It was revealed yesterday that Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has a hand fracture that will likely keep him out four to six weeks. Jeffery is currently second on the team in catches (14), targets (23), receiving yards (184) and first down receptions (10). His absence will be felt.
His injury comes at the right time though, as Chicago is on a bye this week, allowing Jeffery two weeks of rest before he starts missing games. Still, if he’s out for six or more weeks, the Bears’ passing attack could begin to struggle.
Through just five games of his rookie season, Jeffery has emerged as the team’s clear-cut No. 2 receiver. He has proved to be a playmaker, one that takes pressure off Brandon Marshall. A prolonged absence will allow opposing secondaries to roll coverage over the top of Marshall, who is Jay Cutler’s favorite target by a long shot.
A Band Aid for the problem could be a free agent like Terrell Owens or Plaxico Burress, two accomplished veterans still looking for work. Either could serve as a placeholder during Jeffery’s absence.
"We kind of look at that every day, and every day we look at the availability of the veteran players that are out there and whether they can add to our mix in a positive way so that we can win championships and continue to work toward winning championships,” GM Phil Emery said today. “If there's a player out there we feel is going to make our mix better, would we approach them? Yes. But it just depends on the player. It depends on the situation. It depends on what our needs are.”
Yet with Earl Bennett expected to return after the bye, and Devin Hester raising his game of late, it doesn’t appear the team is in a rush to bring in another pass catcher.
“Just to kind of answer more specific to [T.O. and Plax], we feel very good about our wide receiver depth,” Emery said.
He noted the adjustment period for free agents as another reason the club might stay away from T.O. and Plax.
“Sometimes you sign players and things just don’t work out for your team with that player. It’s very interesting with free-agent players from another team, guys have certain reputations, a certain name for themselves. Just because of that, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work out for your team. You’ve got a different locker room, and in some ways they become like a rookie again. They have to adjust to your locker room, your system, your coaches.”
It appears now will be the time for Bennett and Hester, as well as Dane Sanzenbacher and Kellen Davis, to raise their games and pick up the slack.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.