You don't have to watch second-round pick Alshon Jeffery for too long to be impressed with his ball skills and game in the air. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said Jeffery was "picking peanuts off some guys' heads" in their recent minicamp. With Johnny Knox's 2012 status uncertain, Earl Bennett relegated to the slot and Devin Hester still contributing more as a returner than a receiver, it would be logical to assume that Jeffery will start sooner than later, but according to recent reports, that is not the case.
Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com reported that a source told him that QB Jay Cutler "really likes Devin Hester" in the new offensive system. That system, according to Wright's source, will be very similar to the one he ran with current Bears QB coach Jeremy Bates and WR Brandon Marshall when the trio was together in Denver in 2008.
Speaking of Marshall, CSNChicago Bears Inside John Mullin reports that Marshall said "that's Devin Hester's job" when asked about who would start at wide receiver for the Bears this year. According to Mullin, Marshall conceded that Jeffery was working hard and anything's possible, but that Jeffery starting this year was a long shot and "what Devin has, it’s really hard for anybody to come in and take that."
It's not just players speaking definitively about the identity of the Bears' starting wide receiver opposite Marshall this year. When asked if Jeffery would be "sure-fire starter from day one," Chicago Tribune columnist Dan Pompei said he would be "stunned" if Jeffery started from the get-go. Pompei reminded the reader who asked the question that "as of now, Devin Hester is the starting flanker on the Bears." He also cited how "most rookie receivers take a little time." When Wright was asked on Twitter about Jeffery's performance thus far, his response was "Polished. Not developmental project."
The Bears have been billing Hester as a future No. 1 receiver to no avail for five years now. Maybe the strong pronouncements about Hester starting are another case of wishful thinking. Judging by the team's willingness to hedge their bets with the early pick of Jeffery, the rookie might be able to overtake Hester earlier than Pompei or Marshall expect.
Or maybe this could be the year that Hester finally puts it together and sticks as a productive starter. Ask yourself, would that be any less stunning than Jeffery starting from day one?