COMMENTARY | Alshon Jeffery re-broke his own Chicago Bears' all-time single-game receiving record with the 249-yard performance he put up against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13. Has Jeffery now supplanted Brandon Marshall as the Bears' No. 1 go-to receiving option?
Jeffery missed most of his rookie season thanks to a fractured right hand he sustained against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bears had to wait for it, but there 6-foot-3 wide out has proven himself to be an up-and-coming star in the NFL. After a mediocre start to the season, Jeffery exploded onto the national stage in Week 5 when he put up 218 yards receiving against the New Orleans Saints. His efforts upended Johnny Morris' old mark of 201 yards, which had stood for 59 years.
Even though Jeffery has two separate games of 200 yards or more, Marshall is still the main target -- for now. Jeffery has unquestionably dipped into Marshall's overall number or targets this season, but that is actually a good thing. In 2012, Marshall was targeted in inordinate 194 times. The next closest receiver was Earl Bennett's 49 total looks.
After 12 games this season, Marshall has 124 targets to Jeffery's 118. Marshall has had nine games this year in which he was targeted at least 10 times -- Jeffery has only six double-digit target games. The two currently rank as the best set of pass-catching teammates with a combined 2,099 yards receiving between them. However, Jeffery's career day has now moved him out in front of Marshall for the team-lead in yards with his 1,109 yards topping Marshall's 990.
The problem for Chicago is not that they have two wide receivers that are productive, but that the two seem to be unable to be productive in the same week. In Jeffery's 249-yard record-breaking performance, Marshall only had four catches for 45 yards. In fact, the two have only had 100+ yards receiving in the same game once this season.
The defense is the biggest problem for the Bears right now, but figuring out how to utilize Marshall and Jeffery in the same offensive game plan has to be 1-A. The current structure of one up, one down could leave the door open to in-fighting or management feeling as though they may not need to keep both players around in the future.
After Jeffery broke the Bears' all-time record the first time, teammate Brandon Marshall had nothing but positive comments for the second-year star. "It's just awesome to see this guy maturing right before our eyes," Marshall said. "I've always said this guy can be one of the best who's ever done it. Alshon is probably going to shatter all the Bears' records by the time he's done."
Marshall has not made any comments that would indicate he is unhappy with a lot of his throws now going to Jeffery, but the young receiver's Marshall-like play could spell the end of No. 15 in Chicago.
The problem may ultimately arise when the Bears could have to choose between one player or the other. Marshall has only one year left on his contract, worth $9.1 million. Jeffery, on the other hand, is wrapped up for two more seasons at $753,719 and $960,157 respectively.
The notoriously cheap Chicago franchise may see Jeffery's emergence as an excuse to low ball Marshall to the point he finds other accommodations. The Bears were lucky their cheapskate antics didn't send Matt Forte running to another team during his contract negotiations, but, with Jeffery playing like a No. 1 receiver, Chicago will soon have the opportunity to anger yet another star.
Does Jeffery's play mean Marshall's days are numbered in Chicago?
Dalton Russell has covered the Chicago Bears in print and online media since 1998. He lives just outside the shadow of the iconic architecture of Soldier Field.
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