Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had just completed two straight passes along the left sideline to second-year wideout Alshon Jeffery. It was the first drive of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, and it seemed clear that the Bears were going to continue to look Jeffery’s way. It was as if they were announcing: "Hey Pittsburgh, we’ve got a weapon. Stop him if you can."
On the very next play, Cutler hit him for nine yards.
In Week 4, Jeffery looked like the second coming of another 6’3” South Carolina product, Marcus Robinson—remember his magical 1999 season with 1,400 yards on 84 catches?
Jeffery snagged seemingly every jump ball thrown his way. In a disappointing loss to the Detroit Lions, he stood out as a bright spot for Chicago. He reeled in heaves of 36 and 44 yards from Cutler, which both set up Robbie Gould field goals, and in a clutch fourth-quarter moment, he went up over a defender to latch onto a two-point conversion toss.
He finished the game with 107 yards on five catches, which was a career day for No. 17.
Hopefully, though, a couple of years from now, we’ll remember it as just another one of his good games.
Only four weeks into his sophomore season, it may be too soon to amp up the decibels on the Jeffery praise. But then again, where’s the fun in waiting until the time is right?
Jeffery is a legit wide receiver in the NFL.
Here are three reasons why he’s turned me into believer.
He’s a Big Pup with Big Ups
Quarterbacks say it all the time: They love big targets. At 6’3” with long arms, Jeffery is already an easy find for a scrambling quarterback. Add in his 36.5” vertical leap and he’s a quarterback’s dream, especially in the red zone. With him, Brandon Marshall (6’4”) and Martellus Bennett (6’6”), the Bears have a trio of tall targets who can, have and will give defenses fits come goal-line time.
Jeffery has reeled in the kind of I’m-just-going-to-outjump-you catches that make fans giddy. He’s also shown that he has the smarts to go along with the athleticism, as he routinely uses his body to win positioning battles. Both are good indicators of great things to come.
Big, Strong Paws
Does he remind anyone else of Michael Irvin in the way he tapes just above his gloves to make his already extra-large hands look mammoth size? Maybe it’s just me.
Regardless, he has demonstrated that he can snatch the ball out of midair and, more importantly, hang onto it. It was never more apparent than during his 44-yard catch along the right sideline against Detroit. He clamped down on the floating pass and outmuscled cornerback Chris Houston to hang onto the ball.
He Can Block
Right now, the downfield block of the year goes to Jeffery for his second-quarter manhandling of not one but two Detroit defenders to spring Matt Forte’s 53-yard touchdown run. At 216 pounds, Jeffery is bigger than most defensive backs, and he’s not shy about throwing his weight into them. We’ve seen him consistently take cornerbacks out of plays. It’s the non-glamorous part of a receiver’s job, and he’s done it admirably.
Through four games, he’s caught 18 passes for 211 yards, putting him on pace for 844 yards. The most telling stat, however, may be the number of times he’s been targeted. Through four games, Cutler has thrown his way 32 times.
If Cutler continues to look for him eight times a game, 844 receiving yards is likely a conservative estimate considering most of those totals are from the last two games: 12 catches for 158 yards. Using those figures, he’s well on his way to eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark.
What do you think? Will the Bears finish the season with two 1,000-yard receivers?