
The young wideout played in 10 of the 16 games on the season, as he had to deal with a broken right hand as well as a balky knee which kept him sidelined. Other factors in Jeffery’s lack of production had to do with him only being targeted by Jay Cutler a mere 4.8 times per game, not to mention the 6’3”, 216 lb. receiver only caught 50 percent of the balls thrown his direction. In order for Jeffery to build a better on the field rapport with Cutler, he needs to do what every receiver at all levels of football from Pop Warner to the NFL has to do on a consistent basis: catch the football.
Hopefully spending time in the offseason working out with Marshall should raise Jeffery’s work ethic to another level as well as possibly give him a few veteran tricks of the trade at his position. With the Bears adding more receivers to the roster through the draft and free agency in the form of Demetrius Fields, Brittan Golden, Josh Lenz, Marcus Rucker, Terrence Toliver, and Marquess Wilson, not to mention returning wideouts Joe Anderson, Dale Moss, Eric Weems and Earl Bennett, Jeffery has his work cut out to earn that second spot. With training camp still a ways off, Jeffery’s true competition appears to be rookie receiver Wilson out of Washington State University and veteran wideout Bennett, who previously played alongside Cutler at Vanderbilt University. If Bennett can stay healthy or Wilson shows enough to the new coaching staff, Jeffery could easily fall back to the fourth receiver on the depth chart. If Jeffery can stay healthy and hold onto the ball, he’ll give the Bears a second tall, physical threat outside the numbers to make teams pay for double-teaming Marshall.