The Chicago Bears had high hopes for Alshon Jeffery when they selected the big-bodied wide receiver from the University of South Carolina in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. Jeffery battled through a variety of injuries last year, including a broken hand and a tweaked knee. Though he finished with just 24 catches for 367 yards and three touchdowns, Jeffery flashed glimpses of bonafide No. 2 wide receiver talent. The Bears clearly prioritized the No. 2 wideout scenario, given Brandon Marshall being consistently double and triple teamed.
Now, four games into the 2013 season, Jeffery has been far more consistent with his game play. He has looked like a smoother route runner, a more disciplined blocker, and a determined red zone target. The statistics back this up as well. Including Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, Jeffery has 18 catches for 211 yards and a touchdown, along with three rushes for 57 yards.
Much of Jeffery’s development can be accredited to his offseason work with Marshall. Perhaps the perfect mentor given their status as teammates and friends, Marshall seemingly took Jeffery in to help translate some of the young receiver’s raw talents into technical skills. Jeffery posted a 4.48 40-yard dash time at the 2012 NFL Combine which is an especially impressive feat, considering he checks in at 6-foot-3, 216 pounds. Chicago has utilized the speed more this year with designed end-arounds to get Jeffery into space. The added offensive wrinkle has helped keep opposing defenses honest while it builds the receiver’s confidence concurrently.
The Bears hope the rigorous offseason work will keep Jeffery on the field instead of in the athletic trainer’s room this season. The only way for a young receiver to learn the subtle nuances of the game is to throw him into the proverbial fire. Missing time last year undoubtedly stalled some of Jeffery’s progress, but he’s hit the ground running thus far. If he can eliminate some of the mental mistakes associated with learning the position, there is no reason why Jeffery cannot flirt with the 80 catch mark in Marc Trestman‘s West Coast offense.