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Take 2: Is Bears’ Jeffery a No. 1 receiver?

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery celebrates in front of Minnesota Vikings safety Robert Blanton after catching a 46-yard touchdown pass in the second half of Sunday's game in Minneapolis.

Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery set a franchise record with 12 receptions for 249 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Shaw Media’s Hub Arkush and Tom Musick discuss:

Musick: Look past the Bears’ flaws – yes, I realize this is easier said than done – and you’ll see a 23-year-old receiver blossoming into a national celebrity. That player is none other than Alshon Jeffery, who is as quiet as a mouse in the locker room but has made plenty of noise on the field in his second season with the Bears. I certainly didn’t see this coming. Did you?

Arkush: Wait ... hold on. ... I’m sorry, Tom, but it took awhile to get past all those flaws! But you’re right, I found him – Alshon Jeffery – and he’s looking good. Superstar? Let’s delay the coronation just a bit longer. Jeffery is a great catcher of the ball who also has shown good athleticism beyond what was predicted of him coming out of college.

But there are two issues.

His huge game in Minnesota was against backup corners on one of the league’s worst pass defenses. And his biggest games have come when the opposition focuses on taking away Brandon Marshall. He’s rising fast, but there is still a bit more to prove.

Musick: I don’t know, Hub, I think I’m ready for the coronation. I’ve got a crown and a robe and a fancy chair that I ordered online (thanks, Cyber Monday!), and I’m ready to start the ceremony whenever Sir Alshon arrives.

Backup cornerback or not, Jeffery’s touchdown catch over the top of Minnesota’s Chris Cook was the best play I’ve seen this season. Brian Billick called the play “Calvin Johnson-esque” on the Fox broadcast, and he was right on the money. Jeffery has the makings of a No. 1 receiver, and he might seize the baton from Marshall sooner than later.

Arkush: Hmm, King Alshon? I wonder just what monarchy that’s from?

Besides questioning his lineage, you’re absolutely right, the tools appear to be there. And just like you said, “he has the makings and might seize the baton sooner rather than later.” The problem is as great as he was in the farewell to the Humph-Dome game, he has disappeared a couple of times this year, too, specifically whenever teams haven’t bracketed Marshall all over the field with multiple defenders. “Might” just isn’t good enough. I like the kid, too, but there’s still a chance for a little premature ... 

Musick: Yes, I can see it now. King Alshon, supreme leader of the Republic of Touchdowns.

Phil Emery has drawn a lot of scrutiny for selecting Shea McClellin in the first round in 2012, but his decision to move up to select Jeffery in the second round that year has proved to be brilliant. Take a look at the six receivers selected ahead of The King: Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, A.J. Jenkins, Brian Quick and Stephen Hill. Whoops.

Arkush: Well, Floyd and Wright actually are looking pretty good right now, but there’s no question Jeffery is the best value of the bunch. Nobody’s debating that Alshon has become a really good receiver.

The question you’ve posed I believe is: Could he flourish in the Brandon Marshall role as No. 1? And I still believe the answer is we need just a bit more evidence before we render our verdict.

Marshall struggled against the Vikings, but he’s proved he can’t be singled, and when he’s doubled or been bracketed, he still has given you big plays as often as not. I can’t remember Jeffery ever being double-covered, can you?

And if he is going to be the king, does that make Martellus Bennett his court jester and Marshall his personal dresser?

Musick: Yes, and I would add Josh McCown as his spiritual adviser and Kyle Long as his security chief.

To your point, I have seen only single coverage against Jeffery, and I have seen Jeffery roast that single coverage to the tune of five 100-yard games and two 200-yard games. That’s what No. 1 receivers do: Beat single coverage and demand extra attention.

Besides, I can’t retreat from my position now. I mean, I already have bought this crown, and I don’t think I can get a refund.

Arkush: Yes, Tom, and unfortunately there certainly isn’t anyone else on the Bears’ roster who’ll be wearing a crown anytime soon.

Bottom line, Jeffery is looking like the best Bears draft choice since they took Charles Tillman in the second round of the 2003 draft. Could it be that dry spell that has us so quick to want to crown Jeffery?

Regardless, we might be asking the wrong question. Perhaps the right one is: Do the Bears feel good enough about him to send Marshall packing after this season and create another $9 million in cap space? There’s a new debate for us.

• Write to Arkush at harkush@shawmedia.com. Write to Musick at tmusick@shawmedia.com.

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