Bears: Alshon Jeffery's return finally gives Matt Barkley an elite target

Bears: Alshon Jeffery's return finally gives Matt Barkley an elite target

So many weeks of the Bears’ 3-10 season have been marked by player exits from the stage, whether for injury or suspension. The games now may mean little overall because of the Bears being eliminated from playoff possibilities but the impending return of one of those players – wide receiver Alshon Jeffery – suddenly adds a level of significance to next Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

Jeffery was suspended four games on Nov. 14 for violating NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs and is eligible to return this week after being barred from even being in the building while under suspension. He was at Halas Hall on Monday, with coach John Fox “re-introducing” the veteran wideout and team co-captain to the team.

The real introduction, however, will come when Jeffery begins working with quarterback Matt Barkley, whose run as Bears starting quarterback began during Jeffery’s absence. Jeffery resumes playing for his next contract -- “I think he has a pretty good understanding” of what the next three weeks mean, Fox said – and at the same time gives Barkley an opportunity to operate the offense with one of its biggest weapons after working primarily with receivers no higher than No. 4 on the depth chart. Eddie Royal played 12 snaps in the Tennessee game, Barkley’s first NFL start, but has been inactive the past two weeks.

Barkley has developed chemistry with backups Josh Bellamy, Cam Meredith, Deonte Thompson and Daniel Braverman, with the goal now to develop something with Jeffery “hopefully fast, like this week,” Fox said. “We’re playing a pretty good team here at our place. Obviously we have to work on it.

“The passing game is timing and precision. Alshon knows our offense. It’s not like he’s new to it. This will be his third quarterback throwing to him and even that’s not different. When Jay got hurt and we put Brian in there was an adjustment for everybody and it will be an adjustment for Alshon with Matt.”

NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots


NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

The great Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Talladega Nights hit a little too close to home for the Bears in Week 7.

They came into Sunday at 3-2 at the top of the NFC North. After a 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots, they dropped to the bottom of the division.

The Detroit Lions defeated the Miami Dolphins 32-21 to improve to 3-3, leaving them tied with the Bears in the cellar.

The Minnesota Vikings’ 37-17 victory over the New York Jets jumped them to 4-2-1 overall and first place in the division over the 3-2-1 Green Bay Packers, who were off for their bye week.

The NFC North remains the most tightly contested division in the NFL, the only one with no teams under .500 through seven weeks of the season.

The final standings may not be decided until Week 17, and the Bears have already blown the early season cushion they built for themselves while the Vikings and Packers were struggling.

The divisional action will pick up in November, and Chicago only has a pair of games left to put it all together before back-to-back-to-back games against the Lions, Vikings and Lions again.    

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots


Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

Matt Forte, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Laurence Holmes to break down the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots. What happened to the Bears defense over their bye week, and how did the special teams struggle so bad against New England? Plus – the guys debate Mitchell Trubisky’s decision making in the red zone and Matt weighs in on how the Bears should play his former team – the New York Jets – next week.

0:35– Special teams to blame for loss?

4:12– Where did the Bears pass rush go? 

5:27– Bad tackling followed Bears from Miami

7:25– Are the coaches to blame for the defense after the bye?

10:10– Evaluating Mitchell Trubisky’s game

11:55– Agree with Matt Nagy on Mitch’s “mental” game?

13:30– Trubisky’s red zone decision making

17:10– Are the Bears giving away games so Mitch can learn?

18:00– Bears need to run the ball more

21:04– Matt Forte scouts his former team, the New York Jets

Listen to the full podcast here or in the embedded player below.