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.
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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.
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.