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Offense comes up big in red zone

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 31, 2013 – 5:45 pm

The Bears defense boasts several talented Pro Bowlers. But the unit could have used a step ladder or an NBA power forward during a red-zone drill late in Wednesday’s practice.

Taking advantage of a size differential, Jay Cutler threw touchdown passes to 6-3 receiver Alshon Jeffery, 6-4 receiver Brandon Marshall and 6-6 tight end Martellus Bennett.

“We’re very lucky,” said coach Marc Trestman. “We thank [general manager] Phil [Emery] every day when we come off the field that he was able to bring in guys with this kind of size and girth, and we’re going to do our best to try to put them in a position to have success.”

Jeffery leaped high in the back of the end zone to snare the ball over 5-11 safety Major Wright, while Marshall hauled in a jump ball over 6-2 cornerback Charles Tillman in the corner.

“It’s good to have a situation like that where you can throw some fades into the side of the end zone,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. “And when you have to cover 53 yards in the end zone, it makes it tough.”

Other big targets in the Bears passing game include tight end Fendi Onobun (6-6) and receivers Terrence Toliver (6-5), Marquess Wilson (6-4) and Marcus Rucker (6-4).

“We’re got some big dudes out there,” Cutler said. “You just kind of have to put it up high, and they understand football, which makes it nice.”

Cutler has especially enjoyed bonding with Bennett, a complete tight end who signed with the Bears as a free agent after spending his first five seasons with the Giants (2008-11) and Cowboys (2012).

“He’s a joy to play with on and off the field,” Cutler said. “He brings a little bit of energy. He brings some edge to the huddle and he’s like a Brandon Marshall [in that] he’s really smart out there, understands defenses and knows where the holes are. It makes it easy on me.”

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Jeffery delivers play of the day

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 28, 2013 – 5:10 pm

Second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery generated the top play in Sunday’s practice, using a late burst to haul in a long touchdown pass from Jay Cutler in 11-on-11 drills.

“We were going to take a shot,” Jeffery said. “Jay did lay it pretty far out there. At first I didn’t think I was going to get to it, but I made the play.”

The Bears traded up five spots in the second round of last year’s draft to pick Jeffery, who showed flashes while battling injuries as a rookie, catching 24 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.

A year later, Jeffery is excited about being part of first-year coach Marc Trestman’s offense. “I love everything about it,” Jeffery said. “It just gets everyone involved.”

Jeffery knows that he will benefit from the extra attention defenses typically pay to Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall on the opposite side of the field.

“It’s a big advantage, but at the same time I’ve still got to just go out there and make plays and be tuned into the offense,” Jeffery said.

Trestman has been impressed with how Jeffery has performed to this point in training camp.

“He’s a quiet guy,” said the Bears coach. “He’s a very smart young man, very high football intelligence, a guy who learns very quickly and he’s got good sponsorship with Brandon and some of the other guys around him, so it’s been three very good days for him. We just hope he continues to progress and stays consistent in his effort and his productivity.”

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Jeffery remains sidelined with injury

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 8, 2012 – 4:03 pm

Rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery missed practice again Thursday with a hand injury that has forced him to sit out the last three games.

“Alshon Jeffery’s getting better,” said coach Lovie Smith. “He’s not quite there yet.”

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (coach’s decision) and defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (calf) also did not practice in advance of Sunday night’s home game against the Texans. Defensive end Israel Idonije (ankle) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (back) worked out without restrictions.

For the Texans, nose tackle Shaun Cody (ribs), tight end Owen Daniels (back) and running back Ben Tate (hamstring) did not practice, while fullback James Casey (illness), cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph (quadricep) and Brice McCain (knee), defensive end Antonio Smith (ankle) and receiver Kevin Walter (groin) were limited.

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Jeffery remains sidelined with hand injury

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 7, 2012 – 2:03 pm

Alshon Jeffery continues to improve in his recovery from a hand injury that has forced him to miss the last three games. But the rookie receiver remained sidelined Wednesday when the Bears returned to the practice field to prepare for Sunday night’s home game against the Houston Texans.

Defensive end Israel Idonije (ankle) and defensive tackles Henry Melton (back) and Matt Toeaina (calf) were limited. But coach Lovie Smith said “none of them are really serious. Hopefully we’ll have everybody out on the football field [Thursday].”

For the Texans, nose tackle Shaun Cody (ribs), tight end Owen Daniels (back), running back Ben Tate (hamstring) and receiver Kevin Walter (groin) did not practice; and cornerback Johnathan Joseph (quadricep), running back Arian Foster (coach’s decision), cornerback Brice McCain (knee) and defensive end Antonio Smith (ankle) were limited.

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Jeffery letting his play do his talking

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 11, 2012 – 6:22 pm

Many NFL veterans feel that rookies should be seen and not heard, but Bears second-round draft pick Alshon Jeffery takes that unwritten rule to an extreme.

“Sometimes it takes guys a little bit of time to get comfortable when they make that transition,” said receiver Brandon Marshall. “You’ll see a guy that’s as quiet as a church mouse and a couple of months later he’s talking up a torn. But I think this is his personality.

