Bears

Bears: Frustration growing around injury status of Alshon Jeffery

jeffery-bears-insider-1012.png

Bears: Frustration growing around injury status of Alshon Jeffery

The word “frustration” came up in coach John Fox’s Monday media discussion when the subject of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was raised. Jeffery missed his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury.

“[Frustration] is understandable on all sides,” Fox acknowledged. “Our medical people are doing everything in their power as well to get him back. We’ll see what this week brings.”

No less interesting is what the future brings with respect to Jeffery, because what once seemed to be a given is now anything but.

What Marquess Wilson has done with his work over the past handful of games has been to play himself into a strategic discussion of what the Bears may do at wide receiver in the long-term future. Likewise, Jeffery, with what he’s done over the last four games, has very possibly done the same.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Wilson, a seventh-round pick from the 2013 draft, delivered one of the biggest catches of the current season with his win of a 50-50 pass against two defensive backs for in the fourth quarter. The 22-yard touchdown was one of six catches for Wilson, the second straight six-catch game for Wilson, who has gained the increased confidence of quarterback Jay Cutler, both by being where he was supposed to be and catching the football once he got there.

Jeffery has not played since Week 1 because of a hamstring injury, that following a calf pull that kept him out of the entire preseason and more of training camp than either he or the staff would like.

Jeffery is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in 2016. Regardless of how severe his injury is, missing time with soft-tissue injuries does not enhance market value, and Jeffery has not increased his, particularly with Wilson’s progress over the past two games.

[MORE: Fox is building an identity with the Bears in his first season]

Kevin White is one projected pillar of the Chicago Bears passing offense of the future. Eddie Royal is the presumptive No. 3 receiver. Beyond that…

The season has 11 more games to give both Jeffery and Wilson to effectively compete for that No. 2 slot opposite White. The Bears could well go into 2016 with both Jeffery and Wilson; the latter is under contract, and the former’s market price has the potential to go in different directions.

Jeffery was a second-round pick. But he wasn’t a “2” of the current front office so any contract decision will be rooted solely in performance, and Jeffery hasn’t given much to go on. The NFL is replete with one-year, show-me contracts, even for four-year veterans (e.g., Sam Acho, Alan Ball, Jarvis Jenkins, Will Montgomery, Tracy Porter, Jacquizz Rodgers) and pressure should be building on Jeffery to get on the field and show something of the 80-catch production he established over the past two seasons.

Under Center Podcast: Is Matt Nagy right to rest his starters in preseason games?

5-17mattnagy.jpg
USA Today

Under Center Podcast: Is Matt Nagy right to rest his starters in preseason games?

J.J. Stankevitz is joined by John "Moon" Mullin and Cam Ellis to debate whether or not Mitchell Trubisky, and the rest of the Bears starters, need preseason reps to fully prepare for Week 1. Plus, the guys share their latest thoughts on Eddy Pineiro and the kicking situation.

00:40 - Moon doesn't think everything adds up with Matt Nagy holding Trubisky out of preseason games

03:20 - Highlights from Matt Nagy's Wednesday press conference on the growing trend of coaches sitting starters in the preseason

05:45 - Cam understands why coaches don't want to risk injury in the preseason, but also thinks something else may be afoot with Nagy sitting Trubisky

08:10 - Is joint practice the future of preseason football?

14:00 - Can teams really get the same quality of work done in practice as they can in a preseason game?

19:50 - Talking about Kalyn Kahler's Sports Illustrated article that gave an inside look to the Bears' kicking competition from rookie minicamp

21:20 - Moon says that the Bears are actually in a worse position now, than they were last year with Cody Parkey

23:15 - Did the Bears do future kickers a disservice by fixating on 43-yard kicks?

24:50 - All the guys are excited for Olin Kreutz to join Football Aftershow this season

Listen here on in the embedded player below. 

Under Center Podcast

Subscribe:

Bears sitting QB Mitch Trubisky through preseason doesn’t make complete sense. At all.

Bears sitting QB Mitch Trubisky through preseason doesn’t make complete sense. At all.

Something jus don’ feel right about this Bears not playing Mitchell Trubisky in preseason… . Jus’ don’ feel right.

