“Whenever there’s nothing to do, yes there is. Throw it up to Alshon.”
-Michael Irvin, NFL Network
11:08 remaining in the 4th quarter. 24-17 Browns. After a pair of dud plays on first and second downs the Bears were facing third-and-eleven. If they fail to convert they’ll be punting the ball and the momentum to Cleveland. They might also be punting away their 2013 season. Cutler takes the snap, meanders in a pocket for a few seconds…
There’s nothing to do.
Yes there is!
Throw it up to Alshon!
Yes, I know the ball floated to the goal line by Cutler turned out to be a free play due to a roughing the passer penalty. But the play, the moment, the catch was the turning point of a ball game that seemed to be getting far, far away from the Chicago Bears. Just as Jeffery’s catch at the end of the first half against the Cowboys set the stage for second half rout. Just as Jeffery had single-handedly kept the Bears in the game with Minnesota two weeks earlier by playing keep away from over-matched Viking corners. Brandon Marshall is one of the best receivers in the sport. But Alshon Jeffery’s knack for the spectacular has become the signature of an offensive renaissance in Chicago. And you now get the feeling, because of Jeffery’s presence, the Bears can score a touchdown on every single play.
Phil Emery struck gold in the second round of the 2012 draft, grabbing Jeffery after receivers with names like A.J. Jenkins, Brian Quick and a traded-up-for Stephen Hill were off the board. The knocks on Jeffery were not football related. They were food related. He ate too much. From a PFT piece during last year’s Combine:
Pre-Combine rumors swirled that South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery might show up to Indianapolis overweight. Jeffery apparently reacted to the speculation, shedding a significant amount of pounds and reporting to the Combine at 216 on Friday. Jeffery admitted he played his final college season weighing in the 230s. He also conceded that 216 pounds is the lightest he’s been since high school. The sudden weight loss begs the question of whether Jeffery has lost strength. He is not used to being so small, and muscle usually goes first when a person is trying to drop pounds rapidly.
So because Jeffery spent too much time at Columbia-area Chik-fil-A restaurants during his tenure as a gamecock, the Chicago Bears now have the most explosive young receiver in the sport? Works for me. Muhsin Muhammad famously said Chicago is where receivers go to die. Tito from Oliver & Company said, “If this is torture, chain me to the wall.” Well if these are dead wide receivers, spare me the living ones.
Muhammad is broke now.
“…the two-time Pro Bowler was buried in bills and forced to sell a home that boasted, ‘the largest private aquarium in the Southwest,’ on eBay.”
The more truthful maxim to sum up Moose might be: Chicago is where aging receivers go to collect a ridiculous pay check from Jerry Angelo and underperform.
Chicago is instead where receivers are currently coming to thrive and no pair of starting receivers in the league is thriving more. 2,450 yards between Jeffery and Marshall. 17 touchdowns. 120 first downs. Marshall was expected. He’s a number one receiver no matter the coach or quarterback. He hasn’t registered less than a thousand yards since his rookie campaign in Denver.
Marshall’s upside is Marshall. Jeffery’s upside is the best wide receiver in the league.
Jeffery’s only comparison in the league IS the great Calvin Johnson. They are the masters of the jump ball – too big, too strong, hands too good – for any defensive back to keep them down over the duration of a sixty-minute contest. Johnson has always looked a man amongst boys. Over the last three weeks the same can be said for Jeffery. Jeffery isn’t Johnson. Maybe he’ll never be Johnson. But it would not be unfair for the expectations of Bears to start veering in that direction.
It is impossible to know what the remainder of the 2013 holds for the Chicago Bears, whose performances against the Lions and Vikings recently have left them needing help to find a berth in the postseason. But one thing is certain when it comes to 2014 and beyond: the Bears have the most exciting young receiver in the sport.