Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery made a BOLD move in April’s draft when he selected South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the second round, who was considered to be plummeting the draft board because of questionable intangibles. He was believed by many, including myself, to be a classic boom or bust prospect.
However, since being drafted Jeffery has been all boom and no bust during training camp and the preseason. Coaches and players have raved about his performances, jumping giddily like schoolboys who have just been told it’s recess, and now I’m here to do the same. I haven’t been to the Bears training camp (it would be quite the drive/flight) but I’ve watched all of the second-round pick’s preseason games,and he’s been very good.
His prowess while getting after the ball has been exceptional, and his length has been far too much to handle for defensive backs. He has used his long arms to beat press coverage, and he’s also used smart initial moves to beat defenders at the line of scrimmage. He’s also, a bit surprisingly, ran quality routes and separated from defensive backs at the top of the route.
Jeffery’s route running is especially important not only because he needs to do it well to get open, but also because it was somewhat of an issue in college. He lacks great short area quickness, so he has to make up for it with smart route running, which he did during Week 1 of the preseason against the Denver Broncos.
On second down and with 10 yards to go, Jeffery lined up at Z receiver to the right of the formation. The Broncos defensive back aligned straight across from Jeffery before the snap with roughly a four-yard cushion. Jeffery had to figure out what many young receivers struggle with: win at the line of scrimmage. So when the ball was snapped, Jeffery started by taking an outside release.
Jeffery may have initially gone outside, but it wasn’t where he was going to continue to be because his next move was inside, which turned the defensive back around completely.
Now that Jeffery is inside, he had to get back outside because it’s a deep comeback route. He kept his shoulders squared while running so that he didn’t give away the route, and then he used his outside arm to create final separation as he slowed down, eventually breaking off his route quickly and opening up to the quarterback.
Finally, the rookie wideout looks to the quarterback and opens up to the ball, and makes an adjustment to the throw.
It’s been a mere three games for Jeffery, and it could be argued that the competition hasn’t always been great, but he has impressed thus far. He is still a bit limited in his route running because he lacks short area quickness due to his massive size, but his long arms and catching radius could make him a great target for Jay Cutler down the road, especially in the red zone.
The key is that he continues to learn the intricate details of the position and the team uses him right. He’s not going to be great on all routes for the aforementioned reasons, but he can offer a lot in the middle of the field and deep, where he can go up and get the ball while also not having to make sharp cuts.