Alshon Jeffery has officially arrived. His performance yesterday at Soldier Field is one we rarely ever see from a Bears’ wide receiver. Even in the loss, Jeffery stood out with his monster numbers and his abuse of Saints’ corners.
In the last two weeks, Jeffery alone has 330 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 15 receptions. All his talent is starting to surface, and Jay Cutler is recognizing that by targeting Jeffery more than any other receiver on the roster in these last two weeks.
Yesterday Jeffery reached the 200-yard mark in a game and showed just how far he's come from only a year ago. The back of his jersey is painted with a big red "C" and Cutler now has the option to throw to one of the up and coming deep ball receivers in the league. In the last two weeks, Jeffery has averaged 21.4 yards per reception, making nearly every catch a massive gain.
Jeffery came out of a college as jump ball receiver with below average speed. His ball skills have always been top notch but now he is starting to incorporate smooth route running and has shown his ability to track a ball in the air.
Against the Saints, Cutler would throw it in an area and Jeffery would make subtle body adjustments to bring it in. It's most apparent with the fourth quarter catch, in which Jeffery had one-on-one on the outside and turned his body perfectly to catch the pass on a back shoulder throw when he intended to move inside, landing him only two yards away from the pylon.
He's been the Bears’ best player by far these last two games. He nearly eclipsed his season totals in 2012 in these last two games alone. In five less games this season, Jeffery has passed his 367 yard total last year with 427 yards through the early part of this season.
Jeffery was a monster pickup in the 2012 draft for Emery, and his talent is finally coming to fruition in the NFL. Brandon Marshall in 2012 was the first receiver since Marty Booker to go over the 1,000-yard mark, and now with Jeffery nearly at the 500-yard mark through five games Bears could potentially have two 1,000-yard receivers in one season.
The other important aspect of Jeffery's improved play are the kind of matchups it will open up not only for Jay Cutler to pick and choose but to help Brandon Marshall who has been struggling these last two weeks. Marshall faces endless amounts of double teams from the opposing secondary, which has led to these breakout performances by Jeffery because Cutler can't reach Marshall.
The frustration is starting to grow, as the Bears lose two straight while Marshall is struggling, "It's really tough,” Marshall said. “I'm not going to lie to you — just try to keep my head up and keep myself ready for when I'm available for the team whenever they call my number I just try to be there because if you beat yourself up too much or you get too down or too frustrated at the play calling or coverage, the ball comes your way and you drop it.”
Marshall was targeted a season-low five teams and came down with four catches and a touchdown. For the most part, it was Cutler not looking his way or him just being double-covered, but at times Marshall wouldn't even get a look on a clean route where he was open. It's tough for a guy who was basically always the first read for a quarterback the season before.
"I try to just focus on what I can control," Marshall said after the game," I've just got to hang my hat on (the idea) that we're doing what's best for the team. There's some times where I'm running some routes to pull the coverage."
Marshall's numbers should start to gradually get back to his 2012 totals, and with the emergence of Jeffery teams will now have to switch up coverages to try and contain not only Marshall but Jeffery as well.
The Bears have lost two straight with Marshall struggling, which says how important he is to the offense. Cutler is spreading around the ball, and this Trestman offense encourages him to read the field from sideline to sideline. Both receivers should end up on the same page soon.
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