Alshon Jeffery: Players Who Must Step Up for Injured Bears WR
The Chicago Bears offense was dealt a big blow on Monday when it was announced that rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will miss four to six weeks with a broken right hand, according to Sean Jensen and Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Though he hasn't had a huge impact with the Bears through five games—14 receptions, 184 yards, two touchdowns—he did have moments where he looked like he could be a viable No. 2 receiver very soon. He was also the second-leading receiver on the team.
Now, the Bears will have to scramble to put someone else in that spot for at least a few weeks. The team can survive without Jeffery, but someone is going to have to step up his game to at least match what Jeffery was giving them.
Here are a few players currently on the roster who have the talent to produce at a higher level and will likely see their playing time increase with Jeffery out.
Any hope that Hester's speed would make him a top-flight NFL wide receiver has long been forgotten.
Who will step up in Alshon Jeffery's absence?
However, there are two things to like about him in this particular iteration of the Bears offense. He no longer has to be the No. 1 playmaker because Chicago has Brandon Marshall on the outside.
The other thing that makes Hester so appealing is the fact that he is averaging 16.3 yards per catch. It is a limited sample size, as he only has seven receptions, but it is an encouraging sign that can carry over with more exposure because he is so fast.
Put Hester in the slot, and he could be a dangerous weapon that few teams are capable of handling.
Even though he ranks just fourth on the team in receptions (8), Davis is third in targets (18). He is a big, versatile tight end who has the speed and power to get a lot of yards after the catch, though he hasn't been showing that much this year.
The fact that quarterback Jay Cutler has developed enough rapport with Davis already to target him 18 times bodes well for his future prospects, particularly in light of Jeffery's injury.
When a wide receiver goes down, quarterbacks will start to look a lot more toward players they trust. Marshall is always going to be No. 1 for Cutler, but don't be surprised to see Davis become more prominent in the weekly game plan.
Even though Bennett seems like the elder statesman of the Bears receiving corps, he is still just 25 years old. His career has faded dramatically since a very promising rookie season in which he had 717 yards on 54 receptions.
Some of Bennett's problems can be attributed to injuries, as he has been limited to just 25 games the last two seasons, but he should be given a chance to prove himself once again with Jeffery out.
Bennett doesn't have the body or speed to be a No. 1 receiver in any system. But if you are asking him to be a change-of-pace option with a versatile player like Marshall on the other side of the field, he could get back to his rookie-season performance.
The Bears need to see what they have in him, so there is motivation on both sides to see what Bennett can do with this golden opportunity. He did miss last week's game with a hand injury but is recovering and expects to be ready to go for the Bears after their bye this week.
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