By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — It’s Alshon, and Jeffery. Not that hard, really.
Not Ashlon Jeffrey, Alshawn Jeffries, or Al Shonjeffery. Not Haywood Jeffries, Alsheron Geoffrey, Al Jefferson or Alvin Gentry.
And the second-year wideout has earned at least the common courtesy of some extra effort to be called what he really is: perhaps the most exciting receiving prospect drafted by the Bears in my lifetime.
He is. I checked.
I was born in 1969, and the list of drafted wide receivers starting then is Bob Long, George Farmer, Linzy Cole, Jim Morgan, Lester McClain, Ralph Wirtz, Bob Brown, Bill Barry, Dave Juenger, Wayne Wheeler, Jack Ettinger, Steve Marcantonio, Witt Beckman, Brian Baschnagel, Norm Anderson, Gerald Butler, Herman Jones, Rickey Watts, Emanuel Tolbert, Ken Margerum, Willie Gault, Oliver Williams, Brad Anderson, James Maness, David Williams, Lew Barnes, Glen Kozlowski, Ron Morris, Wendell Davis, Rogie Magee, John Simpson, Freddy Weygand, Tony Moss, Anthony Morgan, John Brown, Curtis Conway, Lloyd Hill, Jack Jackson, Bobby Engram, Marcus Robinson, D’Wayne Bates, Marty Booker, Sulecio Sanford, Dez White, David Terrell, John Capel, Jamin Elliott, Bobby Wade, Justin Gage, Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley, Airese Curry, Earl Bennett, Marcus Monk, Juaquin Iglesias, Johnny Knox, Derrick Kinder, and Jeffery.
I’ll wait while you stop throwing up.
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Now – any arguments? Gault was fast, famous and not particularly accomplished. Conway was heralded but only had two seasons commensurate to his top-pick status. Engram was the only guy getting open in 1998, and Booker had three decent years. Robinson exploded for 84 catches, 1400 yards and 9 touchdowns in 1999, and that was it.
Jeffery has 75 catches for 1193 yards and six TDs through thirteen games this year, breaking the franchise record for receiving yards in a game earlier this year with 218 against the Saints. He then shattered his own record last week with 249 versus Minnesota.
Not only is he doing this while Brandon Marshall has 84 catches for 1090 yards and nine scores, he’s doing it with style. His end-of-half grab had fans buzzing, even as George McCaskey and Mike Ditka were screaming pink-facedly into midfield microphones like caffeinated, wrinkled piglets. The threat of the end-around to Jeffery helped spring Matt Forte for a second-half score due to its establishment as a go-to play, and he made another catch near the sideline in a way that is becoming his signature.
The “Jeffery” is the fingertip catch that just stays there, secured aloft with each end of the ball controlled as if presenting it for inspection. His spectacular receptions are reductive in their simplicity: ball grabbed by hands and just held, as every newly-arcane NFL rule is satisfied by feet down and completion of whatever the procedure is supposed to be. That the ball itself is always so cleanly visible is refreshingly satisfying, unobscured by it being pulled into the body in the way we have come to expect.
Not that we should be surprised. His rookie campaign displayed his knack for big plays (15.3 yards per catch) despite missing six games with a broken hand and a sprained knee, and he has been remarkably true to the fine scouting job done by Pro Football Weekly.
Per their pre-draft report, Jeffery was described as “a big target and wide catching radius, snatches the ball out of the air. Can separate with body length at the last second. Makes difficult catches look easy. Strong red-zone producer.”
On the downside, they said he “needs to push off to separate, and most catches are contested. Not a precise route runner. Work habits and discipline can improve”
In summary, they called him “one of the best receivers in the draft playing the ball in the air,” while warning that he “must figure out the meaning of hard work to produce in the pros.”
Looks like he has. His conditioning is a non-issue, his ability to beat the jam at the line more practiced, his routes professionally precise. And there are tangible results.
If only more people could identify him properly, I’d say Alshon Jeffery is making a name for himself.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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