Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith might have referred to the knee surgery for rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery as "minor," but the production from the rest of his receivers opposite Brandon Marshall and a difficult final schedule makes losing Jeffery anything but minor.
The Bears will now ask a combination of Earl Bennett and Devin Hester to pick up the slack at receiver against a number of the NFL's better defenses.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that Jeffery will miss 2-4 weeks after undergoing a scope on his knee. Jeffery had returned to the Bears lineup against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11, but left after the knee started giving him problems.
Lovie says Alshon Jeffery will miss 2 to 4 weeks after knee scope this morning.
— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) November 21, 2012
While Jeffery heals, a combination of Bennett and Hester should continue taking over his role. So far this season, the two have struggled to remain a consistent threat opposite Marshall at receiver.
Bennett has just 18 catches for 193 yards and zero touchdowns this season, including nine catches for 84 yards over the last four games.
Hester hasn't been much better, catching 18 passes for 203 yards and one score. He has eight catches for 51 yards over the last four games.
Combined, the two have just 17 catches for 135 yards opposite Marshall over the last month. In comparison, Marshall caught 28 passes for 346 yards and four touchdowns over that same stretch.
Jeffery has only caught 16 passes for 199 yards and two scores in six games this season, but he at least showed flashes of being an impact player opposite Marshall.
A tough schedule won't help Bennett and Hester much, either.
The Bears' last six games are as follows: Minnesota (16th against the pass), Seattle (third against the pass, No. 1 fantasy defense against opposing receivers), Minnesota again, Green Bay (held Chicago to 74 passing yards in Week 2), Arizona (fifth against the pass) and Detroit (eighth against the pass).
Given his recovery time line, Jeffery is likely to sit out at least until the Bears face Green Bay.
Of course, the Bears first need to get back Jay Cutler, who missed Chicago's 32-7 shellacking in San Francisco Monday night with a concussion. According to Michael Wright of ESPN Chicago, Cutler was cleared to practice Wednesday.
Once he returns, however, Cutler will find a receiving corps void of one its best play-making threats. How he makes due without Jeffery during a difficult stretch will be one of the deciding factors for the Bears' playoff hopes in 2012.