 

It’s not so much the starters; coaches Matt Nagy and Frank Reich texted this week and agreed that they weren’t playing their starters, although it was apparently more a case of Reich following Nagy’s no-starters lead. Whatever.

 

No, it’s about Trubisky. Because so much of the 2019 Bears and beyond is absolutely still about Trubisky, for whom his coach has been a public cheerleader but who said before training camp that the focus was on ball security, then has had practices speckled with anything but. Whether Nagy is in fact entirely pleased with his young quarterback is between them – not every tick of information says that Nagy is – and the coach is protecting his quarterback at least verbally, again, that’s between them. But it’s preseason and practice, so leave it at that for the time being.

 

But the situation is difficult to understand, for more than a few reasons.

 

Nagy’s NFL roots are of the Andy Reid tree. While Nagy was a member of Reid’s staff in Philadelphia, the Eagles in third preseason games started Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick – all on their ways to starting game one’s. In his five years with Kansas City, Nagy was part of the Reid offensive staff that started Alex Smith in every game three, on through 2017 when Smith played 44 (63 percent) of the Chiefs’ 68 snaps in a game three vs. Minnesota.

 

Nagy isn’t Reid and he doesn’t do or remotely need to do everything Reid did/does, including playing starters, particularly his quarterback, “just because that’s where our team’s at,” Nagy said after the New York Giants game. “Coach [Reid] has his way and I think coach Reid would be the first to tell you that if I’m not being me and if I’m not trying to do what I think is right for our team, then I’m not coach Reid. I’ve learned from him and I’ve learned so much from him, but for our team and our situation, I need to do what’s best for us and just feel like that’s where it’s at. September 5th is an important day for us.”

 

Ok. Seems to make sense philosophically. Seems to… .

 

But NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes needs to play (game three last preseason, game two already this year), mentored by Reid, and Trubisky doesn’t? Houston’s Deshaun Watson needed to play the ’18 game three/’19 game two combo, and Trubisky doesn’t? Six-time Pro Bowl’er Russell Wilson and his Seattle Super Bowl ring needed to, but Trubisky didn’t?

 

Preseason as it is currently constituted needs to go away and probably will at some point. Joint practices are exponentially more preferred both for quality of work starters-vs.-starters and managing player utilization. But right now, preseason is the hand the NFL has dealt its players and coaches.

 

One vein of thinking is that teams that don’t expend starters in preseason leave more in their tanks at year end, and there may be something to that. Not much, however: Nagy holding his 1’s out virtually of the 2018 preseason doesn’t support that argument.

 

The Bears finished anything but strong last season. The two playoff teams that the Bears faced over their final 11 games held the Nagy offense to 15 points, including the Eagles and close coaching friend Doug Pederson. It doesn’t necessarily foreshadow or suggest that good teams were beginning to figure Nagy and Trubisky out as the season wound down, but it’s been hinted at in this space previously. In any case, the Bears weren’t in demonstrably, meaningfully better shape down the stretch.

 

The health thing is a very valid concern; it is with every player, starter or No. 90. Linebacker Leonard Floyd played a chunk of ’18 in a hand cast and then a brace because of a preseason injury, and tight end Adam Shaheen went on IR for much of the year with a lower-leg injury in preseason game two (although Shaheen ended his rookie/2017 season on IR with a chest injury, too).

 

But tracing the Bears’ exceptional collective good health of 2018 to keeping most of the starters out of preseason will take more than one season to trust as cause-effect.

 

The fact is that the Bears lost three of their first six games, only two of which (Seattle, New England) were against teams that eventually reached the postseason. The Los Angeles Rams, whose coach Sean McVay held quarterback Jason Goff out of preseason altogether, were the only other playoff team the Bears faced in Nagy’s first season as a head coach, before meeting Philadelphia in those playoffs.

 

Nagy may indeed be pleased with Trubisky’s practice work and progress. I don’t believe that. I believe there is a lot of coach-speak in play. I also don’t believe that Nagy is going no-starters to match any “trend” that McVay and some younger coaches represent; Nagy isn’t smarter than Reid, Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and others, but he also is not a follower.

 

But something about sitting a still-forming Trubisky, who needs to prove to his coach and more that he can in fact throw into tight places without interceptions in an actual game setting, for example, even a “practice” game…that just doesn’t make complete sense.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.