While Alshon Jeffery spent the last three weeks setting the NFL on fire, Kevin White sat, uncharacteristically quietly, watching.
“You don’t always have to talk your game up,” the Bears rookie said. “I’m more the big talker. Alshon’s quiet, always goes to work. He’s taught me a lot, just about the game.”
The first-round pick, who hasn’t played since August shin surgery, has turned to Jeffery for advice all season long — how to read coverage; how to get to the edge against a cornerback, just to keep him honest; and how to position himself for deep balls.
“Attack the ball at all times, always use my body,” White said. “I don’t always have to always be so quick, like little guys. I can overpower with my size.”
Quietly — of course — Jeffery has been both a source of information and knowledge for the others in a wide receiver room that, but for the injured Eddie Royal, lacks experience. Entering the season, Marquess Wilson, Deonte Thompson, Marc Mariani, Josh Bellamy and Cameron Meredith combined for 39 career catches and one touchdown.
Jeffery has 28 catches for 414 yards and two scores in his three games since returning from a hamstring injury. A fourth-straight 100-yard game Sunday — assuming he plays after a mild groin injury this week — would be a Bears record.
“I’m learning from them just like they’re learning from me,” Jeffery said. “Just competing, routes, or anything. Things in life. We talk about everything. We all learn from each other.”
Jeffery said his fellow receivers taught him how to gain better separation from defensive backs. He hopes they’ve learned the value of competitiveness from him.
“Relentless effort,” Wilson said. “He just never gives up.”
Share Events on The CubePhysically, though, there’s one small problem: Bears receivers can watch Jeffery, but so many of his natural skills are otherworldly. That’s impossible to teach.
“You can try,” White said, “but he’s a freak.”
At 6-3, 216 pounds, Jeffery has an uncanny ability to out-jump defensive backs for the ball. As his coaches like to say, he dunks on people.
The secret to learning from Jeffery is to find little things — ideas, physical movements — that any receiver can adopt. Meredith, a rookie who started his Illinois State career playing quarterback, has learned how to position his body for the jump ball.
“It’s mostly just getting comfortable and knowing where you are on the field,” Meredith said. “And using your body a certain way, to turn and twist.”
Even Mariani, who gives up 30 pounds and at least four inches to Jeffery, picks his brain.
“There’s always something you can learn from a guy like that, especially since he’s been playing so great,” Mariani said. “Obviously I won’t ever be able to do the type of things he’ll be able to do.
“He’s so smooth. He plays the ball better than anybody out there.”
White, when he gets healthy, might be the only one who can come close.
White was first blown away in organized team activities, when Jeffery dusted defensive backs almost daily.
“It’s, ‘OK, Alshon’s the truth,’” said White, who is on the physically unable to perform list and seems unlikely to appear in a game this season. “He can jump out the gym. A lot of people can’t do that. And he has strong hands.”
And a strong will. After Jay Cutler’s pick-six that was intended for him Sunday, Jeffery demanded that the next play be a deep pass thrown his way.
Forty-seven yards later, the Bears were back in the game.
“He’s not going to give up,” White said. “He doesn’t care who’s in front of him. He has a lot of confidence in his ability. He’s going to want to compete and have fun.
“He wants to prove to the world that he’s really that elite receiver.”
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