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Marshall and Jeffrey: The Best in the League?

The Chicago Bears enter a new era for themselves.  This is not the Bears teams of old that would grind it out on the ground about 30 times a game and rely on a defensive fleet that was stingy in giving up points.  This isn’t even the team from a few years back that had a suffocating defense and very putrid offense.  This Bears team under coach Marc Trestman has become, in just one season, one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL.  They “remixed” their offensive line last season, which finally gave the skill players what they needed to put their talents on display.  Matt Forte enjoyed the open space on flat routes and screens, while both quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Josh McCown, put up impressive numbers while learning the Marc Trestman offense.  Of course, what stood out the most, were the new Monsters of the Midway : Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey.

Last season Marshall and Jeffrey totaled over 2700 receiving yards and combined for 19 touchdowns.  Even when the rest of the league caught on to the fact that the Bears now had two all-pro type wideouts – defenses could do very little.  They both come at a ridiculous size (Jeffrey 6’3″ 215 pounds, Marshall 6’4″ 230 pounds) and accompany that with freakish athleticism.

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Brandon Marshall was acquired by the Bears in 2012 when the Bears traded two third round picks to the Miami Dolphins for his services.  The move reunited Marshall with the quarterback he saw the most success with in his career, Jay Cutler.  In their reunited season, the quarterback / receiver duo proved to still have the chemistry they displayed in their days with the Broncos.  Marshall became the first Bears receiver to go over the 1000 yard receiving mark since 2002 and set Bears’ seasons records with total receiving yards and receptions. The problem was that Marshall had almost 90 more receptions than the next Bears wideout – making the passing game effective, yet one dimensional.  There was a lack of talent amongst other receivers and at the time the Bears had one of the worst offensive lines in the league.  They needed more help – and they needed somebody to step up. .  .

Alshon Jeffrey was drafted by the Bears in 2012. Scouts marveled the size and agility possessed by the promising young receiver out of South Carolina.  A silly character concern let Alshon drop to the second round of the draft.  The word silly is used because the concern was that he wasn’t in the best shape while on the field. Even sillier considering the fifth overall pick in the draft was the much troubled Justin Blackmon who was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Other receivers went before Jeffrey’s name was called : Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, A.J. Jenkins, Brian Quick and Stephen Hill. . .  Jeffrey’s rookie season found him at times looking confused.  Dropped passes, incorrect running routes and struggling to find separation were all weekly struggles for the young wide out.  After the 2012 season, Brandon Marshall said he would work with Jeffrey in the off-season.  Whatever Marshall did with the kid, worked.  Jeffrey ended the 2013 campaign with over 1400 yards and even had two 200 yard receiving games.  Jeffrey was the other option Chicago needed to open up their passing attack.  You could no longer double team Brandon Marshall because Jeffrey was becoming an emerging star in the league.  His progress earned him the PFWA award for Most Improved Player of the Year.  Jeffrey offers a 36 inch vertical to his already above 6 foot stature – factor in another three feet for his arm length and you’re talking about a guy who at the peak of his jump is somewhere around 12-13 feet tall.  Something that goes unnoticed, which shouldn’t about Jeffrey is that he is one of the leagues best at locating the ball.  What does that mean?  That means, when the ball is up for grabs, even while getting nudged by one or two defenders (on ground or air) Jeffrey displays a certain kind of concentration in following the ball into his hands like very few in the league can.  Jeffrey became not just a favorite amongst Bears fans, but NFL fans in general when making highlight worthy receptions seemingly every week.

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In most discussions Brandon Marshall is considered to be a top five wideout in the NFL.  He’s had success against the likes of Darrelle Revis averaging about 5 catches and 80 yards a game when playing against the all pro.  Marshall has even had success where very few have : against Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks secondary.  Although the Bears lost that game in 2012, Marshall came away with 10 catches for 165 yards.  So now that Marshall is accompanied by Alshon Jeffrey the question is: Do the Bears have the best wide receiver duo in the league?

Look at the other “top five receivers” in the league.  Calvin Johnson is an all out beast but his counterpart is Golden Tate, a receiver who’s been in the league for four years and hasn’t had one 1000 yard season.  Larry Fitzgerald is the prototypical wideout with the best hands in the league and the Cardinals are hoping that previously mentioned Michael Floyd will develop into something.  AJ Green has no-one at an all pro level opposite of him and neither does Dez Bryant in Dallas.  One can make the argument that the Atlanta Falcons with Julio Jones and Roddy White still have the best wide receiver duo in the league but after last season seeing Roddy White battling injuries all year long – you have to consider how much of a beating his body can take at this point.

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Right now there should not be a debate that the best wide receiver duo belongs to the Chicago Bears.  A scary thing to consider is this : As mentioned earlier, after the 2012 season Marshall worked with Jeffrey in the off-season.  After the 2013 season Marshall and Jeffrey said they were adding 2013 draft pick Marquess Wilson to work out with them.  As of June 7th, it was reported by ESPN’s Michael C. Wright that the Bears are “pretty confident” Wilson will win the slot receiver job.  If history repeats itself . . . Bear Witness.  .  .

 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

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