New spotlight on Jeffery after breakout season

Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) catches a ball during an NFL football 
practice in Lake Forest, Ill., Tuesday, June 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) catches a ball during an NFL football practice in Lake Forest, Ill., Tuesday, June 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Alshon Jeffery will probably never crave the media attention like Brandon Marshall.

Jeffery might never put on the show in front of the JUGS machine his running mate did on Tuesday, when Marshall nonchalantly hauled in one ball after the next with just one hand.

But like Marshall, Jeffery is long — both in stature, and in confidence that the entire offense is poised to build on a breakthrough 2013 campaign.

“He’s great for both of us,” Jeffery said of Marshall following the Bears’ second open OTA (organized training activity). Marshall should continue to be great for Jeffery and the Bears for the foreseeable future after signing a three-year extension last month.

“We want to be the best. Every year we want to be the greatest receiving corps in the league. Not just me and Brandon … The whole offense.”

After erupting in in his second season, finishing sixth in the league in receiving yards (1,421) and 10th in receptions (89), Jeffery’s confidence continues to build. Jeffery told Sporting News last week that he and Marshall – the first-ever pair of Bears receivers to play in the Pro Bowl together – “are at the top of the list as the two best receivers.”

He wasn’t exactly backing off that claim on Tuesday saying, “what did the numbers say last year?” but qualifying it with, “what we did last year was last year — we have to go out every year and prove ourselves.”

Jeffery will have extra incentive to prove himself in 2014. Creating his ultimate highlight is winning a Super Bowl, he said, but the third-year receiver is eligible for a new deal next offseason.

Can the Bears afford to shell out No. 1 wide receiver money to both of their towering pass catchers? Is Jeffery worth No. 1 money? The re-signing of Marshall should continue to benefit Jeffery and the entire offense – but it could also make it difficult to gauge Jefffery’s true value. The need to consistently beat double teams hasn’t been there because of Marshall’s presence. 

His dynamite 2013 season certainly puts him in the conversation for the NFL’s best No. 2 wideout. Just don’t tell that to the ultracompetitive Jeffery, who said he wasn’t talking about his contract before perhaps doing so subconsciously.

“Who wants to be known as a No. 2?” he said while flashing a big smile. "Just overall competitiveness … why settle for second when you can be No. 1?” 

No, Jeffery wasn’t purposely discussing his contract. But one person who will surely agree with the sentiment? Jeffery’s agent, Eugene Parker.

Of course, all of the contract talk is just speculation until Jeffery goes out and proves he can sustain his 2013 excellence after defenses spend a full offseason adjusting to Chicago’s gargantuan passing attack. Conversely, opponents must also continue to adjust to the Bears, now in Year Two of coach Marc Trestman’s offense.

“The game is slowing down a lot more,” said Jeffery, adding that he intends to head back to Miami with Marshall to continue working after this phase of the offseason program concludes.

Jeffery said he’s humbled by the extra attention this offseason brought following his breakthrough campaign and first Pro Bowl nod. After soaring over Tim Jennings for a highlight touchdown during practice, he was as comfortable in front of the media as any time during his three years in Chicago.

Indeed, Jeffery is soaring in more ways than one these days.

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