The Chicago Bears are not a team that’s known for throwing the football. The franchise’s all-time receptions leader is Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton. The Bears have 27 members enshrined in Canton, and zero played wide receiver. Two years is hardly enough time to judge a player’s career, but if Alshon Jeffrey stays healthy and Chicago manages to keep him around, he could be the first wide out drafted by Chicago in Canton someday.
The Bears took Jeffrey in the second round in 2012, 45th overall, out of South Carolina. Jeffrey’s collegiate career was one one-handed highlight reel catch after another. He left USC with the single season record in receiving yards with 1,517, and the most career yards with 3,042, almost 300 yards ahead of Kenny McKinley.
He has all the tools to be a dominant wide receiver in the NFL; he has great hands, he has the ability to create separation, and he has the one thing you can’t teach, which is size. Jeffrey is great at using his 6’3” frame to leap over defenders and catch the ball in traffic.
Jeffrey started slow in his rookie year playing behind First Team All Pro Brandon Marshall. He had 24 receptions for 367 yards, while Marshall racked up a franchise record 1,508 yards and 118 catches. Jeffrey was quick to turn things around in 2013; he caught 89 passes, just 11 behind Marshall, and had 1,421 receiving yards, most on the team and second in franchise history to Marshall’s 2012 mark. He also more than doubled his rookie output in touchdowns, going from three in 2012 to seven this past year.
Despite a slow start in Jeffrey’s rookie campaign, he is on pace to shatter every franchise receiving record. At this rate, he’ll break Harlon Hill’s record of 40 touchdowns by 2019 before he turns 30. He’ll break Johnny Morris’ franchise record in yards at 5,059 in just his sixth season, and Walter Payton’s receptions record in his ninth season. Teammate Brandon Marshall may break all these records first, but Jeffrey is only 24, while Marshall will turn 30 this offseason.
The Monsters of the Midway from the famous black and blue division have always been known as a gritty, defensive-minded squad that won games with toughness and takeaways. With the hiring of coach Marc Trestman, the Bears have positioned themselves to be one of the league’s elite offensive teams for years to come.
Trestman’s specialty this year was utilizing all his weapons and finding ways to spread the ball around. Matt Forte had career years in rushing and receiving yards, Marshall had a career best in receptions, and Jeffrey had the opposite of a sophomore slump.
Brandon Marshall only has one year left on his current contract, but he may come back since longtime teammate Jay Cutler just signed a new long-term deal. If Marshall leaves, Alshon Jeffrey will be the new #1. If Marshall sticks around, 2013 proved that the two can co-exist while both putting up Pro Bowl numbers.
Whichever way it pans out, the Chicago Bears have finally found the recipe to put points on the board consistently. Alshon Jeffrey looks to be the guy who can legitimize their receiving core for the long term.