Alshon Jeffery, who was limited (again) in practice on Thursday has more optimism about playing this Sunday in Detroit (“a lot better than last week,” Jeffery said) than he has had for any of the Bears’ last four games (all of which he missed) because of a hamstring strain. The offense has out-gained opponents in three of those, all but the Seattle game.
But the Bears rank 31st in yards per pass attempt (6.1 yards), meaning that the football is not going deep downfield very often. Not all of it can be laid at the foot of protection questions, with the Bears 18th in sack percentage; not great but not catastrophic, either.
The Bears have 17 pass plays of 20 yards or longer but only 10 of those have come from wide receivers, and Jeffery accounted for two of those in the one game he played (Green Bay). Jeffery has had longest catches for 80 and 74 yards the past two seasons and through five games this year the Bears have none longer than 50 yards.
[MORE BEARS: Rookie WR Kevin White does some light work at practice]
The twin hopes are that Jeffery will be active Sunday in Ford Field and that he will bring something that has been sorely missed by the 2015 Bears offense.
“I think we’re going to be able to open things up a little bit,” offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. “We haven’t really been able to attack down the field. A lot of our guys… ‘Q’ [Marquess Wilson] has tried to do a good job with what we ask him to do.
“[But] I know Alshon is a special cat. The way that he goes up and gets the ball, it’s rare to see. I know there’s a few guys that can do it, but it seems like a contested throw, he wins a lot. Like [receivers coach Mike] Groh always would say, ‘He’s an above the rim player,’ and there’s not a lot of those guys around the league.”
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans]
Jeffery actually is, literally, an above-the-rim player. He was a four-time state champion as a member of the Calhoun County (S.C.) High School basketball team.
“[Not playing has] been frustrating at times, but I have great teammates and great coaches, and great people around me that are keeping me in good spirits,” Jeffery said. “We'll evaluate it. Let's just see what the coaches say and see how it feels. [We’re a] couple of days away from Sunday, so we'll see.”