“He doesn’t say much. He doesn’t say anything at all really. But he takes it all in. In meetings he takes some notes but [you wonder], ‘Are you getting it?’ Then he gets on the football field and he makes no mistakes, and we’ve got him playing all over the place. He’s a special talent and I’m excited to see him grow.”

Jeffery let his performance do the talking in Sunday’s season opener; he caught three passes for 80 yards including a 42-yard touchdown in the Bears’ 41-21 rout of the Indianapolis Colts.

“He’s a very quiet guy, a very serious young man, and very respectful,” said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. “He does pay attention to his business and he does go out each day and work to get better, and we really like that about him. Plus he’s athletic; he can catch, he can jump, he can run and a couple other things.”

Jeffery is quickly building a rapport with quarterback Jay Cutler.

“I think more and more when we start getting one-on-one looks, he’s a guy that I’ll just throw it his way,” Cutler said. “He’s going to be like [Marshall]. You just put it in his area and he’s going to make a play for you and he’s going to protect you.

“It comes over a stretch of time of trusting him and believing him and doing it in games. That’s what he has been doing. He doesn’t say much, but he gets the job done.”

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Marshall impressed with rookie receiver

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 20, 2012 – 2:54 pm

Brandon Marshall acknowledged that it may be too early for Alshon Jeffery to begin crafting his Hall of Fame speech. But the veteran receiver has been very impressed with his rookie counterpart.

“What does [Bill] Parcells say? Let’s not induct him in Canton yet,” Marshall said with a laugh. “But if he continues to do what he’s doing, he’ll have a chance to get great in this league.”

Jeffery has performed well in training camp and the Bears’ first two preseason contests, catching a game-high four passes for 35 yards against the Broncos and three passes for a team-leading 62 yards versus the Redskins.

“I’m really impressed with his game,” Marshall said. “I’m really impressed with his ability to take in what we’re trying to accomplish in the playbook. You can tell he’s been really coached and I look forward to big things out of him this year.”

Marshall, who had only 20 receptions as a rookie before recording 102, 104 and 101 in his next three seasons, feels that the adjustment from college football to the NFL is different for everyone.

“I’m seeing guys like A.J. Greene, Alshon, Julio Jones, you’re seeing those guys come in and make an immediate impact right away,” Marshall said. “For me, I wasn’t the professional right away that I should have been. 

“Alshon is a guy who gets it early. And you’ve got guys like me who talk to him about continuing to stay on that path and be professional. He’s ahead of schedule.”

Marshall hasn’t and won’t speak with Jeffery about the 15-yard penalty the rookie drew against the Redskins when he ripped off cornerback DeAngelo Hall’s helmet during a shoving match.

“One thing we talk about around here is we want to play physical,” Marshall said. “We’re going to be smart, absolutely. We don’t want to get those penalties. But it’s hard to play this game while letting people punk you.

“Everyone knows DeAngelo Hall, what type of player he is. He’s a great player, but he’s feisty and he knows how to get under people’s skin. We’ll be smarter next time, but we want [Jeffery] to be physical and have that aggression out there on the field.”

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Tice the latest to praise Jeffery

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 13, 2012 – 2:58 pm

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice on Monday joined a growing chorus of Bears coaches and players who have been singing the praises of rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

The second-round draft pick from South Carolina, who has been excelling in training camp, caught a game-high four passes for 35 yards in last Thursday’s preseason opener versus the Broncos.

“We were real pleased with Jeffery,” Tice said. “He made some plays for us and really dominated physically. [He] threw people around, and that was pleasing to see.”

Jeffery has made several impressive catches in practice, especially over shorter defensive backs in red zone drills. Tice is confident that the 6-3, 216-pounder will produce similar plays in the regular season.

“I believe with that young man it will translate,” Tice said. “I think we can all see that. That is a big, physical specimen. He played in the SEC against great competition. The speed of the game is not too big for him. He’s played in front of big crowds.

“He is very calm, doesn’t get overexcited, in fact to the point where I say every day, ‘You OK?’ [He responds], ‘Yes, sir.’ He’s a very polite young man. He has been raised right. He’s a great athlete. He won four [high school] state championships in basketball. You want to throw the ball up to him and let him go get it. He’s going to do that.”

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Drake: Jeffery exceeding expectations

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 8, 2012 – 6:40 pm

Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake is extremely pleased with how second-round draft pick Alshon Jeffery has performed during the first two weeks of training camp.

“He’s exceeded the expectations I’ve had for him so far in practice,” Drake said. “Does he need to continue to work and get better? No question; we all do as a group. We’re trying to set a standard and reach for perfection. That’s what we want. But I’ve been very pleased with him, very pleased with him in the classroom. Every aspect of his game I’ve been very excited about.”

On the unofficial depth chart the Bears released this week, Jeffery is listed second behind Devin Hester at one receiver position with Brandon Marshall starting ahead of Earl Bennett at the other.

Drake insists that it won’t be difficult to get Jeffery quality reps with so much depth at the position.

“He’s going to be out there,” Drake said. “We’re going to have a four- or five-man rotation. You have to put those guys in there. Devin Hester’s going to be doing a lot of work on the returns and it’s good to have a guy like Alshon Jeffery that you can put in there. Not only is it good for Alshon Jeffery, it’s good for Devin Hester. So there’s not going to be any problems getting him in the game. He’ll be in there a lot, no doubt.”

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