The Chicago Bears ranked second in the NFL last season with 445 points and quarterback Jay Cutler set a career-high in passer rating (89.2) behind a 63.1 percent completion percentage plus 2,621 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games.
“We have the same guys we had last year, which is always good,” Cutler said. “Talent-wise it’s hard to top our o-line and some of the guys we have on the outside and Matt Forte, who is hugely underrated. Talent-wise and being in the system two years and the way the guys work, all that adds up. Hopefully we can stay healthy and see where this thing goes.”
It should go pretty well. After all, this is an offense that returns 11 starters under second-year coach Marc Trestman and boasts one of the best receiving duos in the league with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Marshall caught 100 passes for 1,295 yards (his seventh consecutive 1,000-yard season) and 12 touchdowns, but that is what we have come to expect from the Bears top receiver.
Jeffery, on the other hand, had a breakout season with 89 catches, 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. He had the third-highest catch rate (45.2 percent) on passes 20 yards or more, tallying 570 yards receiving and four touchdowns on those long passes. He averaged 2.36 yards per route run on those plays where he ran a pattern.
Steve Palazzolo from Pro Football Focus also singled out Jeffery as the best wide receiver in the NFL last year on go routes, which are designed to stretch the field vertically.
Although perhaps not the first name to come to mind as the top receiver on go routes given his lack of elite top-end speed, Jeffery broke out in 2013 and did so by making plays down the field. Even while playing last season with two different quarterbacks, Jay Cutler and Josh McCown, Jeffery used his body well to shield defenders on his way to 15 receptions for 469 yards (31.3 yards per reception) on the go route.
With Brandon Marshall on the other side, the Bears have two receivers capable of making game-changing plays down the field even without creating a lot of separation from defenders.
Jeffery could also be a steal on draft day in your fantasy football league. He is currently the seventh highest ranked wide receiver on the board but is not being taken in mock drafts until round three and in some cases as late as round four. This despite having a projected stats total closer to Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson and teammate Marshall.
Plus, Chicago has the third easiest strength of schedule in terms of fantasy points allowed for wide receivers in 2014.